Hiring ‘experienced’ sales managers can ruin your startup
There is an old saying in sales, “The worst salespeople are the best interviewers”. However, this saying is even more applicable for sales managers, especially those with 2-3 decades of selling experience, for different organizations. They can be detrimental to your start-ups’ sales efforts.
The best sales managers are too valuable for an organization to leave; they are the “rainmakers,” the people that get retained at all costs! However, the mediocre or low-performing sales managers go from organization to organization, touting their high credentials from their previous organization. They sing high praises of the unbelievable performance they had until an ethical or political issue forced them out. They can sell a story so well that it will convince you of their selling prowess.
There is (however) another sales idiom, “In sales, you either have numbers or a f***ing good story”. Initially, these sales managers will hit the road hard and get lots of 1st or 2nd meetings. They have (over the years) built a warm sales funnel comprising of leads who listen to whatever it is that they are selling. There could even be some sales from this warm funnel but getting a foot in the door seems like a victory for a young startup like yours. So, you get further invested in your sales manager’s prowess & invincibility.
However, at some point, they will burn out of their warm network, forcing them to do what they had never wanted to – cold call!
The lowest-performing sales managers hate cold calling. They will avoid it like the plague. They will build workflows, meetings, lunches, doctors’ appointments, sales strategy meetings, family difficulties, and even nervous breakdowns to avoid cold calling. Even when they end up cold calling, they will blame the quality of the leads, the customer misfit, the time of the day, the weather, the sales script, the pricing, the marketing, everything in the universe but themselves for the lack of performance.
Their seniority, coupled with their convincing arguments from “years of experience,” will make you question your product, your pricing, your value proposition, and even the existence of your startup. The manager will build limiting beliefs into your sales team, turning the forward-facing army into one ready to launch mutiny against its leader. Meanwhile, your sales manager will convince you that you have little to no option but to let them all go and hire a new team. You too will avoid retaining people who are not performing and (infact) the sales manager will take up the mantle of firing the entire team to avoid detection of their non-performance.
Therefore, do not be surprised when this non-performing team story repeats itself, and then once again after that. When the sales manager realizes that their gig is up, you will suddenly find them doing a lot of outdoor meetings.
Just be prepared to discover that they are out doing the only cold calling they were ever good at, i.e., finding a new job!