Perils of the Player/Manager

I’m a great fan of Manchester United and eagerly followed the prospect of a new manager after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. Ryan Giggs was heralded as the saviour but he quickly realised that managing a team and playing for the team are widely different jobs.

Completely unconnected.

Manchester United is a big club so can afford a separate manager and players which is why José Mourinho is now the manager, and doing rather well. But smaller clubs struggle to afford both so employ a Player/Manager.

In the same way, small sales companies or start-ups, that should have a sales manager, can’t afford one, so often try to combine the role of salesperson/manager. We know this rarely works so here’s an alternative model to investigate.

Salesperson/Mentor. Promote your top salesperson as a field coach with 2 to 3 salespeople under them. Don’t make them the manager, make them the mentor. Train them to coach, to train others and to mentor their few sellers. I call this the “teaching” part of the sales manager’s job – coaching, training, inspiring etc.

Be careful of time restraints and targets as their attention will be taken away from selling naturally, so make sure you don’t over-target them or insist on minimum KPI levels as before.

This serves as a Segway to the full position, a taster for them to understand some of the role of the sales manager, provides further encouragement and motivation for one of your top performers. Plus it lets you know if they’re up to the job before you make them a full time sales manager.

That’s what United did with Ryan Giggs; he served as an assistant and coach under Van Gaal, now plying his trade in other clubs until Mourinho leaves in a couple of years’ time because he always does. And Manchester United will welcome home their son ready, trained and guaranteed to be a successful manager. Well we hope so don’t we?