Some thoughts on leadership vs. management in wine and spirits sales

Wine and spirits distributors have salespeople. And the one “in charge” of them (quotes intentional, as you’ll read) is the sales manager.

The role of the salesperson is to sell. To connect customers to the stories they tell. To service accounts with professionalism, consistency, and accuracy. A good salesperson is a storyteller, someone who is detail-oriented, and someone that can handle pressure and the word NO.

And overseeing them is the sales manager.

Often, sales managers come up from being a salesperson. The promotion seems logical: if you did this, then manage people to replicate the success you had. Badda-boom-badda-bing.

But it’s not that simple, and I see former salespeople struggle with management roles constantly. And I think part of the problem is the title: manager.

A manager manages. And the traditional goal of a manager (going back to production and industry) is to get more work and profitability out of each worker.

This doesn’t scale when it comes to sales. We don’t need more managers; we need more leaders.

And here is a simple definition of leadership: A leader imagines something that has not been done before and invites others along in the journey of the challenge and the discovery.

Managing is top-down thinking, and we’re discovering that no longer works. Managers are not “in charge” of their underlings because salespeople can simply quit and get a better job.

But if you LEAD, those who accompany you on the journey are equals and will work harder and with more joy than you can possibly imagine.

Less management, more leadership.

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