Should You Promote An Elite Salesperson To Management?
Updated: Feb 17
There’s a vicious cycle we witness time and time again in many sales organizations. It goes like this:
Firms get wowed by top sales performers whose numbers tower above their teammates’. They get promoted, and then, unexpectedly, get stuck in a rut. As a salesperson, they flourished. As a sales manager, they falter. It’s a very common story.
Generally speaking, sales managers all share 5 very distinct characteristics and not all salespeople have them. Learning what to look out for is the key to making smart promotions. Sales manager candidates should have:
1. The ability to see the big picture.
Salespeople are consumed by delivering proposals/quotes and hitting their quota. They are laser-focused on each individual deal and as a result, have a tendency to be short-term focused.
A strong sales manager needs to be able to see the big picture -- the sales lifecycle and how it has the potential to affect the pendulum swing of numbers from month to month, how the energy of the team ebbs and flows with those lifecycles, how patterns evolve month-over-month and year-over-year, and how to predict future patterns.
If a salesperson can’t take on the big picture perspective, they won’t be able to effectively guide their sales team to success.
2. A team approach.
Sales managers must be team leaders, so it’s important the salesperson you’re thinking of promoting can shift their focus away from themselves as a sole producer and into a position where they are successful through others.
Leading a team requires earning the trust of the team, and that takes transparency, integrity, and empathy. A strong leader should be comfortable getting in the trenches with the team to get the work done.
Empowerment is also critical: trusting and allowing salespeople to make their own decisions about how they work to achieve success. Although parameters and feedback are equally important, micromanagement isn’t.
3. Coaching skills.
You’ve probably known salespeople who were absolutely outstanding at their jobs but when asked about their strategy couldn’t explain how they do it. It’s like it just happens.
Such salespeople usually don’t make good sales managers. Greatness, if they can’t teach how they do it, cannot be transferred to the team.
This is why the best sales managers aren’t always the best sales reps. Being able to coach and guide a team towards success, clearly explaining and teaching effective tactics and strategies while providing valuable feedback along the way, is just an entirely different skill set.
4. Great communication skills.
Good communication builds solid relationships, illustrates key sales strategies, and cultivates positive team morale.
The interesting part about these soft skills is that they look different in each person. While it’s often accepted that some of the best salespeople are extroverts, the same does not hold true for sales managers, where introspection can often be a valuable trait that supports effective communication.
Beyond communication, a sales manager should be adept at building enthusiasm, even in the face of challenges. A positive attitude can be infectious, not to mention a key element to motivating a team.
5. Ambition and desire for growth.
Ambition fuels an individual to meet goals, and whether it’s for themselves or for the team, that fuel is essential. Ambition is complemented by a great work ethic. These people aren’t clock-watchers. They do what it takes to get the job done (but also know how to combat burnout).
It’s worth mentioning that it’s rare that managers will earn more commissions than their salespeople, so successful sales managers must be willing to take the sacrifice to their personal income in favor of team-oriented goals. It’s a big step, but if they are motivated by more than money, their ambition should serve them well.
If you can positively identify these five traits in a salesperson, then you can be relatively sure they will make a good sales manager. Of course, this list should not take the place of scientific, formal assessments that can more clearly predict the success of your candidates. We invite you to reach out for more clarity.