Can a Top Performing Salesperson Become a Sales Manager?

Sales is an important function in any business, and the sales manager is critical to the success of the sales team. While the sales team is a key driver in business revenue, the sales manager is the key motivator and driver of the team.

What makes a great sales manager?

Often the sales manager role is given to the salesperson with the highest sales results. But the top salesperson is not necessarily the best suited sales manager. The roles require completely different skill sets.

So, should your number one salesperson become sales manager?

It’s common practice across industries for high performing salespeople to be promoted to sales manager. But often they’re just not the right person for the role and the results are not desirable.

There are a number of factors behind this:

  1. The top salesperson is no longer selling, which sees a drop-in company revenue.

  2. The newly promoted sales manager may not have any practical management training and therefore not know how to effectively manage a sales team. Without the proper training, they don’t have the necessary skills or tools to manage this critical function.

  3. The salesperson may not have the necessary personality traits to be a successful sales manager. Just because they’re a great salesperson does not automatically mean they can manage people. Coming from a highly successful sales role, they’re likely to be accustomed to accolades and huge bonuses. As sales manager, their focus shifts to setting other people up for success. And they may actually earn less!

The fallout from the wrong person being promoted to sales manager can be destructive on many levels. If it doesn’t work out, it’s unlikely that the salesperson will return to their former role as it would be considered a demotion, which is not part of a top salesperson’s winning persona! So, to save face with their peers, they’ll often leave the organisation and move to a competitor.

The outcome? The company still doesn’t have a sales manager and they’ve lost their top salesperson!

Tips for a newly promoted sales manager

The good news is, this doesn’t have to be the case. It is absolutely possible for a salesperson to be successfully promoted into a sales manager role.

  1. The move into a sales manager role must be a career desire for the salesperson – The best type of salesperson to promote into a sales manager role, is someone who expresses their aspirations to lead. A new manager should never be begged or forced to move into management. They need to want it.

  2. The right personality – The salesperson’s personality needs to ‘“fit’” the sales manager profile. A great way to test this is to use sales management assessment tools to ensure the prospective sales manager has the best personality traits and aptitudes required to be successful in management.

  3. Incentives to motivate the team – One of the big disincentives for high performing salespeople to move into sales management is that, in many cases, it results in lower earnings. While the salary may be higher than when they were in the rep role, there’s less opportunity to earn commissions and bonuses.  Incentivising a high performer is a great option. Offer a financial incentive for them to develop and motivate their team to top performance. In most cases this means they can earn a higher income as a successful manager than they could as a successful salesperson.

  4. Provide training and mentoring - This one speaks for itself.  Providing the appropriate leadership training, and a mentor to help guide them on their way, will ensure your newly promoted sales manager feels supported and is set up for success.