Should you promote your top sales performer to management?
Updated: Feb 23
Making the transition from sales executive to sales manager is something that comes easily to some, and leaves others feeling out of their depth and under to pressure to succeed.
All too often I hear stories about the top sales performer being promoted to leadership based on his/her numbers and because they are a high achiever, it is assumed they are the logical right fit to move up and manage the team.
Don’t get me wrong, salespeople can be excellent managers and I have witnessed many instances of this being the case, but the difficult truth is, in situations where internal promotion has taken place and training and support has not been offered, they are often left feeling out of their depth and under pressure to deliver, lacking the experience needed to execute on the role effectively.
Being a manager is a very different role to being a hunter
It is important to consider whether your candidate has the ability to jump from one mindset to another.
As a sales executive, you are always looking out for number 1. Hitting their numbers means a healthy pay check at the end of every month and when they leave the office each day they are thinking about where the next deal is coming from, and what leads they can find to increase that commission.
As a sales manager, thinking about number 1 is all but a distant memory. They suddenly have to transition from friend or co-worker to ‘boss’, and their role changes from being the top performer in the room, to someone who now has to nurture and coach the team to ensure they meet their monthly numbers.
Are you setting your manager up to succeed?
In a recent discussion with a group of sales managers from varying industries, it was evident that there was a clear reason why some were thriving and others were not.
Those that were succeeding had great support from senior management. Some had been offered further training to improve upon their management skills after promotion and there was a feeling that the business really cared and wanted them to succeed. They were also able to focus on the team as their primary function, enabling them to observe and implement changes quickly whenever the team needed it.
For those that were experiencing the opposite results, the situation was very different. Some had been promoted and left to their own devices with many still expected to hit their own sales target leaving little time to focus on developing their team. In one instance, the manager was delivering 70-90% of the overall target every month experiencing regular churn of the people coming and going on his team.
How can you ensure your Sales Manager is effective?
Put simply, the sales manager must be given the opportunity to act like a coach. If you are going to promote your top sales person it needs to be because you think they will be the right person to guide and lead the team. They may have proven that they can sell your products and services incredibly well, but does that mean that because they can do it, they can rise up into management and coach and train others to do the same?
Managers lead by example and I think its more than ok for them to continue to bring in an agreed budget so the team can learn and see them in action, but you must be prepared to let them spend the majority of their time focusing on the team rather than their own numbers, and prepare internally for this change to take place.
Brian Souza sums this up perfectly in his fable: The Weekly Coaching Conversation.
‘Great coaches consistently get the most out of their people, because they put the most into their people’
Be sure you have thought carefully about your decision before offering a promotion. In my experience, after cutting their teeth in the trenches, many sales executives share the dream of being promoted to sales manager thinking they are ready to jump into that seat and take the reigns but the reality is, many are just not cut out for the role.
Take your time to assess whether they have the ability to leave their ego at the door and focus on other peoples success rather than their own and you will be in a much better position when making your decision.
To learn more about how to manage a team that thrives, download my FREE EBOOK today to hear my top tips for getting it right first time.