Why Promoting Your Top Sales Performer to Sales Manager Could Backfire

Why Promoting Your Top Sales Performer to Sales Manager Could Backfire - Sales Xceleration
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You want to do it. It feels like the fair, decent and noble thing to do. But is promoting your sales superstar to Sales Manager really the right move for your business? Before you make a move you could regret, consider the benefits and the risks, as well as the precautions you should take for the sake of your sales team and your business:

Why It Might Work

The sole reason to place someone in the position of Sales Manager is because you feel they have the potential to succeed in that role. Naturally, your top salesperson has demonstrated the ability to sell effectively and represent your company to the outside world, but is that person equipped with the traits and skills to be a good manager?

Setting the candidate’s sales record aside, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the candidate interested in the position? Has he or she ever expressed a desire to be considered if the position became available? (And if so, why is the candidate interested? What does this person hope to gain or lose in this new role?)
  • Does the candidate have the drive and leadership qualities necessary to step to the front of the line and lead those formerly at a peer level?
  • Does this person have the capacity to learn an entirely new set of skills?
  • Can this person be disciplined enough to stay off the front line and let a competent sales team sell?
  • Would this person be willing to take a pay cut by losing formerly lucrative sales commissions?

Answer yes to all of these questions and you’ve got a viable candidate. Answer no to any one of them and you might be better off looking elsewhere for your next Sales Manager.

Why It Might NOT Work

Even if you answered yes to most or all of the questions above, promoting your sales superstar to Sales Manager could still be the wrong move for the good of your business. For example, consider that:

  • You will be taking your “rainmaker” out of the sales game where they’ve possibly generated millions of dollars for your company. (If it was easy to clone a rainmaker, every company would do it.)
  • Your sales leader might see the new job as a promotion. In fact, it won’t really be a promotion at all; merely a job change requiring a new set of skills and, most likely, a pay cut (see above). Unlike most career paths, a move “upward” on the Sales Department’s organization chart does not typically mean more money or perks.
  • There could be no clear and mutually beneficial “safety net” if the new position doesn’t work out. In other words, because moving your top seller back into front line sales could be seen by team members as a failure or demotion (even though the move wasn’t really a promotion in the first place), the only recourse might be for your superstar to leave the company. In that case, not only would you lose a Sales Manager, but your best salesperson, too. Making matters worse is the very real possibility that this person might then start selling for a competitor!

How to Make the Right Move

If you approach the task of filling the Sales Manager role with the goal of finding the best candidate available, regardless of any desire to look first within your organization, you can reduce the risk of making a mistake.

Use a process and methodology to evaluate sales management candidates. Even though your rainmaker is on your radar screen based on superior sales performance, their candidacy for the Sales Manager role should be handled the same as external candidate considerations:

  • First, profile the role (and don’t think about your rainmaker when you do this). Picture your ideal Sales Manager in terms of what it will take to succeed in the role. Document those qualifications as either required or desired.
  • Develop a screening process to compare and contrast the candidate with the profile. It is critical to 1) ascertain why your successful seller aspires for a management role, and 2) ensure that you set clear and accurate expectations of a “day in the life” as Sales Manager. Don’t assume that this is obvious to your internal candidate.
  • In addition to interviews, consider personality profile and proficiency assessment tools that can help you determine if a synergistic match exists between position and candidate.

If your rainmaker succeeds in the evaluation process, you’ve found your Sales Manager. If not, don’t lose the revenue; keep this seller selling (for your team)!

Helping Your New Sales Manager Succeed

Regardless of whether your successful candidate was from inside or outside your organization, to help ensure the likelihood of success in the position, you should provide appropriate training and mentoring as well as performance monitoring and timely feedback. The top way to learn a new skill and create lasting results is through the mentoring process. For your new Sales Manager to succeed, you need a program to provide this support after the “formal” training is over. (If you are planning to send the new Sales Manager to an off-the-shelf training course of two or three days of classroom instruction, don’t! It will be a costly mistake and could set up your new Sales Manager to fail.)

Bottom Line:

Success in front-line sales doesn’t necessarily translate to success as a Sales Manager. Although it is tempting to “promote” from within, it could have unforeseen, yet devastating, effects on your entire sales organization. If you need help crafting the Sales Manager position description or profiling your ideal candidates, contact a Sales Xceleration Advisor today.