Sales Leadership: 4 Keys to Successfully Promote a Rep to Sales Manager

Sales is the most important function with any company, and the sales manager plays a critical role within it.

That said…

The importance of your sales manager cannot be understated. The sales force drives the company’s revenue and it’s the sales manager’s job to drive the sales force.

If your sales manager does not perform, you won’t generate cash — which you MUST do to survive!

Keep reading to learn:

  1. What your options are for filling this important role
  2. Sales manager tips for helping your a rep make the transition to management

What Are Your Options for Sales Manager?

Given the critical importance of the sales manager’s job function, it’s important to fill it with the right person.

In many SMB companies, the business owner wears many hats, one of which happens to be the sales manager. That rarely works, however, because the business owner is trying to do too many things at once. Something has to give, and all too often, it’s this critical function.

In other organizations, the sales manager role is given to the salesperson with the highest sales results. A direct sales position is quite different than the sales manager role, however. It requires a completely different skill set.

Simply put, although the role of a sales manager may be easily defined, and its importance to the organization clearly understood, the skills required to be a successful sales manager are not.

Should You Promote Your Top Gun to Sales Manager?

Even with a poor track record for success, many organizations continue to fill the role of sales manager by promoting someone from within their own sales team. However, most often they don’t do so properly, and it leads to disastrous results.

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Star Salesperson Will Make a Terrible Sales Manager

Here’s why this is a problem…

The top producer is no longer selling, which means profits drop.

Their sales territory loses proper coverage since the rep is now focusing on the transition into management. As a result, good customers become disillusioned and leave to go to the competition.

Worse still — and this is the biggest problem — the newly promoted sales manager may not have had any practical training on how to manage a sales team. Without the proper training, they don’t have the necessary skills or tools to manage this critical business function.

They may not have the personality traits required to be a successful sales manager. Face it, the ability to sell does not automatically translate into the ability to manage!

A sales manager needs to be able to take all the crap and none of the glory, so to speak. A top sales rep, however, is just the opposite. Often, they produce at the highest levels more for the recognition it brings than the commissions they earn.

Having said that, a top sales rep is accustomed to earning top dollar.

While they may be incented into management with a higher upfront salary, their overall income often drops because the performance-based aspect of a typical sales manager’s compensation plan won’t allow them to earn what they used to as a sales rep.

For all of these reasons, the new manager can become frustrated with the new challenges of sales management. That anxiety continues to build as results drop and more pressure is applied by senior management.

Eventually the decision is made on everyone’s part to make a change.

The former top producer won’t ask to return to their original sales role, however, because it would mean admitting failure in front of the company. And since there’s no way to save face with their peers, they often end up just leaving the organization, returning to selling for a competitor or in another industry.

The end result is the worst case scenario; the company still does not have a sales manager and they lost their top sales person in the process.

Sales Manager Tips for a Newly Promoted Rep

So, given all the possible reasons for failure, is it even possible to promote a sales rep to sales manager successfully?


Earlier in my career, I was a top producing sales rep who was promoted into management. I was one of the few who made this transition successfully, eventually developing into a top producing sales manager as well.

Looking back, there were four key reasons why I was able to make this move, where so many others have not.

I had a very strong desire to move into management. In fact, I approached the company with my aspirations, as opposed to them approaching me. A new manager should never be begged or forced to move into management. They should want to do it.

RELATED: Get Promoted to Sales Management (Advice from 17 Experts)

My personality is a good fit for management. In fact, I was formally assessed using sales management assessment testing to ensure that I had the personality traits and aptitudes that are required to be successful in management.

I did not have to take a pay cut to go into management. I was compensated based on the team’s performance, with the opportunity to earn a higher income as a successful manager than I could previously as a successful sales representative.

This motivated me to develop 10 more independent top producers, as opposed to taking the easier route of just selling on their behalf by myself.

RELATED: The Best Sales Managers Don’t Chase Revenue: 6 Steps to Get Goal-Setting Right

I did not initially have all the skills of a sales manager. Therefore, I was given practical sales management training such as that found in my book, Action Plan for Sales Management Success – Not just what to do but how to do it.

More importantly, I was properly mentored throughout my development as a sales manager afterwards.

RELATED: Your Foolproof Formula to Become a Sales Manager in 2019

In other words, not only did my sales management training include structured knowledge and experience based training, it also went outside the boardroom to include ongoing sales management coaching to build competency through practice after it was complete.

The Bottom Line?

Yes, you really can beat the odds and promote a sales rep to sales manager successfully. You just need to plan for their success as a sales manager, keeping in mind 4 key areas:

  1. Desire to advance
  2. Aptitude for management
  3. Compensation
  4. Training & Coaching

If you don’t have the expertise internally to address these four areas for your new sales manager, then hire an organization who does to do it for you. In the end, you will be glad you did.

As I said, looking back, I really believe that if any of these four keys to success were missing, I would have just been another sales rep who couldn’t cut it as a sales manager.

Remember, no puzzle shows the beautiful picture unless you use all the pieces.

Aim Higher!


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