What makes a successful sales rep? Here are some often mentioned attributes:
- Total focus on their own accomplishments, and
- The ability to work independently.
What makes a good manager of sales reps? I don’t think too many would argue with these:
- Total focus on the accomplishments of others, and
- The ability to work closely and well with others.
In other words, some of the qualities that make a sales professional outstanding are essentially the opposite of what makes the leader of a sales team outstanding.
This should give you pause when you’re thinking about promoting your star sales rep to head up their department. However, there’s often one more attribute that makes a good sales rep and that’s the ability to adapt to different situations and personalities.
The question then becomes: Will your star sales pro understand the requirements of the new leadership position and be able to make the required changes?
It’s important that you and any candidate you’re considering for sales leadership understands that the number one reason people quit jobs is because of a bad boss. Promoting the wrong person, or failing to adequately prepare and coach the new leader, can tear apart a sales team that would otherwise be quite successful.
(By the way, if you find yourself suddenly thrust into the role of sales manager, check out Jeff C. West’s series: 9 Survival Tips for The Unexpected Sales Manager.)
Take your time when you’re making a change like this. One of the worst positions for everyone involved is to feel “under the gun” and the need to make wholesale changes quickly. When you identify individuals who you believe would make good leaders, start the transition process early with open and frank discussions.
When we’re specifically talking about sales professionals, many will prefer to stay in sales rather than move on to management. They may feel their earning power is greater and that their talents are best utilized in sales.
One of the keys is to “groom” someone for sales leadership without co-workers feeling that you’re playing favorites. Central to this is to let everyone on your team know that you care for their future and are willing to take steps to help them achieve their long-term goals.
As you’re grooming a top salesperson for leadership, pay keen attention to how they work with others. One of the key ways to recognize this is by sensing their ability to take direction from you. If they listen and internalize your coaching, there’s a good chance they will listen to those on their team. If they have difficulty taking direction from you, it’s unlikely that they’ll be tolerant of others if they disagree about strategies or directions or have suggestions that vary from their own.
How about you? Do you have any experience in this area? If so, share your thought in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.