Promoting Superstar Salesperson to Sales Manager

Most executives and business owners have heard, at least anecdotally, that promoting the superstar sales representative to the position of sales manager sets the salesperson and the company up for failure. Still, some go ahead and promote their number one producer anyway. But what if YOU are that superstar? What if YOU are the rep whose sales outpaced any other salesperson the company ever hired? How do you deal with being offered a sales management position? After years in sales, does the idea of trying out the job intrigue you just a little bit? Did you get talked into accepting the promotion?

No matter, you now carry the title of Sales Manager, Director of Sales or Vice President of Sales. You’ve been told the odds of your succeeding are low. You were a hard working sales rep. You’ll be a hardworking manager. What is it about a successful sales career that doesn’t translate into a successful management career? Why can’t you thrive in that position?

To answer that question, first consider the differences between the superstar salesperson and the sales manager:

  • Salespeople work for the client. Sales managers work for the company.
  • Superior sales performances allow superstars special status and privileges -- fellow reps, bosses and executives often treated you deferentially. Sales managers get held to group goals and different standards.
  • Salespeople tend to be individual contributors. Sales managers succeed based on the team’s performance.
  • Superstars have trouble explaining their sales process and methodology to others. Sales managers need to coach, motivate, teach, correct and explain.

Before accepting the promotion, understand that:

  • Many of the skills that made you a successful salesperson won’t help you manage a sales force.
  • Your new clients – get ready – are the reps themselves!!
  • The odds are against you succeeding.

Among the first actions you should take include:

  • Picking up several books on sales management. Read about the current thoughts of different leaders in the field.
  • Seeking training and coaching. Learn how to be a sales manager – because you don’t know how just yet.
  • Working diligently to get to know your reps as individuals. Don’t confuse your motivations and drivers with theirs.

Do you know of a superstar salesperson that succeeded as a sales manager? How did they do it?