Executive's Dilemma: Should I Promote My Top Sales Person to Sales
By Lee B. Salz
Before moving your
top sales person into sales management, there are some key
Early Greek mythology tells tales of sailors lured by Sirens.
Their sweet music mesmerized the sailors and led them to believe
that the illusion was reality. Ultimately, those sailors who blindly
followed the tunes crashed their ships on the rocks and their boats
Sirens lure business executives and small business owners
too. The song that the Sirens sing has one line… "Promote my top
sales person, put six people underneath them, and generate six times
the sales." And, like the sailors, many business executives and
their companies have been led into harm's way.
The first issue with promoting your top sales person into sales
management is that it's not a promotion at all. The promotion
perception is the first way the Sirens get you. Sales management is
not a job elevation, it's a job change. If you consider this move as
a promotion, you probably send a congratulatory email and hold a
luncheon for the new sales manager. A nice handshake is offered and
the new manager is sent to achieve grandeur. This approach delights
the Sirens and your ship is sunk!
If you handle this as a job change, your approach is
completely different. Since this is a new job, you provide training
and mentoring as well as monitor their performance. As the manager
of the new sales manager, your role is to help them successfully
assimilate into their new role.
Top Seller = Top
Before we go any further, we need to take a step back. The second
way the Sirens trick you is they lead you to believe all great sales
people can become great sales managers. Some certainly do. And, some
pretty good sales people become rock star managers. And some great
sales people fail miserably at sales management.
Before moving your top sales person into the sales management
ranks, consider the ramifications of this move. You are taking your
rainmaker out of the sales game where they've generated millions of
dollars for your company. While your hope is that your theory of
"disciple selling" (placing six people underneath the new manager
and getting six times the sales) becomes proven, that is rarely
the case. If it was so easy to clone a rainmaker, every company
would do it. Quite frankly, the "disciple selling" dream is flawed.
Again, you've been duped by the Sirens. The sole reason to place
someone in the role of sales manager is that you feel that they have
the potential to succeed in that capacity.
What does all of this tell you? You need a process and
methodology to evaluate sales management candidates...just like you
evaluate sales candidates. And, even though the rainmaker got on
your radar screen because they blew out their quota, their sales
management candidacy should be handled the same way you would if you
were considering an external sales management candidate. Don't skip
any steps in the evaluation process!
Profile the Role.
This evaluation starts with the development of your profile of the
ideal sales manager for your company. Think about what it takes to
succeed in the role and document those elements as part of your
profile. Once you've prepared your list, identify each element as
either required or desired.
With your profile developed, the next step is to develop a
screening process that allows you to compare and contrast the
candidate with the profile. It is critical during this process
that you ascertain why this successful seller aspires for management
and ensure that you set clear and accurate expectations of a day in
the life as a sales manager in your company. In addition to
interviews, you may want to consider tools to help identify a
synergistic match like personality and proficiency assessments. If
your rainmaker succeeds in the evaluation process, you've found your
sales manager. If not, don’t lose the revenue! Keep this seller
New Sales Manager to Succeed. With your new sales manager hired, there are four keys to making the
The first is dealing with the sales team. Yesterday, she was a peer.
Today, she is the manager. The new manager needs your help in
developing managerial respect. The reaction to the new manager will
be mixed. Some will be fully supportive, but there will also be
some on the team who are jealous and attempt to undermine her
efforts. The key message for you to deliver to your new sales
manager is that she has your unwavering support.
2) Mentoring. Your new manager needs a resource to guide them through the
neophyte status…a mentor. Don't just look within the organization
for a mentor candidate. Many sales management consultants mentor and
develop new sales managers. The role of the mentor is to bridge the
managerial knowledge, skills, and experience gap.
Chances are that your new sales manager has never been taught how to
hire a sales person, have a difficult conversation with an employee,
or develop a sales compensation plan. These are all skills that can
be taught. If you aren't will to provide the new sales manager with
skills training, don't put them in the role. They will fail!
4) Expectation Setting.
Your new sales manager should be provided with a scorecard that
tells them how they are going to be measured. In most companies,
sales managers are measured on revenue…but that is only one
component of the scorecard. Based on the role and responsibilities
of the sales manager, the scorecard could include metrics like
profitability, cost of sales, turnover, sales cycle, forecast
Sales is one of the few professions where moving into management
isn't always the best path for the sales person or the company. Make
sure the person you put in this critical role is the right sales
manager for your company. After all, while this person may not be
directly generating sales, they are the one responsible for the
company achieving its revenue goals. Don't let the Sirens lure your
business into trouble. Develop the systems to help you make the best
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Lee B. Salz.
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