Promoting your top rep to Sales Leader is the biggest mistake you’ll make in 2021

Growth is an exciting time for every company. As a founder or CEO, you’ve finally turned a corner, you have enough leads to feed the sales team… other words “Life is good”. Your sales team is growing and you are looking to add some oversight as you add sales rep 5-6-7 and beyond.

Naturally your initial direction is that your top sales person is deserving of such a high honor. They have been with you since day one and you are betting all chips that they will replicate their “take no prisoners” approach to selling with your entire team.

Fast-forward 4-6 months: You’ve seen nominal growth, or missed the number and realize Sales team morale is low. You’ve also lost a salesperson or 2 and your former “hero” looks like they are drowning.

The reality is that managing sales reps is the toughest job in sales. “The hard truth” is that being able to sell does not equate to leading and managing a team.

Promoting your top rep to manager is a mistake 99% of the time. Sadly it’s a mistake that companies make all too often. I thought I’d take this opportunity to explain why you should avoid this common management miscue altogether.

1. Managing people is not for everyone.
Great managers are patient, strategic and have a high emotional quotient. They need to have exceptional communication skills and the natural ability to slow down to help navigate challenges. They also require a sense of “tolerance and selflessness” and get a genuine sense of fulfillment in helping others succeed. For them the “team win”, outside of financial reward, has to be in the forefront. These qualities are a polar opposite to the traditional superstar salesperson.

2. Motivation is vastly different
Great salespeople love controlling their own destiny. They thrive on energy and momentum. They are motivated by money and the accolades that come with personal success. Managers, on the other hand, love solving problems and helping bring out the best in people. They are motivated by the impact they have on people, which in turn helps your business grow and thrive.

3. They will struggle with the compensation plan.
The sense of full-control that comes with steering your own financial performance is hard to give up. Once the sheen of a management salary bump wears off, new managers realize that getting to their quota while depending on others is a much tougher job than doing it themselves. The unfortunate news is that once they realize this, one of 4 things typically happens:

  • They will micromanage and isolate their team demoralizing the sales culture.
  • They will hastily hire and fire salespeople creating a churn and burn culture.
  • They will eventually ask to be a rep again.
  • They leave because they are frustrated.

4. Bad decisions aren’t cheap
Hiring the wrong manager is expensive. The negative impact that a bad manager can have on your team is vast. Demotivation, staff attrition, decreased sales performance, toxic culture and poor morale. Couple all of these with the loss of revenue and your top Salesperson no longer selling and the financial impact can be scary.

5. Set up to fail
Most first time managers fail. This is typically due to a mix of poor assumptions and bad planning. Most companies are reluctant to invest in training, coaching or mentorship for new managers. Unfortunately the impact on this false sense of certainty has a lasting impact when things go wrong.

Implementing management to scale the performance of your sales team is no easy task. The results can make or break your revenue goals.
The best salespeople are great at selling, pitching and organizing their own time.
Very rarely are they comprised of the patient nurturing components to keep a team on track in stormy weather. The best managers have chosen this path as their “craft”. They understand and the ebbs and flows that come with people management and accept that sales management is a marathon not a sprint. This is why good ones, in my opinion, are very hard to find.