Why Good Sales People Become Bad Sales Managers

I had an interesting discussion last month that I’d like to share with you.

I was at a meeting with a new client of ours and one of the sales directors asked if he could get my opinion on something.

He said that six months ago he had promoted one of his best sales people to a new sales management role they had introduced.

This sales person had performed really well on his patch, and the company wanted to reward him with a promotion.

His results had been very healthy during his four years in control of his region.

But the reports on his six months in charge of his sales team had been poor, at best.

He rubbed people up the wrong way, his leadership style was fairly dictatorial and the results from his sales team had decreased, not grown as hoped.

The sales director wanted to know if this was a typical scenario or was he doing something radically wrong.

My answer was that the skills needed to be an excellent sales person aren’t always mirrored in a great sales manager.

I asked the sales director what was the biggest driver or motivation for this sales manager when he was in sales.

He said that the key to his success was his need to achieve.

Most of his discussions were about how he needed to return the number one sales figures in every campaign, and be seen near or at the top of every sales league he was in.

So this achievement need was satisfied in his role in sales.

Fast-forward to his role as sales manager.

What are his key drivers now in this new job?

The sales director said he didn’t really know, but he saw the need for achievement was still being manifested.

Yet, naturally, the need for achievement when we are leading people has to be done though others.

The independence and freedom that came with being out in the field has been replaced with a much more steadfast role, often in one office, dealing with management issues and challenges that come with leading others.

In other words, the key skills needed as a sales manager now revolve around being able to influence others to achieve.

Whilst achievement is a valuable attribute to have when driving sales, the ability to get the best out of others is paramount when you are in a management position.

I said to him, ‘so the natural skills and attitudes this sales guy had to drive his sales figures aren’t the same skills needed to lead others to achieve the same or better results’.

The sales director could see my point and could realise now why he might have been a little hasty in promoting this good sales person.

This may not always be the case, but we see it often in sales management.

The drivers needed to be excellent in sales aren’t always replicated in sales management.

Some of the skills needed in sales may include achievement-oriented, understanding the buyer’s perspective, being subject-matter experts, being effective on the phone.

Socially effective, good marketers and the ability to manage their pipeline.

The skills of a sales manager include the ability to build trust with their teams, knowing what motivates and rives their individuals, the growth and development of others and the need for good hiring and coaching skills.

You can see there are some cross-overs, but for a good sales person to become a great sales manager, there has to be a plethora of new skills and attributes to drive the performance in others.

If you have a great salesperson you are looking to promote, it makes sense to identify their current drivers and equate them to the role you are expecting the person to fulfill.

When you build the skills needed to be a great sales manager into a great sales person, you increase the chances of success and create growth windows for the whole department.