Q: Hey Kevin, how do you know when it is
time to move from sales into sales management? I am considering the promotion
of an employee and I’m curious to see if my criteria for promotion matches your
A: I have long been a believer that
there is no magic formula for promoting anyone from a day-to-day sales position
into a management role. I believe every scenario is as different as the people
involved and no two people alike.
Certainly there are large corporations
that have rigid organizational structures that promote based on statistics. For
example, I have several friends that are in pharmaceutical sales, and some are
sales reps while others are in management. Almost all that are in management
are in those positions because they’ve been with their company for x period of
time, have managed x dollars of market value and/or have successfully marketed
x number of different products. There’s nothing wrong with this approach
because the majority of pharmaceutical companies have thousands of feet on the
street. But, this approach to promoting into sales management oftentimes is the
exception and not the rule.
Sales managers are a slightly different
breed than the everyday, feet on the street sales rep. Sales managers need to
be jugglers. You can teach a young child to juggle three tennis balls. It takes
expertise to juggle three chainsaws and two flaming torches at the same time.
It is this juggling expertise that is the first identifier I use for promoting
into sales management.
Unlike other types of managers within a
business, a truly successful sales manager must first know how to sell, be a
top producer in sales, and must have an understanding (and I mean full and firm
understanding) of how & why they’ve become successful. In many cases it is
due to their ability, their expert ability, to juggle. Success in sales comes
when you can manage multiple accounts, entertain clients while balancing your
kids sports calendars. You must be able to enjoy a quiet dinner with your
spouse while not being interrupted with business calls, and yet you must have
your business calls under control. While many day-to-day sales reps can handle
this type of juggling, it can be nerve racking, and only a select group of sales reps can take these juggling challenges head on.
The second criteria I evaluate is the “team
player” aspect of the sales rep. Can the rep not only manage their own sales responsibilities,
but do they also lend a hand of guidance to those around them? Are they a team
player? Are they willing to spend their personal time, knowing they’re juggling
many responsibilities, to help a fellow sales rep? If the answers are yes
across the board, then sales management is within sight.
The final criteria - how well will the
individual fit in culturally with others already in management roles? I do not
want clones. I can’t afford a bunch of “yes” managers. I want individuals with
individual strengths and attributes. A cultural fit to me is someone that
brings something new to the management team while at the same time fitting in
perfectly like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
Not everyone is meant to be in
management or is cut out for the rigors of managing others. It does take a
unique combination of personality, patience, willingness to learn, existing
successes, and a passion for being a career sales person. Sales managers should
be able to not just “talk the talk” but “walk the talk”. Effective sales
managers lead by example. Lastly, this is not so much criteria I seek in promoting, but a
requirement of being a sales manager: YOU MUST CONTINUE TO SELL!