Not Every Good Salesperson is Destined for Sales Management

What seasoned Sales Execs wish they’d known earlier

Salespeople of all stripes tend to have one thought pattern in common. It happens during the first 10 years of their career. They see only one option for progression: upward. The only way forward: linear.

Whether they’re hitting it out of the park or consistent performers in their early years — this is a common thread.

They want to achieve the next logical step in their progression — becoming a Manager (whether Sales or Major Accounts.)

Everyone wants to be promoted.

Damn, that ambition

Deviating from the path to management? That may be a bit taboo in the minds of many early-career salespeople.

Why? Pressures to compete at the organization. Pressures from family. Pressure from mentors. The ambition that got them into the sales role in the first place.

Whatever the reason – not every good salesperson is destined for sales management. It’s hard to say it, but it’s true. A tough truth, learned many times over among executives who found that their power to promote is best used selectively.

“Assuming the next step or position is not always a good thing.”

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First taste of defeat, or best thing ever?

The first taste of not achieving a goal can feel like defeat to a salesperson. In many cases, this is what newly promoted sales or account managers experience when they begin their new role.

Keep these things in mind when considering the move to a sales management position:

  1. At-risk compensation – Your success depends on how your team does. Often, if your team doesn’t make the numbers, you don’t make your compensation goal. This can be a rude awakening for new managers.
  2. Patience – As a manager you’ve got to be patient. Wait for new team members to start performing. Giving them what they need to succeed and ramp up their goals incrementally.
  3. Giving direct feedback – Experienced sales executives hone their communication style, learning to be very direct and giving direct feedback.
  4. Interpersonal skills – Salespeople are people-people, and while they may find difficult conversations with customers a non-issue, things may be different when introducing group dynamics. They must be just as skilled in their interactions between coworkers when managing a team.
  5. Administration – Salespeople love making their own destiny. Some might love meeting with customers or prospects and being at the customer workplace environment. They may not love dealing with administrative duties or personnel issues back at the office.
  6. Inheriting a team – Often when you inherit a team there may be vacancies on that team making it even harder to hit your quota. Even when inheriting a full team, success is not assured. Let’s say you have 8 reps on a team. Most likely, not all 8 reps are going to be making their quota. You have to come in and clean things up through coaching.
  7. Coaching – Sales teams need coaching. You’ve already done well in your own right, but you’re not playing ball anymore. Be more like a coach and coach your team members effectively.
  8. Promoting your star players – Perfect move? Not so much. The successful star player on your team might be a bad fit for a manager role and later come back to the team to keep selling because it’s what they like to do. It just depends on the person.

So what are the other options? Plenty. Sales leaders at the executive level have learned that there isn’t just one path to professional success, and that circumstances out of their control can determine one’s career path, as well. Have the courage to think differently, and most importantly: do what’s right for you.