Should You Promote Your Top-Producing Salesperson to Sales Manager?

The short answer to this question is: probably not.

Let me illustrate this for you with a story from my past. Early in my career, I had established myself as a pretty darn good salesperson at the company where I worked.  I was never the #1 performer in the company, but I was always in the top 10%.  I guess I was considered an “above average” salesperson.  My success was due to my ability to create and nurture relationships, my questioning and listening skills, and my ability to establish credibility and trust.  What kept me from being #1 was the fact that I am not overly aggressive or competitive.

My goal was to be promoted to sales management.  I knew the base pay was more, it was considered a promotion and carried more prestige in the company, and there were other perks in the job (like a more flexible schedule).  I worked hard to develop my skills in order to be considered for the next promotion, and I knew the interview process for the position was pretty rigorous.

The superstar sales performer in our company was Patty. She was consistently #1 month after month.  I learned a lot from Patty- she was one of those people who was a “natural” when it came to selling.  She didn’t necessarily follow any processes, or even implement the company-endorsed methods and best practices, but she somehow managed to out-produce everyone else. She worked hard; she was fearless, highly assertive and very competitive.

The next time a management position was open, both Patty and I interviewed for the job. The general consensus amongst the company was that of course Patty would get it- she is the superstar.  And they were right- Patty was promoted.

A few months later, I was also promoted to sales manager.  I had a territory of salespeople; Patty had a territory.  And a strange thing happened.

My team was #1 month after month.  My team continued to improve, and we broke many company records.  Not only did Patty’s team struggle, but Patty’s personal sales results took a hit, and Patty quickly became very unhappy in her role until she eventually decided to step back into a sales position.

So how did this happen? 

It is because the knowledge, skills and traits of a top producing salesperson are vastly different from the knowledge, skills and traits of top producing sales leader.

Generally, the skills for stellar salespeople are hunting, selling, qualifying, presenting and closing.

The top four skills required for a top producing sales leader are:

  1. Hiring and Selecting Top Salespeople
  2. Training and Development
  3. Managing and Holding People Accountable
  4. Leading and Motivating Others

Want to find out more about what it takes to be an outstanding sales manager?  Download our Sales Management FAQ!