Should We Promote Our Best Sales People To Be Sales Managers?


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Should we promote our best sales people into sales management?  It’s a question that comes up a lot.  I’ve written about it as have others.  Most people come down on the side that this is a terrible strategy, not only do we lose our best sales people, but they are bad managers–demotivating the team, causing problems, and all sorts of things.

I was asked this question in an interview the other day.  My response was, “It depends.  If your best sales person is the best candidate for the sales management job, it’s probably a great decision.”  See I think we look at the whole process incorrectly–that causes us to make bad decisions on selecting managers–whether it’s your top sales person or not.  Too often, we use the rationale, great sales people will be great sales managers and move the person into the job. 

The problem gets worse.  People tell me they are looking for a sales manager, I ask, “What are you looking for in a sales manager?”  They send me a job description.  That just tells me what you expect the person to do, it doesn’t answer my question.  What we really need to do to develop a profile of the high performance sales manager:  What skills should the person have?  What experiences?  What capabilities?  What interpersonal skills do they need?  What is the leadership style?  The list could go on.  One element of the profile has to be their sales experience and performance–they have to know about selling, be credible with their team, customers, and others.  Without a profile of the “ideal sales manager,”  we don’t know what to look for in candidates or how to evaluate them.

Once you have a profile of the ideal manager, all candidates should be evaluated against that profile.  The candidate that best fits should be offered the job of manager.  If it’s your best sales person, then you will have a great manager.  Likewise if it is someone else.  It’s a simple step, but the most critical in selecting the right manager.

Once you have the right person in place as a sales manager, don’t forget the “on-boarding” program.  While we have the right person, without a strong on-boarding program including coaching, developmental experiences, and training, even the best candidate will struggle and possibly fail.  But I’ll cover that in another post.


  1. Sales managers in this 21st century need to use coaching skills versus telling salespeople what to do. Any salesperson who is promoted to management needs to develop coaching skills, which is very different than the daily skills used as a salesperson. Many top salespeople are competitive in nature and they have to develop a more inclusive attitude to be effective managers. That is one of the skills I recommend that companies explore in promoting salespeople to management.

  2. Great comment Connie, part of the profile needs to be the ability to listen, coach, develop their teams. They need to have the characteristics to be inclusive, though they may not know how to. This is where an onboarding process for the new manager is critical-they need to be trained, coached and developed as well.


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