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Promoting Your Top Rep to Sales Leader Could be Your Biggest Mistake

Promoting Your Top Rep to Sales Leader Could be Your Biggest Mistake

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    Growth is an exciting time for every company. As a founder or CEO, you’ve finally turned a corner. You have enough leads to feed the sales team. In other words, “Life is good.” Your sales team is growing and you are looking to add some oversight as you add sales reps 5, 6, 7 and beyond.

    Naturally your initial direction is that your top sales person is deserving of such a high honor. They have been with you since day one and you are betting all chips that they will replicate their “take no prisoners” approach to selling with your entire team.

    Fast-forward to 4-6 months, you’ve seen nominal growth, or missed the number and realize the sales team’s morale is low. You’ve also lost a salesperson or two and your former “hero” looks like they are drowning. 

    The reality is that managing sales reps is the toughest job. “The hard truth” is that being able to sell does not equate to being able to lead and manage a team.  

    top salespeople often struggle in managerial roles because they’re used to working independently and focusing on their own sales, while managers need to be able to coordinate a team and put the team’s success first.

    Harvard Business Review

    Promoting your top rep to manager can be a huge mistake. Sadly it’s a mistake that companies make all too often. Here are a few reasons why you should avoid this common management miscue altogether:

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    Managing people is not for everyone.

    Great managers are patient, strategic and have a high emotional quotient.  They need to have exceptional communication skills and the natural ability to slow down to help navigate challenges. They also require a sense of “tolerance and selflessness” and get a genuine sense of fulfillment from helping others succeed. For them, the “team wins”, outside of financial reward and has to be at the forefront. These qualities are the polar opposite of the traditional superstar salesperson.

    Motivation is vastly different.

    Great salespeople love controlling their own destiny. They thrive on energy and momentum. They are motivated by money and the accolades that come with personal success. Managers, on the other hand, love solving problems and helping bring out the best in people. They are motivated by the impact they have on people, which in turn helps your business grow and thrive.

    They will struggle with the compensation plan.

    The sense of full-control that comes with steering your own financial performance is hard to give up. Once the sheen of a management salary bump wears off, new managers realize that getting to their quota while depending on others is a much tougher job than doing it themselves. The unfortunate news is that once they realize this, one of these four things typically happens:

    • They will micromanage and isolate their team demoralizing the sales culture.
    • They will hastily hire and fire salespeople creating a churn and burn culture.
    • They will eventually ask to be a rep again.
    • They leave because they are frustrated.

    Bad decisions aren’t cheap.

    Hiring the wrong manager is expensive. The negative impact that a bad manager can have on your team is vast. Demotivation, staff attrition, decreased sales performance, a toxic culture and poor morale. Couple all of these with the loss of revenue and your top salesperson no longer selling and the financial impact can be scary.

    Set up to fail.

    Most first-time managers fail. According to research from CEB Global, 60% of new managers fail within the first 24 months in their new role. This is typically due to a mix of poor assumptions and bad planning. Most companies are reluctant to invest in training, coaching or mentorship for new managers. Unfortunately the impact of this false sense of certainty has a lasting impact when things go wrong. 

    Implementing management to scale the performance of your sales team is no easy task. The results can make or break your revenue goals. 

    The best salespeople are great at selling, pitching and organizing their own time. Very rarely are they composed of the patient nurturing components to keep a team on track in stormy weather.

    The best managers have chosen this path as their “craft”. They understand the ebbs and flows that come with people management and accept that sales management is a marathon not a sprint. This is why good ones are very hard to find.

    Our Recommendation:
    Similar to when you launch your product or service, adding sales management requires a strategy. Our recommendation is to first take time to evaluate what problem you are trying to solve.

    If you want anyone to be successful in a management role, you need a clear understanding of your revenue gaps.  

    Even the best VP of sales will fail if you don’t clearly understand the problems you have associated with growth. So, before you hire or promote someone into a sales leadership role, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Do I fully understand the current revenue growth challenges of my company?
    2. What are the three most critical challenges I hope this sales leader solves?
    3. What steps internally do I need to take to ensure this new leader has the best chance of success?
    4. What skills do we need in a leader to round out the sales culture?
    5. Will who I am hiring bring out the best in our salespeople?

    Make sure you are being honest with yourself about where you are in your revenue growth lifecycle and what your supporting team (marketing, operations, support) are capable of supporting your new leader. Your goal at the end of the day is to set them up for success. 

    With regards to scaling or managing the team, focus on hiring a leader with a proven track record that fits your company culture. If you are not ready for a full time sales leader, consider fractional leadership or outside help where you can take advantage of executive level skills on a part time basis.

    Hiring or promoting a new sales leader can be an incredibly exciting time for any company. If done correctly, it can catapult you and your team to the next level.

    If you’re feeling stuck, an interim or fractional sales leader could be your best strategy. Explore the power of a fractional leader to help mentor and coach your next leader. Chat with our team to see how other companies in your shoes have solved this problem.

    TeamRevenue, empowers businesses to drive sustainable growth. We provide our clients with the revenue enablement experts, best practices, and an accountability framework to optimize revenue teams, systems, and processes to drive results.  We’ve worked with hundreds of B2B companies worldwide, breaking the cycle of underperformance. Helping them grow faster, communicate better and bring new energy to their organizations.


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    TeamRevenue helps organizations empower their teams with the right resources and support to fuel growth.

    If you are looking for more information or have any questions, please fill out the form below.

    If you’d rather set up a call to discuss your growth strategy, feel free to book a meeting here.


    TeamRevenue helps organizations empower their teams with the right resources and support to fuel growth.

    If you are looking for more information or have any questions, please fill out the form below.

    If you’d rather set up a call to discuss your growth strategy, feel free to book a meeting here.

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