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Should You Promote Your Top Salesperson?

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Holding magnifying glass and paper people

Dave broke through every career obstacle. His sales are higher than 35% of his peers. He routinely trains new employees. So, Dave should be promoted, right? Perhaps, but maybe it is not that simple.

Think back to when you first started as a sales manager. Do you remember the transition?

Chances are it was not entirely smooth, and you know now that the skills required to land a sales position differ greatly from running a team of people with their own (often very strong) opinions.

Rather than a desire to lead, quite often the top Driving factors for individuals considering promotions are the increased salaries associated with the job. As a result, unfortunately, work quality often suffers and the sales team does not receive the leader it needed to motivate them to improved sales.

In other words, successful performance on the sales floor does not guarantee that your sales rep will be successful in managing other salespeople. A fantastic manager can make skillful use of even mediocre performers, while a team of wildly successful salespeople can be run into the ground with poor oversight.

Evaluating your staff and making the right choice for promotion is imperative for healthy morale and sustainable performance.

Some Sales Skills Are Not Always What They Seem

Sometimes an employee exhibits what appears to be successful manager acumen, but those skills are situational. For example, you sent Dave out with new employees to shadow and learn from his talents. True to his reputation, they come back stronger sellers who leverage observed sales techniques into their own portfolio.

So why would Dave not be the best choice for regularly managing those employees?

Actually, there could be a number of things that would prevent Dave from effectively leading the office:


There are a great number of fun, high-energy people who get along well with a crowd but are not great at leading them. With Dave, this means he is a great teacher but unsuccessful at motivating those he manages.

In short, Dave needs to be committed to continually push himself and others. There is a test for this — have Dave lead a small project with 2-3 people working under him, then carefully follow his project timeline and ability of the team to meet their goals.

Lack of Sales Acumen

Businesses are more than just hitting numbers. You need to navigate the political, social and industrial factors that go along with setting direction and making smart decisions.

Managing Other Salespeople

Can Dave help people that do not want to learn, or can he only connect with other high performers like himself?

Managers should not play favorites. Personality conflicts can create resentments and can greatly affect productivity. You need someone who is going to pull the sales team together and relate to them on some level.

Not Buying Company Culture

Sometimes employees are not entirely happy with the way things operate and they will build camaraderie with new co-workers by “insightfully” pointing out all the company rules they perceive as problematic or obstacles.

New employees devour this inside information, but it undermines their perception of the company that you are trying to create.

While a potential manager can, and should, have ideas of how to improve the company, they must also have the professional maturity to know how, when and with whom to share those insights.

5 Required Skills for Being an Effective Sales Manager

There are a number of skills required by good sales managers:

  1. Coaching. This is probably the most important skill needed by sales managers. In short, a manager’s Need for Achievement must be high. Not only do you need to continually convince every mid-tier performer to shoot for the stars, but also you need to require your top performers to continually push themselves. Further, you need to know how to take the results of a sales acumen test and use them to better relate to each sales personality on your team.
  2. Hiring. Hiring the wrong person can be devastating to your company. Having an eye for the best talent is another key factor. Knowing how to screen and interview sales candidates is imperative to keep the company moving forward and give you an edge over your competition.
  3. Empathy. Managing can be done with an iron fist, but sales teams ruled by fear rarely last over the long term. The easiest way to convince people to fight for you is to get everyone into the same, positive mindset.
  4. Creative Thinking. How do you search for new leads? When is the best time to make a move into a new territory? How do you decide to pick up a new product line or remove an old one? There are a million “how” questions that need to be answered by the manager. The daily, monthly and annual sales goals often need creative solutions in order to hit the mark.
  5. Listening. Another crucial skill is listening. Your salespeople are experts on talking to people. The manager needs to be even more of a people-person. Listening to employees means more than just nodding and saying “I understand.” When an employee approaches their boss with a problem, they require either an empathetic explanation or a solution.

Finding the Truth

If you are concerned with determining the skills of your salespeople, have them take The DriveTest® and reference their Production Builder™ report. This assessment report is tailored toward mentoring and coaching the members of your sales team to help them realize their full sales potential. It studies Drive – a key factor in sales success – which is split into three traits:

  • Need for Achievement
  • Competitiveness
  • Optimism

Some salespeople are unable to truly see the unlimited potential for growth. You never know until you have quantifiable results provided by this illuminating test.

Leverage a New Promotion Track

Another key factor to consider is that you may not be able to afford to lose your best salesperson. You need a manager that can focus on the overall team, rather than individual success and pulling a top performing employee from the sales floor may have a dramatic effect on sales production.

Can you bring in another hire to fill his sales shoes?

Maybe one of your core performers would be better suited toward the task, while your top performers continue funneling revenue into the company.

Many companies, including the largest corporations, now develop a multi-tiered promotion track that allows salespeople and managers to grow together. A sample is below:

  • Associate Salesman
  • Sales Grade 2
  • Sales Grade 3
  • Staff Salesman Supervisor
  • Senior Salesman Manager
  • VP of Sales

Essentially, pay grades run parallel with one another. This allows you to continue promoting your best salespeople without making the managing positions seem like the only endgame to their career. This also gives top performers extra ambition to stay with the company, knowing they can continue to climb the corporate ladder.

Sales Hiring Simplified!

Hire top-performing salespeople with The DriveTest®. Get started now with one free test.

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