Promoting a sales manager internally is tricky, but hiring an outsider might be even trickier.
Current sales reps can make great candidates for open positions within the company. They’re already familiar with company values and processes, making them better-suited for leadership positions and mentoring others.
Promoting a top-performing sales rep to the position of team manager may seem like a no-brainer, but a great sales rep doesn’t automatically make an effective manager. It’s important to know the differences between the two so that you can choose the best leader for your team.
In this guide, we’ll dig into the characteristics of effective managers and great sales reps, so you can figure out who is the best choice for leading your team and who will thrive by staying in their current role.
Effective managers enable effective teams
You need both effective managers and great sales reps for a team—and your company—to reach its goals. While sales reps have a more singular focus in terms of generating revenue, an effective manager impacts profitability at multiple levels:
- Managers set the processes that determine the productivity of the entire team
- They get the buy-in needed to execute plans and reach revenue goals
- They identify ways that individual reps can improve their win rate, and then offer coaching that helps fill in the gaps
- They create a team culture that influences workplace satisfaction and in the long run, employee retention
- They inspire a level of employee engagement that naturally increases productivity
In this sense, it doesn’t matter how amazing your sales reps are; if you don’t have the right person leading them, the whole team suffers.
Myths about promoting sales reps to managers
Before starting the hunt for a team leader, check your thinking on these common myths:
Myth: Great reps make effective managers
While it’s true that effective sales managers are typically great sales reps, a great sales rep is not necessarily an effective manager.
The Global Leadership Forecast 2018, found that only 14% of companies have a strong pool of leadership-ready employees to choose from. It also found that four out of 10 tech leaders are failing. These shortcomings are likely because companies aren’t investing enough in training that develops their workforce into leaders.
Another important factor to consider is that team leaders need a whole other set of skills and qualities to succeed compared to those required of frontline sales reps. Some of these qualities—like being altruistic or data-driven—are diametrically opposed to the skills a sales rep needs to possess.
Myth: Sales reps and managers have the same interpersonal skills
A sales rep needs interpersonal skills to deal with customers, while a manager needs interpersonal skills to manage a team. However, the way reps and managers apply those skills is quite different.
A sales rep’s interpersonal skills are largely confined to how they relate to clients. They need to establish a rapport quickly and be creative in how they serve that individual. While this certainly takes an immense amount of skill and practice, a manager’s interpersonal skills are more nuanced.
Managers must be able to delegate tasks, help resolve conflicts between employees, and create an environment where coworkers can develop relationships based on mutual trust. They also need to be able to handle sensitive situations and come up with solutions for them.
Effective managers compared to great sales reps
Effective managers and great sales reps both need to have good communication and organizational skills, as well as a commitment to the company’s mission and values. However, there are several characteristics that set these two roles apart;
Characteristics of an effective manager
Effective managers tend to be:
- Critical thinkers
A study by XBInsight found that managers score higher in critical thinking than sales reps. They excel at analyzing sales data and coming up with small adjustments to processes that deliver big results. They can also look at complex situations from multiple angles and come up with win/win solutions that deliver results for the company and enhance customer experiences.
Strategic thinking allows effective managers to predict how certain approaches or actions, implemented uniformly, will impact long-term performance. In addition, team goals need to align with a company’s mission, vision, and values, and then have measurable outcomes and action plans to achieve those outcomes.
Managers are able to keep all these factors in mind when choosing goals and creating action plans for their team.
Effective managers are altruistic in that they place the needs of the team above their own. They also find joy and pride in seeing their team and individual employees succeed. Sales reps are usually more competitive, which serves its purpose, but not in the role of manager.
Finally, optimistic managers can help create a positive work environment, which increases workplace satisfaction, and that in turn leads to better sales results and higher employee retention rates.
Characteristics of a great sales rep
Great sales reps are often:
- Quick, intuitive decision-makers
- Individual problem-solvers
While lots of data can help a manager succeed, it can actually hinder a sales rep. Great sales reps know that when it comes to their customers, time is of the essence. They make quick, intuitive decisions based on their adept gut instincts and their knowledge of individual clients. These quick decisions can increase customer satisfaction, which impacts new sales, contract renewals, upsells, and cross-sells.
Process-oriented sales reps thrive when focusing on concrete activities with predictable results. They understand the impact that frequent activities like calls, proposals, and presentations can have on the ability to meet their monthly quotas. They do better when focusing on short-term goals rather than long-term ones.
Great sales reps tend to be competitive, whether with themselves (e.g. by trying to beat their personal best sales record) or by engaging in a bit of healthy competition with their colleagues.
Customer satisfaction plays a massive role in a sales rep’s performance, so instead of being big picture thinkers, sales reps focus on how they can best solve problems for individuals. They rely on creative and innovative approaches for ensuring each customer’s satisfaction.