Top sales reps are go-getters on the sales floor, achieving things others can only dream of. They know their product and service inside out. They are able to expertly read new prospects and always manage to say the right thing at the right time. And the result of their talents are figures that will blow the roof off.
But as the sporting world has shown time and time again, being an outstanding player doesn’t necessarily mean someone will make a good coach. And the same is true in sales.
Top sales reps moving into management can find it a struggle, which for a high-flier can be hard to swallow. The reason this move can often cause problems is a simple one – being a sales rep and being a sales manager are two very different things and the roles come with very different responsibilities. Without the right training and an awareness of what’s fully involved, even the most ambitious new manager may be left feeling frustrated.
According to Sales Hacker there are ten key qualities that make a good sales manager. They include confidence, ambition and optimism. While these qualities may also be found in top sales reps, they will need to be used in a very different way once they step into the shoes of management.
So what does a newly promoted sales rep need to think about? And what are the most common traps they can fall into?
Day to day activities
The daily tasks of a sales rep and a sales manager couldn’t be more different. For the sales rep it is all about talking to people and presenting a polished pitch, with some admin to keep on top of. For a sales manager their day will include internal meetings, each with a different agenda.
Their admin will be far increased, often drowning them in spreadsheets and reports. Plus they need to manage the people round them, providing everything from coaching and training, to tackling the hiring and firing.
The roles are also very different when it comes to the area of hitting quotas. One of the most impactful changes is that a rep is responsible for one thing only – hitting their own quota. Being a good team player means they may take the whole team into consideration and work together, but they won’t have responsibility for the whole team’s performance. As a sales manager, however, that is exactly what they’re responsible for. They need to get the whole team to hit its quota.
Training and coaching
Being good at coaching doesn’t have much to do with being a good sales rep. Someone may be very good at selling but that doesn’t mean they can train someone else up, or even recognise what it is they are doing that has been so successful for them. So how does a new sales manager gain these skills? Sales training often focuses on the reps, but training the trainer is just as important. A new manager needs to have access to help in this area if they’re going to be successful.
Can’t stop selling
Many reps-turned-sales-manager report that one of the biggest issues they faced was the need to stop selling. When someone’s good at sales they’re likely to be a ‘hunter’ by nature. They’ll be great at sniffing out the deals and will thrive on the win. As a manager they suddenly have to spend their time digging around in spreadsheets, instead of influencing prospects sat across the table. But it’s important that new managers don’t fall into the trap of trying to doing it all themselves. They instead need to move into the role of a coach and trainer, teaching others the art of closing the sale.
Struggle with impatience
Hot on the heels of needing to stop the selling mentality, is the need for reps-turned-managers to work on their patience. They need far more of this attribute when they’re a manager. Being hungry for the deal and impatient to move forward may be a virtue for some good reps, but it could harm their work and their ability to get the best from their team once they become a manager.
Asking too much
A top sales rep is number one for a reason – they will have consistently recorded fantastic figures and their performance will be enviable. When they then become a manager one problem that can often arise is setting expectations for others that are too high. They may expect everyone to be able to reach the levels they previously achieved. They may think ‘if I could do it then everyone else should be able to’. It will take a conscious effort not to ask too much. Instead the focus should be on being a great trainer and developing the ability to see the big picture and to hire the right people.
Stop executing and start strategising
A sales rep executes, a sales manager needs to plan and strategise. As a sales rep it is all about knowing the product/service inside out, but they may have limited understanding for the company and its internal politics. As manager they will need to answer to a higher authority and come up with solutions on a bigger scale. They need to be equipped to do that.
So, can it ever work?
The answer is yes. By addressing these issues and having the right training and support behind them, then a top sales rep can indeed morph into a great manager. They already have many things in their favour. For example, if they can channel their energy and ambition in a new direction, helping fire up and support the department to achieve its goals, then that’s going to be a huge asset.
They also know the sales environment inside out and will have unrivalled insights into what tools and software would best support the team. If it’s time for a new CRM, then they’ll be in a fantastic position to get that across to the board. They’ll know where there are gaps and where simple adjustments to processes could accelerate the team’s results.
Overall, the key to a successful move up the ladder lies in recognising that major differences exist between the two roles. But it’s possible a rep will find they have a knack for managing people that matches their ability to manage client relationships.