3 Reasons Why Top Sales People Make Terrible Sales Managers

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Want to know how to make a terrible sales manager? Promote your top sales rep to a leadership and management role.

While every business owner and executive knows not to do this, it is truly amazing the number of times I have seen a top sales rep moved up to team lead or sales manager. They are easy to spot based on the numbers—their team is not going to perform very well.

Why don’t great sales reps make great sales managers?

For several reasons.

1. Talent Can’t Always Translate to Coaching

The main reason is most top salespeople achieve that status through the right combination of natural conversational, problem solving, and closing abilities with routine and discipline. You will know a professional salesperson when you hear multiple conversations with prospects that mostly sound the same, and their process from intro to close follows a strategic formula.

The challenge comes when the new sales manager does not understand why other reps cannot do what they do. They see their results as a natural extension of who they are, so when it comes time to coach or manage other reps, they will have trouble dissecting what they have done to win and turn it into effective leadership of other sales reps.

It’s the same reason you do not see championship level athletes who dominated their sport retire and become coaches. Of course, some of them may not want to go into coaching, but one main reason is they have trouble translating their natural talent, plus amazing work ethic, into coaching strategies that work for a team made up of various levels of ability.

2. “Here Let Me Do It For You” Syndrome

Another reason top sales reps do not make good sales managers is they struggle with coaching a rep with the goal of helping that rep become more effective on their own. Top reps/sales managers will always want to jump back on the phone to close the deal. They are super-confident in their ability, so instead of putting in the effort to get the rep to close the deal, it is just easier to do it themselves. Their “If I want it done right, I should just do it myself” mentality results in pushing the rep aside and getting on the phone or sitting at the desk with the prospect themselves.

This situation, unfortunately, leads to a team of sales reps who are not actually developing into effective closers. If the manager is not around or is busy with a call or meeting, the other reps’ performance will fall because they become reliant on the manager to close their deals.

3. Motivation Differs From Person to Person. 

(One Ring Can’t Rule Them All)

A third, subtle but critical, issue is that a top sales rep knows what motivates them. That is great when they are in the seat closing their own deals. But when they are in a management role, they will most likely assume all their reps are motivated in the same way. Generally, that is money-related; however, not all salespeople are motivated by money alone. Receiving recognition, having some level of freedom, and being given tasks to mentor or train other reps are all different ways a rep might be motivated to perform well. It could actually backfire if the manager is just waving money in front of everyone because money is the carrot that got them excited.

Sometimes, I have seen organizations promote a mediocre sales rep to manager over a top sales rep. This is the “Those who can’t, teach” concept, and it can be a mixed blessing. Just because someone is not a top rep doesn’t mean they do not have other ideal traits that could help a team through management, coaching, or training. You see this in sports with player-coaches (coaches who played the sport at one point), but such coaches are rarely league-leading, championship level players. They are career players who know the sport very well and can translate that knowledge into leadership.

Sort of.

The challenge comes from mindset, belief systems, and winning formulas. Unless a sales rep has closed a high level of deals, it will be tough for them to coach/lead a team to high performance levels. If they have never done ten, fifty, or one hundred deals in a month, how will they know what it takes? Then how will they help others with that winning formula if they have never gotten it to work for themselves? If you have never sold a business for eight-figures, how good would your advice be to someone who has that goal with their company? Any advice would be theoretical without the battle scars that come from going through it yourself.

So what is the best strategy for growing your base of sales managers?

First, the key is to look for career sales managers who have produced results with their teams. If they truly have the ability to manage, that ability will translate to pretty much any industry.

Second, look for a career sales manager who also wants to start out on the sales floor first to learn the sale. Their goal should be to master the sales success formula to a level of understanding that can be translated to a future team. Ideally, you want sales manager candidates who want to start out closing deals and are not just doing it because you are making them.

If you have internal candidates—middle of the pack or top-performing reps—who have expressed an interest in being sales managers, analyze their chance of success based on the pitfalls I discussed above. I have seen top and average reps become good sales managers, but you have to be very careful when promoting them.

If you help with selecting and nurturing the best sales managers for your inside sales call center, call or text Jason at (206) 234-1848, or email at jason@cutterconsultinggroup.com and let’s set up a discovery call to see what strategies will help.

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Want to talk about ways Jason can help your sales team? Email jason@cutterconsultinggroup.com
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