The Big Picture:
In the fast-paced and competitive landscape of B2B technical and professional services, making strategic decisions about your sales team's leadership is critical. Unfortunately, the sales manager role is a hard one to get right and one that commonly experiences turnover. One common dilemma faced by organizations is whether to promote their top-performing salesperson into a sales manager role.
As the saying goes…the best salespeople don’t always make the best sales managers. This decision can significantly impact your team's performance and overall success.
In this blog post, I’ll explore the pros and cons of promoting your star salesperson to a sales manager position.
Familiarity of One Another: You know them. You know how the act and behave and if they are aligned with your core values & guiding principles. You’ve seen how they build relationships. You’ve observed how they handle adversity, conflict and change. You’ve experienced how they give and receive constructive feedback.
Track Record of Success: As your top performing salesperson they have clearly demonstrated their ability to sell and get results. You’ve observed how they approach and do their job. You’ve seen how they interact with internal employees & partners to get the job done.
Company Knowledge & Expertise: They have developed a deep understanding of your products/services which is essential when selling technical & professional services. They intimately know your ideal client profile, understand your key stakeholders, can articulate your value proposition, understand what questions to ask (and when), and how to design & present your ideal solution. This expertise can be invaluable when leading & managing a sales team.
Industry Knowledge & Expertise: Understanding the market, competition and trends is crucial in B2B technical and professional services. Your top salesperson is likely to have this knowledge, which can guide the team in making informed decisions.
Relationships with Clients & Strategic Partners: It’s likely they have built and maintained meaningful relationships with many of your best clients which can help with retention and growth. In addition, they have likely built trusted relationships with strategic partners who refer new qualified opportunities.
Different Skill Set: It’s a completely different job. And it requires different competencies and strengths. As a salesperson they go from being an individual contributor to a sales manager where they are trying to get results through others. Managers need to be proficient in coaching & developing others, giving & receiving feedback, sales process management, recruiting & hiring top talent, etc. Your top salesperson may lack these essential managerial skills.
Loss of a Top Performer: Promoting your top salesperson to a managerial role has a huge impact on your immediate revenue generation. As your best seller, they are likely bringing more qualified prospects into your funnel, successfully advancing them at a higher percentage, and closing them at a larger average deal size. Often it will take multiple people (sales & account management) to adequately backfill your top salesperson.
Change in Client Account Ownership: Any time there is a disruption of account ownership the client becomes at-risk. They have developed trust & loyalty to your top salesperson and there is fear & uncertainty that the replacement will meet their expectations. This change can prompt your clients to re-examine your current solution and consider competitive offers.
Limited Talent Pool & Perspective: Promoting from within limits your organization's talent pool of candidates and exposure to different ideas, perspectives and innovation.
Resistance to Change: Promoted salespeople may be resistant to change, especially if they've been successful with their existing methods. This can hinder the adoption of new technologies or strategies that the company needs to stay competitive.
The decision to promote your top-performing salesperson to a sales manager role in the B2B technical and professional services industry should be made carefully. This is no easy decision as you can see from the pros & cons. If you are pursuing real change, I recommend looking externally. If you are content and satisfied with your current approach, you can consider promoting from within.
Either way, make sure you have a well-thought out success profile (including performance goals & expectations & core competencies) and interview process to screen & select the right candidate.
In addition, ensure that you have an onboarding plan and provide the appropriate level of ongoing direction, coaching & support as they step into their new role.
In doing so, you can make a well-informed choice that benefits both your sales team and your organization as a whole.
Carver Peterson helps growth-minded leaders of B2B professional & technical services firms achieve predictable and sustainable revenue growth through a refined strategy, defined process and aligned structure.