When You Should Promote a Sales Rep to Sales Manager

Last time, we discussed why, contrary to popular belief, top sales reps can at times, make not so great sales managers. Which naturally raises the subsequent question, “When should we make a sales rep a manager?”. That you’re asking this question is smart policy – after all, internal promotions can make for a much smoother transition. The rep-turned-manager is familiar with your products and processes, and being able to authentically tout your policy of internal promotion is a powerful incentive when hiring for positions lower down the ladder.

  1. Look for the sales reps who have undergone struggles.
    This might seem like an odd one to lead off with, but an average sales rep who has had dry spells may better able to relate to and empathize with direct reports than a star sales rep who has either never struggled or whose droughts have been comparatively short. In fact, the top rep might be more likely to think their new underlings are just being lazy or are incompetent, when the reason could very well be something entirely different. Of course, you’ll want the struggling rep to have demonstrated resilience by bouncing back, so they’re able to coach future reps through the same process.
  2. Take note of those who have publicly expressed interest in a manager role.
    If a sales rep indicates they want to be a manager, they’ll likely be asking what they can do to make themselves a viable candidate and how they can prepare for that role. These ideas typically won’t occur to your best performers – they’re too busy making money and enjoying what they do. In fact, in many cases, star sales reps will actually earn less total money as a manager, making the promotion much less attractive to them.
  3. Natural helpers and teachers make natural sales managers.
    One of the best ways to assess temperament fit for a sales manager role is to look at whether the veteran sales reps are providing coaching or mentoring help to newer sales reps. Those that are usually make strong candidates for manager because a large part of the position involves coaching, mentoring, and developing the employees under them. It’s a trait that not many sales reps have, so those that do should be put on the short list for manager.
  4. Create a list of the traits you want in a sales manager, share them, and see who has those characteristics.
    When you’ve compiled a shortlist of candidates based on the above items, narrow it down further by compiling a list of what traits and values you want to see in an ideal sales manager. Then cross-reference your wishlist with your shortlist to identify your finalists. It’s an expedient way to save time and refine who you’re looking at for a promotion.
  5. Consider your B and maybe even your C reps.
    This will doubtless seem shocking to many sales professionals reading this, but an intriguing piece of evidence for elevating your B and C reps to manager comes via GrowthPlay’s research: Less than 17% of strong sales candidates are also good fits for a sales management role. Conversely, an astounding 71.4% of candidates who are a poor fit as a sales rep are excellent candidates for sales manager positions. It may seem completely counterintuitive, but the data dictates that it at least be factored in your internal promotion quest. When you look at this area of your team, be sure to stay focused on the traits you identified to be important when considering potential candidates.
  6. The reps most interested in work-life balance will often make the best managers.
    A key part of being a sales manager, or any leadership role, is being able to understand and empathize with your team, working with them as issues come up in a blame-free way that allows the members to feel safe while also striving for improvement. One way to assess fit for that is to make note of those reps who seek and champion work-life balance. These individuals should receive priority consideration.The reason why is because they not only will have a strong ability to engage in harmonious relationships with their employees (they know the stress of the job and the importance of having balance, after all), but because they’re so in tune with maintaining their own mental and emotional equilibrium, they’ll be watchful for the same in their reps. This is particularly important for identifying potential cases of burnout and engaging in proactive preventative measures before the burnout happens, or, in cases where it’s already set in, step in early to minimize the damage and enable faster recovery.

Deciding to internally promote a sales rep to sales manager is a laudable, smart decision. It also represents a major career change – one that has a huge impact on the rest of the sales team. Therefore, it’s important to make the right choice. Looking at the signs and factors we’ve described here will help you in that endeavor.