Sales Hiring and Recruiting

Should You Promote Your Top Sales Rep to Sales Manager?


You have an opening for a sales manager. Your rainmaker is vying for the role. He's great at personal selling and has helped you make the number every year. 

Should you move him into the manager's chair?

When considering promoting a star sales performer into management, tread carefully. There's a very real possibility that you might take away the ‘pace-setter’ from your sales team in exchange for a mediocre sales manager.

Promoting the top rep into the sales manager role takes guts. Most fail because they're used to selling, not coaching selling. You risk gaining a poor manager while losing the revenue from the top rep.


How to pull this off? Carefully.

Managing takes different skills than selling.

It's a sad reality that most sales managers shouldn’t be in their role. But many are because they let ego get in the way. Being the boss can carry some of the same thrills as being the top rep: accolades, recognition, prestige. Many think the job isn't much different than being a top-performing sales rep. Boy, how often they're wrong.

Moving from an individual contributor sales role into a sales manager role should not be an assumed or automatic career step.

Rather than immediately putting your superstar into a manager role, consider using their strengths in other ways. For instance, a common approach is to use the top rep to support or mentor junior reps. This mentoring might take a range of forms, from highly formal to more casual approaches.


With that in mind, there may be occasions when promoting someone from a direct selling role into a management role makes sense.

When evaluating and developing future managers, it's essential that you provide the necessary training. Attention should be paid to a few critical areas, especially coaching and team development. Ensure the new manager has all the tools, resources, and specific knowledge to make this happen.

Depending on the size and structure of the sales team, the new manager may also be required to:

  • Determine Targets
  • Administer an Incentive Plan 
  • Work with Marketing to Refine Messaging 
  • Manage a Lead Pipeline
  • Support Execution of a Sales Process

One of the most challenging skills for new managers is the ability to hold people accountable. 

This is the area most managers self-report as their biggest point of weakness. It's also the most difficult skill to master for someone new to management.

Complicating matters is the very common situation where you promote someone who is now expected to hold their former peers accountable for numbers. Adding this dynamic creates even greater odds of failure.     

Provide intensive training to your new manager on how best to hold their team accountable. Always include role play practice and strategies for offering constructive feedback. 

Don't put anyone in a sales leadership role, especially one responsible for holding others accountable, until you are 100% positive they: 

  • Understand the metrics that are required to be successful within your sales model
  • Know and can model the right selling behaviors for the reps
  • Are comfortable reviewing performance with non-performers, including mapping out actionable next steps to improve results
  • Can provide constructive criticism that builds confidence among team members

Contact us to learn more about helping your team achieve greater sales performance or to equip your sales managers with the knowledge and skills to succeed. To access top sales candidates with industry-specific experience, contact International Search Consultants

About The Author

Author photo Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.

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