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Why Do The Strongest Of Salespeople Frequently Flounder As Managers?

by Caliper
on 2015-04-29

If Wayne Gretzky’s ill-fated attempt at coaching taught us anything, it’s that a positive correlation between strong individual performance and leadership success might not exist. Same thing with Michael Jordan as an NBA owner. So far, it has been anything but, ahem, a slam dunk.

So why do we assume that a company’s best sales reps will seamlessly transition into sales managers, despite proof that they frequently do not?

During a recent client call, I asked pointblank, “So, you promote your best individual contributors to be sales managers?”

The reply: “Of course; we make the same mistake everyone else makes.”

We often view a sales position as a natural steppingstone to a sales-management role. Companies prefer known quantities rather than bringing in outsiders who don’t know the organizational culture, and allowing for a progression between sales and sales management fosters the belief that upward mobility is possible. However, automatically bumping up those who achieve sales success could cause you to miss out on more viable candidates for managerial positions. Simply put, sales success is not a prerequisite for good sales management.

So why do even the strongest of salespeople frequently flounder as managers? First, the vetting process is usually inadequate, and the wrong attributes are considered when determining aptitude for management. Being promoted through the ranks also speaks to an organization’s faith in you, and it is difficult to turn down a promotion, lest you risk being labeled as “not fully committed.”

We have found that first-time leaders can be uncomfortable managing their peers, and they tend to focus on things like avoiding litigation and managing out underperformers instead of on mentoring and leading by example.

Navigating underperformance is often unfamiliar to high-achievers who have been promoted. Look no further than the aforementioned “Great One.” Despite his incomparable talent on the ice, once in a suit and tie behind the bench, Gretzky could neither transmute his underachieving team into a contender nor transfer his keen on-ice vision to those who did not naturally possess it. In his one and only coaching job, he could not develop a vision for success or adjust his style based on the players entrusted to him. Similar factors often victimize inexperienced or ineffective sales managers. As a result, sales team members can become disillusioned and leave, and upper management is forced to change managers. Everyone loses.

To avoid such dysfunction in your sales organization, you could use a validated tool such as the Caliper Profile to assess employees’ personalities and see where their potential lies. Furthermore, Caliper’s new Analytics feature allows you to mine your current workforce for leadership candidates and hidden talent.

Caliper can also help first-time managers build accountable teams by coaching them to take the focus off performance “problems” and onto building trust, communicating goals, and holding people accountable.

With Caliper’s business solutions, you can avoid knowingly “making the same mistake everyone else makes.”