Generally, avoid promoting a good salesperson to the sales manager or Sales VP position. Let me rephrase. You should not promote your good salesperson to become your bad sales manager. There’s a 90+% chance that a negative scenario like the one below will happen. I’ve seen it so often I’ve lost count.

Here’s how it goes. The salesperson is excited about the promotion. However, their skills are in selling, not sales management. It takes a few months, but it becomes evident that they are not a sales manager. The CEO adapts and reduces the sales management responsibilities and attempts to retain the previous sales output. The salesperson now feels like they’re doing two jobs for the price of one and becomes disgruntled. Because they’re not succeeding at sales management, they reduce their effort level in that area, thereby furthering the decline.

After a few months, it becomes obvious to both parties this plan was a mistake. Many times, the owner attempts to undo the mistake. To the salesperson, this feels like a demotion. In half the cases, the salesperson quits.

Superior selling skills do not always translate into great sales management skills. It’s not unlike baseball. Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter of all time, but he was a notoriously bad hitting coach. Rumor has it that he would just yell at players saying, “Can’t you see the curveball spinning, you idiot!” Players without Williams’ eagle-like eyesight couldn’t see the ball spinning, and the “stop being so stupid” advice wasn’t helpful.

Charlie Lau, on the other hand, had a subpar .255 lifetime batting average but is recognized by many as the best hitting coach in baseball history. The skills needed to teach and lead are very different than the skills needed to do the selling activity.

If you’ve already made this mistake, don’t feel bad; you have lots of company. If you managed to avoid this mistake, please let your salespeople sell and find a manager to manage.

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