How Do You Groom Someone for Management?

There is an interesting conundrum in sales–becoming a manager.

Why is this a conundrum? Because current wisdom creates a manager one of two ways:

First: The most successful sales rep earns the opportunity to become the manager because they have demonstrated they are revenue producing machines.

Second: The person at the company with the longest tenure is tapped for management because of the number of years endured in the trenches.

Sound familiar? Have you watched the #1 sales rep get promoted to management because they’ve blown it out quarter to quarter and this is the natural reward for beating the comp plan? Or have you watched the succession of people move up to management like marbles through a straw based upon cumulative years, kind of like a “first in first out” strategy to rotate food in your pantry.

Why am I sounding negative about this?

Because in a data driven sales operation, the difference between people who aspire to management and people who become management have more reasons to be management than winning a race or outlasting their competition. This is not Survivor, we are not trying to “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” our co-workers. We are trying to work together to grow company revenue and our compensation.

Let’s pick apart why promoting your best producer only on the metric of exceeding quota is a problem. The first, most glaring problem, is you have taken your best producer and removed them from a quota bearing position. Have you created a mechanism to fill the void they are leaving? And I don’t mean by hamstringing your new manager by asking them to continue to carry a quota as well as manage a team. Next, has the rep shown interest in managing? If you are placing them in a position which they didn’t want, you might be creating a new problem. And last, why is this person qualified to become a manager? Is it their relentless drive to achieve quota? Is it how they know how to get things done inside the company? Or is it their demeanor and the respect they garner from fellow employees?

If you are in sales, you’ve seen more than one individual who is a manager but really shouldn’t be.

Let’s look at pushing management through by tenure. This rewards someone for their cockroach survivability. It does not take into account any of the aforementioned issues, nor is it putting someone who is the most qualified into the position. They could be the most qualified, but tenure based promotion does not prove qualification.

The fact is, your company should be training people on becoming a manager as soon as they are hired. Plans for succession should be in place (like other SOP’s I’ve discussed) and those who truly want to become management will complete the tasks required to become management.

Tasks like taking some courses, getting a certificate, or even paying for them to get an MBA (there are ways to structure this to get paid back if they leave before you get any return on your investment).

Yet still, this doesn’t mean they are going to be a good manager. Allowing wannabes to succeed at some manager-esque tasks gets them to cut their teeth. And then, when the day comes, you select what you think will be your best choice. And then help as needed. Let this new hire learn from their mistakes, step into the role and manage.

Will they succeed? Who knows? But if you have been working towards the moment when that person steps into a management role, then their chances of succeeding are much greater than dropping a body in and saying, “Good luck!”

In researching for this there are a lot of articles about managing, but very few on bridging that gap between entry level employee and the first step up the ladder. Which I find incredibly interesting in light of the statistic which says the majority of sales reps leave a company because of their manager over all other reasons.

A good manager is the conduit and the filter from upper levels to the trenches. As I’ve said before, this position is a critical “promote from within” role as you are enabling your front line’s success. Make sure you promote wisely, and as I’ve heard said, wisdom is simply knowledge applied well.

Thinks, Inc. is a consulting firm which specializes in Smart Sales Operations. If you’d like for us to come and assess your chaos, drop us a line at