Why Sales Reps fail to take the next leap

Does every sales person who is excellent in selling, becomes an excellent sales manager as well?

This has been a very different behavioral and leadership challenge when the time comes to promote some of your best sales reps to managerial positions.The answer to the above question is a resounding “NO”.

The debate would be based of the premise that it’s kinda obvious that someone who would have been so proactive and organized and successful in getting the required things in place for his/her own sales- would be able to sail through to the next round of responsibilities easily.

The trouble is that the premise of performance leading to an obvious managerial capability at a higher level isn’t always true.Most sales people don’t make this conscious transition, and probably the system lets them think that performance will deserve managerial positions automatically. The resultant situation is an excellent sales rep who is an average or (worse) a bad manager.

Some of the things that hold them back (sub-consciously) are:


– Fear of Letting-go one’s personal accounts:

These were their identity in an organization that probably runs on how much revenue a person gets from his/her accounts. The recognition was always perceived to be directly related to “money” they were capable to bring in from their key accounts.

So even when new responsibilities come calling or are given to them, these sales reps find themselves neck deep in involvement for all the clients who were “theirs”. The problem is that you can still do an excellent job in handling past accounts, but would that be all you’d want to do as a sales-manager?

The “identity” factor is a huge pair of hands that hold such excellent sales people back from top-grading themselves.

– The feeling of “I have the right answer” or “Only I can solve this”

This goes hand in hand with the above state. In this case, the sales rep who has been promoted feels the need to get involved forcibly in challenges and solutions of clients that can now be taken over by someone as talented as he/she was. The trouble of transitioning from an individual talent system to a more collaborative and learning system is that in the second case, the system itself produces people and protocols that are reflections of some of the best work the sales rep would have done. Individual brilliance is no longer a key to getting results in sales or customer delight. The attitude of “Only I have the answer” reduces the capabilities of teams and tries to reduce protocols and systems to mere existential devices.

– The arrogance of a performer

The arrogance is sometimes mistaken as someone’s exuberance of confidence, although a habit of being in the perpetual state of arrogance allows the sub-conscious to build behavioral patterns that are really damaging for the team and the person. People forget that teams win championships and that the success of an individual is a function of the variety of activities and resultant engagement of such activities practiced by everyone else in the team.

Doing great work is someone’s prerogative and is mostly related to the sales-vision that one has, but the arrogance for the same is sometime the toughest thing to come between becoming a brilliant sales leader from an excellent sales rep. Such arrogance can be used by anyone trying to divide the team as a potent weapon, and the person wont even recognize the damage until every great thing is finished.

– The “I am above the team” persona

The seed for the same begins sowing itself when the person start putting more importance into things like number of years in the company, the total amount deposited into revenue of the company by him/her, the internal equations with people, etc rather than getting their work to solve next set of challenges that they feel are present for sales or marketing.

It is a self-satisfying situation or phase wherein everything is great when one looks at it from the perspective of the sales rep. But the bigger picture of getting to solve deeper and much larger issues are ignored in this state of mind and affairs.In the system of top-grading your sales people, you ought to have come across these challenges wherein things have gone beyond being comprehensible as to how such brilliant sales reps fall prey to managerial complexities and squander a mind-blowing opportunity to create probably the next set of definitions in sales and marketing.

There should never be situation wherein a successful sales rep gets to think on the above points and behaves in ways that are inconsistent to the culture or the DNA of the team. The reason why anyone may get to even start thinking on such lines is probably due to the fact that he/she doesn’t have a clue of how to define the next set of challenges or is very comfortable with establishing a status-quo. What needs to be a part of any sales reps DNA is the curiosity to redefine and re-engage with sales problems at a macro level after having gotten an idea to solve micro level problems.

It is a hard thing to do and therefore only a few brilliant sales reps become brilliant sales managers as well; and then, some of those sales managers become authority in sales and marketing in due time to contribute amazing insights and thought leadership in the domain.

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