Harvard professor highlights why salespeople rarely succeed as managers.
Follow us on LinkedIn.
Super Salespeople Graduating
The most successful salespeople in any organization need to keep achieving in order to grow. Once their success has reached the highest levels, smart business leaders know they need to continue the ascension of these “super salespeople” but run out of options.
Super salespeople need to graduate to the next level of their careers in order to stay engaged in the company, but few companies offer appropriate career paths. By default, they become sales managers as a way to thank them for their hard work and allow them to grow the organization through others.
Why Salespeople Aren’t Good Managers
For all of the myriad skills that salespeople possess, they have some key downfalls. They are intrinsically not well organized, detest paperwork, and are good at managing themselves but not others. Professor Frank Cespedes, lecturer at the Harvard Business School says it plainly:
“Every company has examples of people who persist in their behaviors as salespeople, and as a result they flame out as managers,”
Some of the duties of sales management also fall outside of the skillset of salespeople. Adding paperwork, management and enforcement of a CRM, and taking those salespeople out of the environment in which they thrive (pitching to customers) in order to execute those tasks they lament is a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, it gets worse when it comes to their core tasks in their new role as a sales manager.
“It’s all about the difference between learning to take care of yourself and learning to take care of others, from being an individual contributor in sales to being a manager who gets things done through other people. That’s a big transition that many people can’t make.”
Cespedes discusses “super salesperson syndrome” whereby the salesperson can’t turn off their desire to close business and have their hand on deals. It creates a situation where they may hover over the salespeople they manage to ensure the deals have their signature touch.
What To Do About It
To use a restaurant analogy, you don’t put a server in the kitchen and you don’t graduate them to management. Restaurant managers have to keep the peace, they have to work well with customers as well as staff, they have to keep an eye on the bigger picture, protect the company against liability, and deliver a polished guests experience – all while watching the bottom line.
That’s not to say it can’t and won’t work ever. Tim Cook was CFO at Apple before taking over for one of the most iconic CEOs in modern history, Steve Jobs. But Tim Cook is a rare exception.
There are three easy steps to solving this problem:
- Create a path for growth that doesn’t involve the management of others (Executive Sales, Sr. Sales, Business Development, etc.) The role should be challenging and should reward them.
- Remove the encumbrances of management from the super salesperson: paperwork, CRM management, and management of people.
- Hire a qualified manager with a sales management background. A manager that enjoys others succeeding and thrives on the growth of the organization.
What do you think? Do you find the same issue? Share your success and horror stories with us.