January 14, 2019


Finding and training sales managers can be hard, as most sales executives can attest. As 60 to 80 percent of sales rep turnover is due to “lack of connection with leadership or incompetence of leadership” according to SiriusDecisions, this is a problem worth solving since it costs businesses a fortune in lost productivity.

Let’s cover a few reasons why this is so and strategize how to remedy in most firms.

Top salespeople do not necessarily make top sales managers

One of the biggest mistakes made by many, many sales leaders is to promote their top salesperson into the sales manager role. There is a natural impulse to do this as a reward for the top performer, or because it is thought the TOP producer will be able to lead by example and have their “x-factor” rub off on the people they lead.

This sometimes happens. But more often, to promote but fail to properly qualify a candidate for the sales manager role first is disastrous, because selling and sales management are two distinct roles with specific skill sets and personalities required.

Good managers need above-average competence in:

  • Time management
  • Training skills
  • Emotional intelligence/Empathy
  • Motivation
  • Strategic planning
  • Pipeline management
  • Sales process design
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership
  • Ethics

Many top salespeople become discouraged when they shift roles from working with buyers to now being burdened with paperwork, reports, employee issues, and the other minutiae of sales management. Training sales managers who feel this way is nearly impossible.

Conflicting hats

It is unreasonable to expect sales managers to keep selling as much as when they were salespeople, but this expectation is widespread – and possibly destructive. It’s like demanding Lebron James to not only put 50 points up on the board every game, and also call plays, attend to a point guard’s sprained ankle, and negotiate a trade while on the court. Something’s got to give.

Production expectations could also result in a conflict of interest between a sales manager and those he or she is supposed to train and mentor. Why should they invest time in underlings when they can make more money with less hassle by keeping their own accounts?

Tips for better selecting and training sales managers.

Whether you promote from within or recruit externally, here are some tips for selecting good sales managers. We will follow this up with tips for training sales managers once hired.

1. Test for sales management aptitude first. The primary order of business before hiring or promoting a candidate is to gauge for natural talent for sales management, using an aptitude assessment like the APQ (what we use at ASHER), Predictive Index, or similar. This avoids your own personal bias or falling for someone’s charm rather than their true potential.

2. Check social profiles. Social media selling is important, so you want to choose managers who understand it. Candidates who get it will have smart-looking profiles, good endorsements and connection, and no inappropriate content.

3. Ask leadership-type interview questions. Rather than strictly focus on how they drum up business, ask about how they work with others. Have them give you examples of situations they have solved with strong leadership decisions. Give them a chance to illustrate how they might motivate a sales team.

Training sales managers:

4. Separate the sales manager role from the sales role. Although they should still have sales training, you should be okay with a sales manager who does not sell at all. For rainmaker-type sales managers who do possess the rare ability to manage employees well while maintaining their own book of business, reward them for their sales and make sure you also strongly incentivize for what their salespeople bring in.

5. Train them on emotional intelligence. A large part of a sales manager’s job is handling strong or difficult personalities; whether they be customers or his or her own salespeople. Possessing vast emotional intelligence is a must so they can diffuse hotheads, appease the thinkers, and endear emotive types.

6. Treat them like coaches. Rather than consider sales managers as army generals commanding their troops to do battle, treat and train them as if they were coaches of a sport team. This sets the tone for a more cooperative endeavor rather than a stressful, combative one.

In Conclusion

Remember that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. Hire good ones. Selecting and training sales managers properly will benefit your company for years to come.