Common Mistake
A pervasive practice of organizations is to promote the best salespeople to a management role as a reward for performance. There is nothing wrong in this per se. In fact, this sends a positive reinforcement signal to the organization, particularly where tracks hit the pavement, highlighting that exemplary sales performance gets rewarded with vertical progress beyond the hefty variable income. Consequently, team morale even improves for those aspiring to rise in the organization. Somehow, trouble begins after the honeymoon stage of positional elevation. Goals are handed over. Expectations overwhelm. Reality dawns on the promoted fellow, realizing that handling people is actually not a walk in the park. Managing multiple key performance indicators, solving problems, facing new tasks eventually spikes endocrine-releases of stress hormones when output pales in comparison with expectations.
Survivors in retrospect attribute their extended lives to a laid back organization, a forgiving boss, being saved by the bell of constant changes in direction, issues getting muddled into a complex quagmire of misdiagnosed problems, acquired dexterity in the art of spotlighting the good and masking the bad, or even mastering the intricacies of office politics. Regrettably, the organization bears the brunt of mistakes that could have been avoided such as  turnover of mishandled front line talent, too much micro-management that lead to duplications or inefficiencies; under-projected goals that allow competition to take market share advantage; high cost of selling and multitudes of other problems that result to lost business or missed opportunities. On the other end of the spectrum, the career departed ones may have experienced similar failures, but such misfortunes wrote them one-way tickets out of their career stadiums. In other words, they got promoted to be executed. Regrettably the onus for this this organizational mishap rests disproportionately on the shoulders of higher management. A valuable organizational talent gets literally wasted.
The Better Way
To avoid such predicaments, sales performers being eyed for promotion must be carefully assessed in terms of what they can bring to the table currently and potentially, relative to the critical success predictors of the particular sales management position. Depending on the position’s mission, situation and critical nuances, the appropriateness of talent and attitude of the candidate for promotion must bear acceptable matches. Thereafter, the needed knowledge must be provided and skills developed through necessary interventions such as training, coaching and situational exposure covering the salient key result areas of the position.  How fast the expected transition from glider to supersonic aviation depends on situational urgency of decisions and actions. Some promotions allow more run-way towards flight, while others demand a more drastic vertical take-off.
Ingredient-wise, talent, attitude, skills and knowledge remain incomplete without the sense of accountability of the candidate. This particularly refers to the assumption of risks for either consequences or credit relative to failure or success in carrying out the function to be granted.
Realistic goals across key result areas must be set or even negotiated, mutual expectations spelled out, resources agreed upon are provided or rationalized and critical access to higher management established and sustained. With these in place, higher management is being fair with the person being promoted averting crashes owing to mismanaged take-offs. This proactive higher management guidance enables organic assimilation by the newly promoted fellow into his/her new role and missions predictably get accomplished with far more likelihood of success than in a sink-or-swim set-up.
In summary, promotion from sales person to sales manager is not a mere reward, it entails careful assessment of the match in terms of talent and attitude vis-à-vis the position back-dropped by the context of both current and foreseeable future situations. Scale up knowledge and skills must be augmented and provided for by higher management in a timely manner. Concomitant to such, the candidate must have an unequivocal acceptance of accountabilities and should have a clear understanding of goals, expectations and related timetables. 

Rowen Untivero is a Partner and Chief Sales Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders, Inc., the country’s leading marketing, sales, strategy and innovation training company.  Rowen is a veteran of Training, Coaching and Consulting and has more than a quarter of a century of successful sales, buying and negotiation practice. He is the pioneering developer of many original frameworks and tools in sales management, selling mechanics, strategic account development, retail sales optimization, tactical and strategic negotiation, and many more valuable contributions to the wealth of knowledge and best practices in business science. While most of his training programs through the years continue to be tailored specific to companies, he will be holding a Mansmith public seminar on “From Selling to Managing” on December 2 and 3, 2014. Please send your questions, comments or feedback to You can also visit