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Four Questions to Ask to Determine if a Sales Rep Should be Promoted

Ryan Walsh, CEO and Founder
Ryan Walsh, CEO and FounderFeb 19, 2019
To promote or source for that next sales leadership position?

It’s a decision that’s made very often in sales organizations, especially those experiencing growth.  It’s also a critical decision to get right, as the stakes of hiring leadership are so very high.

While every situation has to be evaluated independently, both from the team and the individual perspective, there are best practices to follow when considering moving an individual contributor (presumably a high performing individual contributor) sales professional into a management role.

In this blog post we’ll walk through four points to consider when thinking about whether to promote that top employee to a leadership position. A decision that could have huge implications on the company for the foreseeable future.

  1. Do they truly want to do it?  Does the individual contributor have a strong desire to advance their career into management?  It’s not a safe assumption to just think that someone who’s doing very well in a role automatically wants to step up and run a team.  This is especially true in sales. This person will likely make more money in their current role as a top individual contributor as compared to their role managing the team.  Have you had this specific conversation with them? Have they independently reached out requesting to talk about a career path in management?
  2. Is their success formula clearly understood and documented?  When evaluating this person as a potential manager, do you have the confidence that the are very sound in terms of their personal process and philosophy of success?  Can they clearly articulate WHY they are a top performer? What you are getting at here is to understand if there’s a repeatable formula for success that they have developed (or inherited) that has led to their success, and can they clearly articulate it?
  3. Is their success formula repeatable across the team?  Once you understand this individual’s process, you need to know if this process only works because of the individual, or will it scale across all the other team members?  For example is there something specific about their territory, their accounts, that has led to success? Are they doing a set of activities (like 150 cold calls/day) that other reps will simply struggle to adapt.  It’s your job as the manager / hiring manager to understand the scalability of the success criteria.
  4. Can they lead?  Ok the last question is probably the most difficult  If you are comfortable that the success formula is clear and it can scale, the final question relates to whether the other team members (who may have even recently been peers!) are willing and open to following this process.  In other words, does he or she have the capability to convince others that this is the right process and effectively train them to follow that process (can they lead and will others follow)?

At the end of the day the decision of whether to move a top individual contributor into a management role should be judged by the delta of the gain across the team vs. the loss of the manager’s former productivity as a rep.

And remember, even though a demonstrated history of selling successfully has to be shown by a sales manager, it doesn’t mean they had to be #1 on the team.  The top reps don’t always necessarily make the best managers!

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