How to prepare your next sales manager

How to prepare your next sales manager

Hiring the right sales manager can be a make-or-break proposition for your small business. Quite often, you might have to promote an existing salesperson to prevent the defection of a top producer.

Here are some helpful guidelines for preparing one of your current salespeople to become the sales manager to make sure the transition is smooth and you get the results you need.

  1. Start with a sales manager job description

    Before you begin discussions with a sales rep who wants to be your new sales manager, create a detailed job description for the position. This will let you know whether or not the sales rep is qualified for the job. It can even help you dissuade the rep from taking the job if they aren’t ready.

    Look at sales manger job listings on internet job boards to see what other companies are requiring of their sales reps. Responsibilities might include:

    • Assigning territories
    • Setting quotas
    • Creating lead-generation programs
    • Evaluating customer satisfaction
    • Administering customer surveys and focus groups
    • Helping create marketing materials
    • Helping create sales sheets
    • Holding sales training sessions
    • Creating bonus and commission structures and sales contests
    • Creating job descriptions for sales people
    • Holding annual reviews of sales employees
    • Working with marketing*

    *A sales manager must help marketing teams come up with product improvements based on customer feedback. They should also help plan pricing and distribution strategies and review advertising, public relations, social media and other communications efforts. If your company is too small for a marketing department, the sales manager will need to have a bigger role in helping with product development, pricing, distribution and promotion.

  2. Get the sales rep’s input

    To determine if the salesperson you’re thinking of promoting is ready to become sales manager, discuss the position with the rep and ask them to write a job description for the position they’d like to have. Ask them what impact their leaving sales full time would have on the company and how they would address the situation.

    Compare their job description with the one you’ve written and ask what type of experience they have or how they could prepare for the job and learn the new responsibilities. Ask if they think the company should give their territories to existing sales people or if you should hire a new sales rep.

    If your sales rep is ready to become a sales manager, this exercise will give them a chance to prove it, providing you with information and ideas you didn’t consider. If your sales rep is not ready to move into management and oversee this critical function for your company, this exercise will help them see this without you having to tell them.

  3. Look at the sales rep’s territory

    Many sales reps who want to move into a sales manager role know that their sales are probably too critical to the company to hand off to someone else. Discuss with the rep how they propose the distribution of their accounts.

    Be careful not to let the salesperson cherry pick their accounts, keeping the large, easy commissions and giving the lesser clients to lower level reps. You might suggest just the opposite, such as giving the better accounts to a new replacement and having the sales rep service fewer accounts, and ones that can or should be built into bigger revenue streams for the company.

  4. Discuss compensation

    When you discuss making a salesperson a manager, you’ll need to discuss compensation differently than you would for other positions. This might be because sales reps often wish to move from a commission-based compensation structure to one that offers a regular salary. Sales reps often don’t want to give up their easier commissions however, so you might be able to reduce your salary offer in exchange for paying a commission on sales.

    Many sales managers, and even top sales and marketing directors, make less money than successful sales reps. Based on how important a sales manager is to your company (your reps might be able to function without much direction), your sales rep might have to take a pay cut to be a sales manager. This will be especially true if you need to hire a new salesperson to replace the one you’re promoting and will need to give the new rep all or most of the old rep’s accounts.

  5. Delay the promotion

    If you think a sales representative you want to promote isn’t ready to become your sales manager, you might be able to delay the promotion by asking them to spend some time preparing for the new position. Using what you’ve learned from your research into what a sales manager should do (or knowing the duties of your current or previous sales manager), set up a plan that will help the salesperson prepare for the upward move.

Remember, just because someone is very good at selling doesn’t mean they can teach others how to sell, or have the skills to run a sales department. Being prepared in advance for this situation will help you make the best decisions for your business.