How to Turn a Good Sales Rep Into a Great Sales Manager


Many sales organization wait too long to start developing their sales leader talent. By the time there’s an urgent need for new sales managers, it’s often way too late for proper talent development.

The best thing sales organizations can do, is to create a culture that supports a continuous cycle of talent and leadership development amongst their sales teams. This will not only help benefit all sales employees, whether they are planning to move up the ranks or not, but it will also ensure a regular pool of potential leadership candidates.

Get started with our easy guide which will take you through the steps of choosing the right potential sales managers to develop, getting the right systems in place to develop great talent, and lastly, giving your sales manager development plan an extra boost.

Choosing the Best Potential Sales Manager Candidates to Develop

One of the biggest questions sales leaders face when starting the process of developing new sales manager talent, is choosing the right person. Especially in large organizations, selecting the right group of talent to develop is a crucial decision. Also note the emphasis on group, never put all of your eggs in one basket.

On way to start determining which sales employees are the best candidates to make leaders, is to start keeping an eye out for particular natural behaviors.

Key Traits of Top Potential Sales Managers

Sales teams often have a large pool of talent, and simply choosing the best sales reps can be a rookie mistake. As you can you imagine, the idea of pulling top performers out of their current roles is also not ideal for most organizations.

Great sales managers tend to have qualities supporting their ability to think strategically and lead others. The questions below will give you a good idea about what to look for when recruiting for your group of potential sales managers:

  • Do they lead by example?
  • Are they able to coach others?
  • Are they a strategic thinker?
  • Do they posses integrity?
  • Are they confident?
  • Are they an innovative thinker?
  • Would they be a good motivator?
  • Are they respected by other members of the team?

In addition to analyzing raw talent, you’ll want to really understand the goals and ambitions of each member of the team.

Understanding Your Sales Reps Goals for the Future

You may have chosen who you consider to be the absolute best manager candidate, and they may have no interest at all. Save yourself the valuable time and trouble by getting to know your reps, and getting a feel for where they see their career going.

What’s the best way to explore your employees ideas about the future without letting them in on your analysis? Get to know them better by engaging in casual conversation.

The following opportunities are easy places to get a conversation started:

  • Regularly scheduled check-in meetings
  • Annual reviews
  • Mentor meetings
  • Coaching sessions
  • Team outings
  • Coffee breaks

Your goal is to identify not only who has the right skills to advance into a manager role, but also who has the drive. In an ideal world you’ll find someone with both the talent and the desire to develop into a great sales manager within your organization.

Getting the Right Systems in Place to Develop Great Sales Managers

Unfortunately, identifying the right development candidates is only half the battle. Next, you’ll need to make sure that your organization and sales teams are set up to help these sales professionals develop successfully.

Building a Solid Leadership Foundation for Sales Manager Success

One of the first steps you’ll want to take when getting the right systems in place to develop top sales manager talent, is to audit your current leadership performance; make sure they lead by example. The following are some characteristics the best leaders demonstrate:

  • Get their hands dirty
  • Avoid being tyrants
  • Be good listeners
  • Empower their people

Once you’ve set the right foundation for successful leadership you’ll want to work on getting formalized coaching in place.

Setting up a formalized coaching system

While coaching is something that should benefit all members of your sales organization, it should also help naturally uncover the reps who are most willing to learn. Characteristics like a drive to learn and develop are an important ingredient to becoming a great sales manager.

As we touched on in a previous blog, Why Sales Methodology and Sales Coaching Go Hand In Hand, sales coaching plans should come from a dedicated methodology. Before jumping into any training specifics, check with your organization to see what sales methodology they believe in, and make sure it’s cohesive with your plan.

With any coaching system, it’s important to keep these training tips in mind to help optimize your efforts for success:

  • Incorporate technology into your plan
  • Don’t overload
  • Get involved at a real world level
  • Provide rewards as motivation
  • Use top reps as a learning opportunity

In addition to a formalized sales coaching system, you may want to incorporate mentor training as well.

Creating a mentor driven environment

Having a mentor system in place can help ensure your sales representatives have a good outlet for personal development and leadership training.

After defining your mentor relationship you’ll also want to set your potential sales leaders up for success. Since many of them will be new to this type of exercise, you can help them get started by sharing these three steps towards building a successful relationship:

  1. Establish a good foundation. Your sales manager in training should take initiative and clearly communicate their goals and the time commitment expectations for both parties.
  2. Focus their learning. Help your potential sales leaders understand there are valuable life and career lessons to be learned from their mentor, and asking the right questions will help uncover these.
  3. Put the work in. Your potential sales managers should always show initiative and follow through on assignments or suggestions from their mentors.

Even with sales training and mentor programs in place, sales leaders need to stay engaged with their team while developing new talent.

Giving Your Sales Manager Development Plan an Extra Boost

Training and formal mentor programs are great steps towards the regular development of your sales organization. However, organizations often set up programs with good intentions, and forget to continue evaluating and nurturing them.

There are several additional ways you can continue to boost the success of your sales manager development plan:

  • Schedule regular check-in and feedback sessions. Book time when potential sales managers can provide feedback on their training, and you can assess their progress.
  • Collect data to evaluate and improve your efforts. Use coaching evaluations or candidate feedback forms to incorporate data analysis into your process.
  • Encourage self-directed continued education. Ignite your reps passion for learning by providing them with self development opportunities, like books from the 9 Books for Sales Leaders to Read in 2016 list.

Do you have other ways you’ve boosted your sales manager development programs to success? We’d love to hear about them.

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