Pitfalls of Promoting a Sales Ace - Recruitment & Retention
Construction Equipment Distribution magazine is published by the Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada. AED membership also includes equipment manufacturers and industry-service firms. CED magazine has been published continuously since 1920. Associated Equipment Distributors
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Pitfalls of Promoting a Sales Ace

By Bill & Chris Sitter

Article Date: 02-01-2008
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


The very things that make your sales superstar successful could be the same traits that spell disaster in a sales manager's role.

At the outset, let's establish that there are many excellent reasons to promote from within a dealership:

  • The opportunity to advance promotes company loyalty, boosts morale and enhances stability that comes from long-tenured employees.
  • The newly promoted manager knows your policies and products.
  • Weaknesses or shortcomings are already known and can be addressed with special training.
To address some of the obstacles with promoting sales reps to management positions, let's look at a fictitious scenario. Steve was hired as a bright sales trainee by your AED dealership. Your company invested in his product and sales training and he took to it like the proverbial duck to water. He got his first sales territory and received excellent mentoring from his sales manager. Steve lived up to expectations: his sales results grew in terms of volume, market share and gross margin - and his customers loved him. Soon Steve was the consistent No. 1 salesman. When the
sales manager retired, Steve seemed the obvious choice, and he was excited to move into management.


But that's when the red flags became obvious. As the overall sales department's results suffered, executive management lost confidence in Steve and, even worse, Steve lost confidence in himself. He was not enjoying being a manager. Ego kept him from returning to field sales, so he left the dealership and all his promise went up in smoke.

In my (Bill's) 17 years of managing dealer sales teams, and even more experience working with AED dealer executives, this fictional story has often been a reality. Let's identify key reasons why promoting your top salesman may not work:

  • Top retail salespeople are not afraid of risk; in fact some thrive on it. Their income is heavily commission-weighted and they must sell to succeed. Most dealers want their sales managers to balance sales volume, market share and profits. This takes a big picture view of what's good for the company.
  • Paperwork is often not a strength for top sales performers. Reports are viewed as obstacles to quality time with customers. Sales managers prepare budgets, forecasts and spend time analyzing operating reports and doing employee performance evaluations.
  • Salesmen know they are part of a sales organization, but teamwork is often not a strength. Sales managers realize that sustained success hinges on building win-win partnering relationships among departments and with managers at other branches.
  • To a "sales ace" who thrives on the thrill of the hunt, daily routine activities seem boring or a waste of valuable selling time. Managers, on the other hand, must be accessible and highly visible. This provides a sense of stability to others, while positioning them to resolve daily problems.
There are other reasons why top performing sales professionals may fail as sales managers. Deep down they really may not want the responsibility that goes with leadership roles. That's OK, as long as you understand what motivates them and allow them to do what they love - sell, sell, sell!

Recognizing Potential Pitfalls, and Overcoming Them
Since many successful dealer executives - as well as a host of effective sales and branch managers - started as sales representatives, there are techniques that will enhance the odds of successful promotions.


  • Recognize potential pitfalls and address each one - with other managers.
  • Have serious career planning talks with all high-potential sales professionals. Determine their goals and if they really aspire to management. Be sure they fully understand the job's requirements, expectations and the structure of their compensation plan.
  • If you and the sales rep are still "on go," then, as part of their career development, get them involved in projects that will help you observe key traits and skills related to: teamwork, strategic planning, financial analysis and interdepartmental cooperation.
  • For married candidates, we strongly recommend a meal with the sales professional and spouse. Discuss how his/her schedule and compensation might change, including travel or weekend work expectations.
  • If he/she has no prior management experience, you may wish to use managerial assessment tools.
If you take all these steps, and the lights are all "green," you should have a great potential manager who will draw positively on past retail sales experience and successes to help your company grow and prosper.



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Article Categories:  Human Resources  »  Management