Sales leader: is it the obvious next career step for a sales rep?

The most important position within a sales team is the position of sales leader.


This is for two reasons:

1️⃣ A sales leader must enhance the potential of the team.

Actually, it’s one of the primary missions of the leader. However, a sales leader can also negatively impact the team’s potential.

As for being neutral, we will all agree that, in this case, there is no justification for filling the position with someone who will have no impact.

2️⃣ It is common to consider that the sales team is built in the image of its leader.

This is a direct consequence of the well-known, although blunt, formula: “A-type managers recruit A-type sales reps, B-type managers recruit C-type sales reps”.

In other words, the performance and the potential of a sales team is in direct connection with the profile of its leader.

For all those reasons, promoting someone to the position of sales leader, let alone recruiting from the outside, requires a lot of attention.

👉 Sales Leader or Super Sales Rep?

It is tempting, and very common, to consider the best sales rep from the pool of sales reps as the next sales leader.

Although sales skills are considered a basic for a sales leader, being a good sales leader requires a different set of skills than those needed for a good sales rep.

➡️ The reason for this is simple: it’s a different job!

In a few words, the key focus of a sales rep is to score sales, while the key focus of a sales leader should be to build, and drive, the “engine” that will score sales.

Finding all the desired qualities within one individual is not very common.

As a result, the best sales rep of the team shouldn’t always be promoted to the position of sales leader.

Instead, other ways to promote a performing sales rep can be investigated, like upgrading the compensation package, or reallocating to a new market segment, to more complex deals and to a new portfolio.

A performing sales leader will be expected to:

First, create a real team.

A team, not just a group of individuals, generate beneficial interactions, leverage each person’s specifics, and ensure collaboration between the team members.

Then, improve and steer the sales engine supported by CRM and processes.

The sales leader will create the conditions for success and will empower direct reports in order to generate the best out of every team member.

Address successfully multidimensional challenges (business, culture, performance…)

With that mission in mind, sales leaders should be rewarded accordingly.

➡️ Focus on leadership skills

When not properly managed, the process of promoting the best sales rep into a sales leader position might end up as a lose-lose scenario, which is to lose a good sales rep while gaining a mediocre sales manager.

Actually, the worst scenario would be to promote a “below than average” sales rep to the position of sales leader.

Organizations must actively seek who demonstrates the relevant leadership skills within their teams, or actively develop the sales rep to meet that objective.

The sales leader, therefore, should:

Demonstrate people skills.

The idea here is to inspire and empower, and to develop talent at all times–as a result, it must not be the sales leader’s objective to be a necessary step for closing each complex deal.

Elaborate a vision followed by an execution plan.

Let’s agree here that a vision without a plan and without execution is merely a slogan.

Actively collaborate with, and manage the internal ecosystem.

In conclusion, the best sales rep of the team should definitely be considered when seeking a sales leader.

However, it is only if the sales rep in question checks all the boxes needed (or shows an ability to grow into these) to be a good sale leader that a promotion should be considered.

Their current sales performance as a sales rep is not a guarantee for success as a sales leader.

Indeed, like a sales leader I know constantly reminds me: “if I had been an excellent sales rep, I would have remained a sales rep”.

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