Company Culture

3 Proven Tips When Changing Roles From Sales Rep To Sales Manager


Salespeople are usually bad managers. It’s just the truth.

According to Peake Sales Recruiting, over 75% of sales reps who are promoted to sales manager will fail out of the role within two years. In other words, only 25% of sales reps can last more than 24 months as a manager.

So what gives? Sure, there are myriad factors that contribute to the collective failure of sales reps who become managers. But one that stands out for us is the fact that most sales reps tend to think of the promotion to manager as if it wasn’t a real job change.

Being a manager is just like being a rep, only more. Right?

Hardly. Management is worlds away from the life of an individual contributor. Not only are you now responsible for your own numbers, but you’re also on the hook for that of your whole team. And at the end of the day, you can’t control other people’s decisions the way you can control your own.

So rather than waiting and hoping for the day you get called up to management, we thought it might be useful to get in the managerial mindset now. If you’re an aspiring sales leader who wants to be a part of the 25% who make it more than two years, here are three essential habits you should be forming right now:

Understand The Role

Like we mentioned before, the role of a sales manager is vastly different than an average sales rep. And it’s a whole lot more than just being in charge of a team.

As HubSpot’s Phil Harrell smartly points out, “Training yourself in managerial duties and habits will make you a standout candidate — and ensure that your transition from rep to manager is smooth.”

Why would it be that so many successful individual contributors fail in their attempts at management? In large part, making the shift in your mindset starts with transitioning your focus away from the individual to the organization as a whole.

As an individual contributor, you could easily find success simply by hitting your KPIs. As long as you made your numbers every quarter, everyone was happy. As a sales manager, success comes in helping to guide your team towards meeting the broader needs of the company. What’s your team’s pipeline looking like? Are certainly employees falling behind or feeling less engaged? How do you inspire lagging employees to perform at a higher level?

Alternatively, many managers aren’t prepared to face the challenge of managing a remote team. Are you experienced in communicating with members of your team who regularly work outside the office?

Really start to dig in and ask those questions of yourself now. When you truly understand what the role of manager entails, you won’t be so surprised by these challenges down the road.

Embrace Feedback

One of the scariest questions you can ask your boss or your colleagues is also one of the most important: “How am I doing?”

We all wrestle from time to time with that lingering “imposter syndrome,” the lie we tell ourselves that we’re not good enough to be in the place we are—and that eventually someone’s going to find us out.

But in reality, that lie is keeping us away from finding out the truth that you are good enough to be here—and if you do have some room for improvement, there’s help waiting on the other side of a good conversation.

What’s more, Dave Mattson, writing for the Sandler Training blog, lays out the stat that “15% of all sales managers spend as much as 25% of their time on coaching.” Right out of the gate, as much as a quarter of your time as a manager will be dedicated just to coaching and feedback.

Feedback is a two-way street, as much as a rep needs to be able to take and handle feedback, a  good manager needs to know how to give good, constructive feedback.

The best way to learn how to give good feedback? Take as much of it as you can. Mattson continues on to point out that it’s deeply important for aspiring managers to ask for honest feedback: “Getting accurate and honest criticism will help you learn and refine your leadership style.”

Don’t Wait For The Promotion

Even more importantly, good leaders don’t wait for the accolades to start leading. If you’ve got the stuff of a good leader, then you should be exemplifying that in your work long before anyone’s recognizing you for it.

If you take nothing else away from this post, please remember Michael Pici’s words, which he shares from his own experience making the jump from Account Executive to Director in less than five years:

“Advancing your career is about more than doing a good job and waiting in line … It’s about understanding where your company is growing and identifying how to serve the needs of the business before those needs become problems or major initiatives.”

So many of us have made the mistake of thinking that a promotion is simply waiting for us on the other side of a hard day’s work—and in a picture perfect world, it might be. But the problem with that mentality is that it gets us into a cycle of entitlement, which can lead to bitterness: I work harder than X, I should have their job by now. But as Pici tells us, it’s not just about working hard at the job you have. It’s about showing your bosses that you’ve already got the qualities of a great leader—and they’re not contingent on a salary bump or a title change.

 “Do the work,” he says. “Be exceptional at more than just your job.”

It may be tough, and it may not always feel like you’re getting the recognition you deserve in the moment, but when your ticket finally gets punched you’ll be glad you put in the effort.