Your salesperson can sell, but can she manage, too?


client recently asked me if I thought one of his top salespeople could handle a promotion into a role of both selling at a high level and managing his team of salespeople.

While we have seen people succeed in a dual role, it is not easy to find someone with the proper DNA to be successful both in sales and in managing a team of salespeople.

When determining whether someone has the ability to both sell and manage a team, you would do well to have a conversation with the candidate with questions like ones below:

Is the candidate ambitious? Does he or she have that fire-in-the-belly motivation? Quality sales people are naturally driven. Not only will their ambition allow them to succeed from a sales perspective, but it also will set the cadence for everyone on their team. Do you know what you call a motivated salesperson? An owner or manager. Why is it that owners and leaders who often had little or no sales training can outsell full-time salespeople? Often, it’s that “burn-the-ships” commitment to do whatever it takes. Work long hours. Don’t take surface rejection. Go back with new solutions. Does your hybrid sales manager/sales person have all of those traits?

Can the candidate be part of the team and at the same time hold that team accountable? This can be a very difficult balancing act for the person in a sales/sales-management role. If a candidate is extremely relationship driven, he or she will struggle with separating the personal relationships within the sales team and being able to drive the team for results. Organizations with a strong sales culture use communication-style assessments such as the DISC assessment to X-ray their managers to help them identify blind spots. A manager high in people skills may have too much “need for approval” to have the tough conversations with their team. They themselves may also not possess enough task-oriented style to model those same accountability commitments that the organization needs from the rest of the team.

Is the candidate an effective leader? This question is all about a person’s ability to influence others. The sales team needs to see the leader as the “captain” of the team. Not only will this help drive results and accountability, but it also will set the tempo for the sales culture.

How does the candidate handle time management? This might be one of the most underrated attributes to consider, especially in a dual role such as this. How a person manages his or her own sales is one thing, but balancing that job with the time needed to supervise and coach a team is equally important. This role will require structure, discipline and an acute ability to prioritize tasks. Here again, don’t rely only on your surface observations of the salesperson you are looking at promoting. Use a sales and management skill assessment to not only identify if there are gaps in this area but also to use as a coaching and development tool should you elevate that person.

Can the candidate control the sales process and bring it to a close? With all the different tasks on this individual’s plate at any given time, being able to close deals in a timely fashion is critical. He or she will not have the luxury of extending sales cycles, so having an adequate amount of influence and assertiveness is key.

Can the candidate problem solve at a high level? This trait is not only important when dealing with prospects, it is also critical when dealing with any internal issues that may arise. The ability to tackle a problem proactively will save time, uphold morale and increase efficiency.

There’s no question that having someone manage your sales team and sell for you at the same time can be “tough sledding.” But if you look for the traits listed above and choose the right person for the job, you will greatly increase the chances that your sales team, your sales leader, and your company as a whole will be successful.

Bob Bolak is president of Sandler Training. He can be reached at 303-579-1939 or