A bad sales management hire can cost your company a lot of money.
$3.5 million, to be exact. So identifying strong candidates is no trivial task.
Many organizations prefer to promote one of their own reps to sales management, keeping the process internal. That makes a lot of sense. Your current sales team already understands your product or service, sales process and ideal customer persona. You reduce ramp-up time and already know that the person is a cultural fit.
The problem is that good salespeople don’t automatically translate into good sales managers, and promoting a rep without the proper evaluation and training can be detrimental: Not only do you lose a quota-carrying team member, but a bad manager can disrupt the productivity of your sales team.
Fortunately, there are certain qualities you can look for in your reps to help identify who would be a good manager. Here are four essential traits to start with.
Characteristics of top internal sales management candidates
1. Proven track record of success
This is (of course) a given. But don’t just pick someone who achieved quota a few quarters in a row. Look for an individual who has hit quota when times were tough – someone who uses creative, unconventional ways of tackling problems (both for themselves and others). This is the type of strategic mindset you need in a sales leadership role.
In addition, watch for candidates with a growth mindset. These people approach coaching sessions and one-on-ones enthusiastically. They view feedback as a gift, and always want to know how they can improve.
2. Strong coaching potential
The most important role of a sales manager is coaching (according to 216 U.S.-based executives at leading companies). Look for good sales coaches. Easier said than done, right? But just like filling any other sales role, you have to ask specific questions to uncover the traits you’re looking for.
Ask what drives the candidate, because many great sales coaches are motivated by seeing other people do well. Gauge how interested they are in guiding an entire team of salespeople to success. Sales managers who don’t know how to coach often end up selling alongside their reps, instead of helping them sell better.
3. Demonstrated leadership skills
Pick out people who have volunteered to do extra work for your sales team, such as contribute to the company blog or offer to run a sales coaching session. They might also do this on an individual level. Some of the best sales management candidates will put others in front of themselves, letting their metrics fall behind while they focus on helping other members of their team.
Also look for people who aren’t afraid to provide constructive feedback, address problems head-on and communicate clearly both with the sales team and with other teams. Good candidates don’t need to have all three of those skills mastered, but make sure to focus on candidates that you are confident can be coached around them.
4. Interest in sales management or other role
It’s no secret that a salesperson can make more money than a sales manager, and this prevents a lot of people from being interested in the role. Focus on candidates who express the desire to move up or move out of a sales role altogether.
They might have not even explicitly expressed interest in sales management. Some people might be looking for more stable compensation or just the next step in their career. Keep your eyes and ears open.
Sourcing sales management candidates from your current sales team will take some work. But promoting the right candidate will yield ROI for your sales organization.