How to Turn Your Top Salespeople Into Top Managers

It is not unusual for business owners to assume that any top performing salesperson is automatically a good candidate for a sales manager job. They then proceed to promote the top performer and assign them a sales team to lead. To their disappointment, a good number of such individuals fail to perform as managers. This not only hurts the company but also the new manager.

The question that follows then is: Is it possible to turn top performing sales reps into successful sales managers? And if so, how should you do it? To answer this question, we I’ll look at what makes a sales manager job different from a sales job. Then, highlight the practical steps you can take to mentor your sales reps into great managers. 

Sales manager job vs Sales job 

In a nutshell, a sales job focuses on managing customer relationships. On the other hand, as a sales manager, you will have to coach and manage people to deliver the objectives of the company. Now, according to Sales Management Association, the belief system of a person determines whether they will make good managers or not. 

Before you decide to promote any of your salespeople to a manager, it’s important to make sure that the individuals believe in helping other people become better. Once you have identified the right candidates, you can proceed and do the following: 

1. Coach them into management  

Do not assume that because someone is a great salesman they understand everything about management. If you just let them learn on the job, you will not only hurt their career but also your business. Management is about mastery of organizations skills and inspiring people to deliver objectives that have been set for them.  

They will, therefore, need to understand various aspects such goal setting, understanding processes and handling all administrative duties related to the job. This can only happen if you take them through a mentorship program for them to assimilate these skills. 

2. Focus on leadership skills 

Great managers are also great leaders. These are people who inspire their direct reports to do more and not settle for less. Unfortunately, the average manager is likely to fail to overcome the ‘law of limited performance’. Therefore training your top sales rep on effective communication, recruitment techniques, mentorship and employee motivation will greatly improve their leadership skills.  

Moreover, with an in-depth understanding of team dynamics, they will be able to lead their former peers who might find it hard to respect them. At this stage, they will also require your support in affirming their authority, according to The Business Journals. You may consider hiring an external professional mentor to help your manager master these skills.  

3. Assign them a performing team 

The first direct reports of the fresh manager should include top performing salespeople. Such a team gives the manager enough time to learn administrative duties and master people management skills. The pressure that comes with managing non-performers can be tough for new managers to handle.  

4. Assign training to a specialized team 

A new manager may not be the best person to train onboarding sales staff. To make sure all new employees are on the same page, have support units who can train all sales staffs together. This way, your sales force will have a common source of truth which prevents common problems such as mis-selling.  


It is indeed possible to carve an excellent manager out of a top performing sales rep. However, this doesn’t come automatically. You have to put some work to help them sharpen their leadership skills. What observations have you made from your salespeople transitioning to managers?