Being a top performing salesperson comes with its rewards such as higher commissions, accolades and praise from the executive team. Sometimes top performers are even rewarded with a promotion to a management role. While promoting someone who excels in sales to a leadership position seems like a logical idea, it isn’t necessarily one that results in success.
On side note, by promoting the top salesperson, you have most likely removed the person with the highest turnover from the sales floor, leaving a big gap that needs to be filled by the other salespeople combined or by a new comer. Those people may not have the same skill level, experience or ability therefore, you have just seen an instant drop in sales.
The skills that make a good salesperson, are not those that make a great leader. A salesperson is mainly responsible for motivating themselves and achieving their own goals. A leader on the other hand, has the responsibility for keeping a team inspired, motivated and focused to achieve a team or company goal. They must always have the best interests of the team and the company in mind and not just themselves.
Being able to communicate a clear vision to a team and getting everyone on board is also an important part of being a great leader. To obtain buy in, a leader must establish trust and credibility in the eyes of their team. While the team may respect them as a capable and successful salesperson, earning trust as a leader requires a completely different set of qualities.
Great leaders have qualities such as being innovative, forward thinking, honest and transparent to name a few. Having self-awareness to identify their own strengths, as well as any qualities or skills they may be missing, can help them become an even greater leader through continuous learning and development.
As well as developing themselves, leaders are also responsible for developing the people they lead. This requires the ability to train, coach and support people, demonstrating empathy and patience. Being able to identify unique qualities in others and developing them to reach their potential, can add enormous value to the individual as well as to the team.
While there are often big expectations of someone who has achieved great things as a salesperson, expecting them to automatically continue that success in a leadership role, the outcome may disappoint. The appointment of a leader should be made with consideration as to their suitability in the areas of leadership and where gaps are identified, training and support provided.