Money Talks: When Owners Do Dumb Things

June 23, 2008
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Terry Nicholson

My Sales Champ vs. Sales Chump column evoked a lot of feedback opening a separate topic that should be addressed quickly before another owner out there makes the same mistake with a high-performing salesperson.

If you’ve done this, I’m sorry that you didn’t read this column soon enough. I made my top salesperson my sales manager!


You know the importance of driving replacement sales in the residential market, so you wisely hire a salesperson. After training and investing in them, they work their way up to become your top salesperson. As your company begins to grow, you’ve reached the point where you need a sales manager and you’re faced with the decision to either hire from the outside or promote from within.

Faced with this challenge, you look around the company. You see your sales superstar who has been with you for a long time, has come up through the company, and is already a great salesperson. Naturally, you assume that if he’s a great salesperson, he’ll be a great sales manager. After all, he already knows your company, its systems, and how to sell. You won’t have to spend all that time interviewing people and you won’t have to train. This ought to be easy, but soon trouble begins.


Imagine a rock star. Think of Mick Jagger. He’s out in front of the crowd and the bright lights night after night. He has people flocking to him wherever he goes. The world loves him, and he grows accustomed to this lifestyle.

Now, imagine you go up to Mick today and say, “Mick, I appreciate all you’ve done and what you’ve accomplished, but today, we need you to be a roadie.

As a roadie, you’ll be the first one to arrive, and you’ll do all the behind the scenes work that isn’t appreciated or rewarded. Plus, you’re going to be the servant of our newest rock star. When the show is over, you’re going to go back in and tear everything down, being the last one to leave at night.”

That’s the difference between a salesperson and a sales manager, and it is that drastic.

As the salesperson, your superstar used to get all the praise, but now he must give all the praise. He has to go from making sale after sale, to scratching his head and wondering why other people can’t do it the way he did. Worse off, he’s responsible for all those people who can’t sell the way he did.

You had a top-producing salesperson, with a big ego, who was used to receiving praise. Now you have a sales manager who is unable to adapt, requires a completely different skill set and hasn’t been trained.

It’s not long before sales spiral downward and you see that this arrangement is not working. Unfortunately, you must approach your former sales superstar, who is now a failing sales manager, and ask him to return to his sales superstar role. His high ego, however, refuses to allow him to return to the sales force, and instead he leaves the company.

In essence, you took a high-performing, top producer who was generating tons of revenue on the sales side and ran him into the ground as a sales manager. Now, you’re in worse shape than before. Not only is your best salesperson gone, but you also have a hole in the sales manager position. As the owner, you’re back in the sales manager role in a company that isn’t generating the same results.


The next time you think about making your top salesperson a sales manager, stop and evaluate their skill set. Determine if that person can accept the change from rock star to roadie, and if so, show them the differences between the two positions.

As sales manager:

• You are no longer evaluated on your performance but on the team’s performance.

• You’re in management. Yesterday, you were just one of the boys, but today you’re in charge. They’ll look at you differently, and you’ll never just be one of the boys again.

• You give the recognition instead of receiving it. Rather than receiving praise and rewards, you’ll have to stand up and hand them out. You’ll have to tell people what a great job they did even though you know your results would have been much higher.

• You’re responsible for the sales budget. Your job is to achieve the sales numbers within the allocated advertising budget. Results are not only expected, they are demanded.

If your sales superstar can transfer his skills to the rest of the team and accept the change, then they have the potential of becoming a champion sales manager. However, it might be better to let them stay as a rock star salesperson and search outside the company to hire the champion sales manager you need.

Having a champion sales manager - whether from within your company or from the outside - who inspires your selling champs, is how you make money every day.

Publication Date: 06/23/2008

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