Leadership, Sales Management

We need to stop saying ‘good sales people make bad sales managers’. Here’s why

If you’ve worked in sales for a while you must have heard this said before, ‘good sales people make bad managers’ I overheard someone say it last week which led me to write this post. It’s an unfair thing to say and as leaders, we should be careful. I know some incredible managers and leaders in the sales profession that started working in sales.

I might be biased but my wife for one, one of the greatest team managers I’ve ever seen in action, she inspires her team and can lead others in her direction effortlessly.  An old manager of mine Stuart Lascelles, his calm nature was always so reassuring in a high pressured sales environment, my old friend Dan Newton was always in the trenches with his team, he genuinely cared about them. And my Dad, who I used to watch doing his job as a kid, he was a friend to each of his team but they all knew where the line was and wanted to do their best for him, a bit like he was their Dad.


Of course, there are bad sales managers like there is good and bad in everything. But it’s not because they are sales people. It’s because they don’t have the desire to develop and coach their team that makes them a bad manager. It’s because they are more interested in their own status and results than serving others. It’s because they push blame and put pressure on their team during difficult times rather than protecting and leading them through it. It’s not because they’re ‘sales people’, which is what a flippant comment suggests and we should stop saying so. It’s discouraging of the future leaders that are growing in our sales organizations today.

5 thoughts on “We need to stop saying ‘good sales people make bad sales managers’. Here’s why

  1. I couldn’t agree more. A big misstep is that they often try to revert back to, “Well, when I was selling we did x” rather than have the rep think, own the issue, and ultimately develop. Or you’ll often just see the manager point to what needs to change (numbers that need to be hit), but not the behaviors associated with driving results. Coaching is key to developing talent whether its the rep or the manager!

  2. If a sales person has sales manager competencies (i.e. organizing, strategic planning, detail orientation, delegation, fact based decision making, etc .) he/she should be successful in management. If not…not! The mistake is promoting the most successful sales person just because they are the most successful in sales.

  3. As a former VP Global Sales I was often faced with the choice on whether to promote a top result producing salesperson to a sales management position or leave them in their highly productive role as an individual contributor. My first criteria was a good one I think. I look to how they interact with their peers in sales. What are the relationships and dynamics? Are they boastful, arrogant and challenging to their peers based on their over-achieving results? Are they somewhat humble in describing their achievements and freely give credit to others in the company who assisted on the projects? Most importantly, how do the coworkers view this person? If not a team player who is approachable and helpful to others as a top producer, then they will be the same as a sales manager. Keep them in the role where they are most successful.

  4. I have been working with Business leaders (Top Management), Sales Managers from last 10 years and have seen managers performing their duties differently. And I agree to the point that a manager could be bad or good either he is into Sales or in any other field.

    There is a difference between a process oriented manager and people oriented manager and one who possess both the quality reaches on top, Sales is all about meeting targets, making customer delight, relations with the stakeholders, excellent partner relations and this could only be achieved with help of dynamic team. You have to have that trust within each member of the team and manager plays a significant role to run his/her family of extended sales team.

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