5 Signs Your Rep Will Make a Great Sales Manager

BY Kathy Crosett
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If it’s time to add another sales manager to your organization, where should you start your recruiting process? You might have a promising internal candidate if you know what to look for in a good sales manager. Do you know about these 5 signs that show your sales rep will make a great sales manager?

Business leaders are often in a hurry to fill an open sales management position. And one easy fix to this problem is to promote their best sales rep into a management role. After all, that rep is a rainmaker and they can show the younger reps how to close deals. The problem with this line of thought is that star reps don’t possess the qualities found in the most effective sales managers. One detail you should understand is what makes a good sales rep versus what makes a good sales manager.

Steve Martin’s research at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business shows that, “Sixty-​nine percent of salespeople who exceeded their annual quota rated their sales manager as being excellent or above average.” But what makes a good sales manager and how can you be sure the rep you want to promote will succeed in the role? Here is what to look for in a sales manager.

Positive Mindset

Individuals with a specific mindset make great sales managers. If you’re considering promoting one of your reps into a management role, review your previous conversations with this individual. Have they expressed any interest in management as part of their career goals? If not, they might not have the best mindset for management. In addition, your current reps who said they want to manage people should possess one key element: optimism. Reps have plenty of down days and they need a manager who can help them see the positive aspects in a failed deal. Remember that what makes a good sales rep plays into that individual's success and they may not succeed as a manager.

Good Listening Skills

Sales reps have a reputation for talking too much. They might reason that if they continue to talk their prospect will finally say yes. Successful selling requires the opposite approach. What makes a great sales rep is the ability to know how to listen for what prospects say and what they don’t say. The same holds true for managers. They must bring excellent listening skills to their ongoing interactions with team members. When sales reps don’t feel heard, they start to feel that nobody care about them. And that mindset can result in reps looking for employment somewhere else.


Is there a go-​to sales rep on your team? Pay attention to the interactions between your sales reps, and you’ll notice who gets asked for help when a tough negotiation rises. Maybe there’s someone on the team who other reps always try to add to calls when it’s presentation time. These go-​to individuals have an innate coaching ability, and your reps know it. These individuals might not be the super stars on the team, but they know how to help others improve and that’s a key task that every successful sales manager knows how to conquer.

Team Player

Regardless of the competitive nature of sales, at the end of the day, your reps are on the same team. They want to celebrate their successes with the peers who best understand what it took to close the deal. And they appreciate support and encouragement when it feels like a key prospect is taking forever to finally agree to the pitch. The team player element is key when you consider what to look for in a sales manager.

A rep with toxic tendencies is likely to splinter the team. They might not engage with other reps and refuse to participate during meetings. Or they could constantly try to correct the actions of team members when they believe they’ve acted outside of their own rigid interpretation of the rules. As you evaluate who you might promote into a management role, be cautious about the reps who everyone is wary of. There’s a reason for that wariness and it might become a bigger problem in a management role.

Champions of Work-​Life Balance

Sales managers are responsible for setting the tone of their group. If they believe it’s crucial for everyone to start early and stay late, reps will follow suit. But reps in this work environment may not be deeply engaged or loyal.

Younger employees want a work-​life balance and if they can’t get it at their current place of employment, they’ll move on. Managers who are empathetic about the need for work-​life balance and who actively promote options like flexible work hours win the respect of their team members. In addition, reps will be willing to work harder to maintain flexibility once they have it. Does the top contender for your open sales management role believe in work-​life balance?

What to Look for in a Sales Manager

Promoting an internal sales professional to a management position sends a strong signal. Other reps in the organization see that such a promotion could be in their future. Before you take this step, make sure you know what to look for in a sales manager and that your rep has these qualities. After you make your decision, be sure to sign up your rep for a sales manager training program.