It is a common practice among organizations to promote top performers in their workforce to senior positions while simultaneously eliminating non-performers. This trend has led people to believe that can start at the entry level and rise through the ranks to the highest possible position based on their performance. While this approach is applicable to some jobs types, the notion that a person can perform well in a senior position because they performed well in a lower position is a subject of ongoing debate. The debate is especially pronounced when the positions of a salesperson and a sales manager are under consideration. More often than not, organizations, including well-established ones promote their salespeople to management positions based on their performance in their previous job designations. While the trend is plausible, it leaves experts questioning the wisdom of such organizations. This essay concerns itself with addressing a question that lingers on the minds of many people with regards to this issue. Does a successful salesperson become a successful sales manager by default? The essay addresses this question by comparing and contrasting the attributes of successful salespersons and successful sales managers with the intent of evaluating whether it is the similarities or differences that carry more weight.
Many people consider the job of a salesperson to be closely related or even similar to that of a sale manager. It is easy to make the assumption that sales managers do the same work as salespersons, only that they do it at a higher level. Contrary to this assumption, this notion is untrue. The two positions share only a few similarities as discussed below.
The first similarity between the qualities that make a good sales manager and a salesperson is that they both must possess a strong ego drive (Chitwood par. 12, 19). Both positions require a strong personality, which enables the concerned individual to handle the processes and activities involved in their job with confidence. The strong ego drive, however, works differently for each job category. It gives the sales manager the ability to manage effectively and guide the team of salespeople assigned to them with confidence (Chitwood par. 19). For the salesperson, the ego drive gives them a high sense of self-worth, which enables them to interact freely with people of from all walks of life (Chitwood par. 12). Thus, although both good sales managers and salespeople possess a strong ego it serves them differently.
The second similarity between the two job designations is that both are result oriented. Chitwood (par. 1) notes that the toughest job in the business realm is that of a frontline sales manager. This argument stems from the idea that in sales management, the success of one’s work is pegged solely on the results they deliver. There is absolutely no middle ground on the issue because once the organization sets a target, the manager and their team either reaches the target or he does not. The same circumstances surround the work of a salesperson. They are evaluated based on their ability to meet set targets. Therefore, a good sales manager has to be result oriented. Similarly, a good salesperson is always result oriented. However, like in the first example, the measurement of results in the two job designations differs. A sales manager enhances results by encouraging and guiding people to deliver while a salesperson knows that results depend on their individual effort. Thus, although the two job categories share this attribute, the manner in which it is approached in each case is different.
The first difference between a good sales manager and a good salesperson is that the manager values and fosters teamwork while the individual salesperson believes in independence. The manager approaches their work from the team perspective because they understand that the overall result with which their performance is evaluated depends on the individual efforts of all the salespeople under them. Consequently, the manager considers each salesperson as a teammate and makes their contribution by passing all the knowledge, skills and motivation they possess to the salesperson selflessly (Chitwood par. 20). The salesperson, on the other hand, understands that without results, there is no place for them in any organization. As such, they have to work independently to deliver results even if the sales manager fails to do their part. Barchitta (65) likens the effort of salespeople to the individual effort of a player in the field, especially in sports such as athletics. The effort of each player eventually contributes to the overall performance of the team, which is the organization, but each player knows that their ability is measured based on their individual performance.
The second difference between the two is that whereas the sales manager handles salespeople with patience, the salesperson tends to be a seeker of instant results because at the end of the day, they either attain the set target or they do not. The manager needs some element of patience because they understand that as they horn the skills of their teams through mentorship and teaching, the results cannot be instant. Rather, the results are gradual and long-term. For the salesperson, every single day stands on its own. The results of yesterday cannot be used to justify the failure to meet the target of a subsequent day. Thus, the salesperson seems to be in a constant state of urgency.