Boston, MA—So your top salesperson just approached you and said she wants to be the manager. It’s a dilemma that many business owners face from time to time, and the choice you have to make is a little bit like choosing your poison. If you cede to the request, you lose a great salesperson and, potentially, acquire a mediocre, or worse, manager. If you decline her overture, you may lose your top salesperson anyway.
The ego-drive, so central to making a salesperson successful, can compel them to seek what looks like a higher aspiration. Despite the fact that top sales producers and successful managers often require entirely different characteristics (in some instances, wiring that is completely counter-intuitive) that is of little consequence to the salesperson that has his or her sights set on the role. And, while the pursuit can be fueled more by emotion than reason, woe is the executive who attempts to dampen the quest.
There are, of course, examples of top salespeople who do have the necessary wiring to be successful managers, but they are not the norm. So what do you do when you are faced with that situation? While there are few absolutes, there are some things that you can do to mitigate the risk and, quite frankly, to do the right thing for your top sales producer and for your business.
1. Be proactive. Don’t wait until you are faced with the above scenario. Keep an open line of communication with her and tell her that you would like to utilize her skills in a way that would benefit the organization and expand her professional growth.
2. Be transparent and honest in telling her that you view her as the model for what an outstanding sales professional ought to be (if it is true) and that you would like to give her an opportunity to play an integral part in helping to shape a better team.
3. Give her an appropriate training role. This could be an occasional session where she shares her closing techniques, or discusses how she builds and engages her client base.
4. Be wary of earnings ceilings that favor non-producers, while handicapping your best performers. Simply stated, top producers ought to make more.
5. Consider flexible working hours so that she can be present when you are busiest (good for her earnings, good for your business, and good for your customers).
6. Invest in her by sending her to classes, conferences, trade shows or industry events that both further her professional and personal growth and let her know how much you value her consistently-high performance.
Again, while there are no absolutes to ensuring that you won’t have to face this situation now and again, the above suggestions—particularly implemented proactively—can go a long way towards sending a very clear message of long-term commitment to your sales superstar.
As the old adage goes, the CFO asks the CEO, “What if we invest in her and she leaves?” to which the CEO responds, “What if we don’t and she stays?”
Peter Smith is the author of Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions To Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent, has spent 30 years building sales teams at retail, and working with countless numbers of independent retailers as a brand-executive, to offer his counsel and advice on personnel matters. A graduate of Boston College, he has served on the Advisory Board of Caliper’s Global Conference and is a contributing panelist on the KR Executive Group’s Talent Blog. Smith has worked for Tiffany & Co., and was executive vice president of brand development for Hearts On Fire, where he authored the Menu For Success, a roadmap for retail success. He is currently executive vice president of Schachter & Co., a division of Leo Schachter. Smith’s book is available in print or Kindle digital edition on Amazon.com.