We have all witnessed situations where an outstanding sales rep is “rewarded” with a promotion to sales management, leading to two compounding problems. The previously successful contributor flounders in the new role, and you have an underperforming territory where you had a star you moved. There is no doubt that you’re a+ Primo players, should be recognized, even rewarded for their contribution, (which is what I thought the incentive plan was for), but that reward should be one that resonates with them, not with current company leadership.
Successful leaders create an environment where they understand what the rep in questions considers to be a reward or recognition. Many companies default to either monetary rewards or hierarchical promotion. The challenge with the former, is that real A+ Primo players can generally achieve the financial results they want, especially if, as mentioned, you have an effective incentive plan in place. But even then, money is an interesting aphrodisiac, it is a lot like gas, which fills the entire space or volume of its container regardless of the container size, no matter what the volume, it will fill a bigger container. Even a substantial increase will have limited lift, limited change in behavior.
The challenge with promotion is that some don’t want it as much as those higher in the hierarchy believe. Clearly those in senior roles, those who enjoy and are successful at it, find it hard to understand why others don’t get turned on by the same thing. But many don’t, we have all known career sales people, who continuously make more money than their managers or even directors, but and have no desire to take on the role. Promote one of these reps, as many do, and you not only face the issues presented above, but a bunch of collateral damage. Damage on the other members of the team who now lack a leader, this will manifest in either lower revenues or mass departures, sometimes both. Not to mention the countless dollars spent with experts to try “reprogram” the rep, mentor, coach, and all the other programs invested in, with little or no impact.
The answer is determined a lot earlier, at the time of hiring. Organizations should be hiring for the role, not hoping that some will evolve into it, especially when they were hired to do a specific thing. I don’t see a lot of football team bringing on a lot of placeholders with a goal that they will one day make great field goal kickers or quarterbacks. With all the talk about Account Based Management, perhaps we should extend the concept to how we construct a successful sales team, put some focus and energy in to Role Based Hiring and Development. I do apologize to those who sell programs to help people make the “transition” from one role to the next, but more often than not the result is the creation of a managers not leaders. Bureaucrats who excels in explaining and enforcing a process, but are useless at leading their teams in executing and continuous improvements in that execution. Manager is a great title, but it is leadership that will drive results both in the short and long term. Don’t settle just because it is easy, convenient, or always done that way.