Why Managing Sales is Far Harder Than Just Selling

The other day there was a post on LinkedIn about how some AEs (Account Execs / sellers) want to be promoted to sales managers.  I posted a comment that it is necessary for any executive to help illuminate for all AEs out there that they are misconstruing what management is and this “myth” should be exposed so that they don’t step into a role where they may fail (and may not like after all).

For one reason or another, Management seems glamorous to people but it’s important to look at what the job requires – it’s a great role for someone with a specific set of traits, capabilities and interests but it is also a wrong role for many others.  Just because you are effective at selling, that is not a reason that you’d be effective at managing many other sellers.  It’s a hard job to sell – you have to hit your aggressive quota every quarter and every year.  But being a VP of Sales or any level sales leader or manager means that you have to manage many other reps to hit quota. In other words, when you sell, you just have one quota and just manage yourself but, when you manage, you have many quota to hit every quarter and you have to manage many different people – this is far harder.  It’s also a very different set of skills.  For example, because sports make a great example and analogy to selling – an NFL Coach is not necessarily the best player and everyone knows that the best NFL Coach (i.e. Bill Belichick of New England Patriots) was not as good of a football player in college but he has a different set of skills which make him the best coach.  He was good enough as a player but his value-add is not actually playing himself but understanding how to make the team better as a whole. That’s a different set of skills.  It’s analogous – even if you were the best player in your prior life as a sales professional, you must understand that you need to have the best coaching skills as a manager and those are just very different types of skills altogether.

Before any AE / seller thinks that they want to be a manager, think twice and learn what the job will truly require of you – then use that insight to determine whether that is something you will enjoy and be as effective at as you are today at just selling and hitting your own quota.