TO BE OR NOT TO BE A SALES MANAGER: THAT IS THE QUESTION

This is an age old question that all sales reps are bound to ask at some point in their career: Do I become a sales manager or remain a career professional sales person? (And it is a question asked by a reader …)

Prior to joining the company where my personal services corporation currently sells its services, I moved from sales to management. In that case, it was not a big decision as it was a hybrid role (I was a sales manager but retained my own territory. A unique opportunity necessitated by the size of the company). It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience.

But, my last move was a big one. I thought about it for 2 years before I finally moved out of the sales role (that I LOVED) to sales management. Agonized over the move. When is the right time? Will I be happy? Can I do the job effectively? I have been out of management for 4 years, should I move back? Do I want to lose control of my time? Do I want the office life? In the back of my mind was the cliché about good sales reps making bad sales managers. So how did I decide?

For me, I did the Ben Franklin, listing the pros and cons on two sides of a piece of paper. What kept me as a sales rep where the weight that those pro’s and con’s held. As time shifted, so did the weights.

The Ben Franklin on moving into Sales Management:

Pros Cons
– Increased stock – yielding long term rewards to increase momentum toward retirement. – Decrease in pay in the short term (Everyone knows, the best managers work to ensure their reps make more than them)
– Ability to grow personally. I have done sales for 18 years and was getting bored. Other things had provided a challenges (children in the early years, golfing, etc.) but boredom was setting in. – Loss of flexibility of schedule (More travel, longer hours, calendar becomes public domain)
– Ability to lead a broad team and have a bigger impact. Expanding from the current leadership role (Sales Rep leader) to a broader leadership role. – Loss of direct control (Micromanagement is the death of the sales manager)
– Initially, I could see myself as a rep to retirement. Over time, that shifted. I wanted to run a sales organization. So, moving into this role was a required step – thereby moving to a pro. – Dramatic decline in handicap (I was at an 11, playing 70+ rounds a year and could see single digits after a stellar 80 in which I missed a 3 footer for 79)
– Expansion of network. The opportunity to work with a whole new network of people in different way. – Less time with my family
– It was a job I found exciting and it was time.  

 

It was a very tough decision. There are times when I still pine for the days as a sales rep (especially when I am in day 3 of a 4 day meeting in July .. looking out the window). In the end, the last point became the tipping point. I took 2 years to decide because the sales management jobs up to that point did not excite me. But when my current job came up, I knew that was the one. I went for it because I knew it was going to be really exciting, that it would stretch me and that I would learn a ton.

In the end, this is a very personal decision. During the interview process for my current role, I read more than 10 books on management to refresh my skills.

I would suggest to those thinking about making the decision, read Becoming a Manager. It is the only book that I have ever read that takes people through the transition. It can also serve as a great reality check.

But in the end, look inside. You can be whatever you want to be.

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