The same forces that are transforming sales organizations are also changing sales management in the number of hats they are required to wear … coach, strategist, politician, recruiter, trainer … are only a few essential roles expected. For the majority of sales roles, those traits that make great sales reps are not necessarily the same competencies required to successfully lead a sales organization.

Recruiting, coaching, training, evaluating, and, when necessary, transitioning salespeople are rarely tasks required of great sales reps. Leading is simply different than doing. Sports analogies offer great parallel examples. The best players rarely make the best coaches, managers, and executives. There are exceptions, but they are just that, exceptions.

Though this fact is becoming increasingly apparent as information becomes widespread and understood, many organizations continue to make the error of simply promoting the very best reps. This approach results in both a negative impact on the effectiveness of the management position as well as the loss of considerable selling skills in their territory.

For similar reasons, other roles and responsibilities are also considered interchangeable but in reality, they are not. With the continuing development of specialists in response to changing demands and expectations of customers, a number of customer-facing positions are becoming differentiated in ways that were not apparent in the past.

What is true for salespeople may also be the case for customer support, service, and response roles. People with great technical skills frequently do not make excellent leaders for a technical/functional area. The best engineer may well fail if asked to lead the engineering department. The best accountant may fail in a role as manager of the function. The specifics in each case will differ, but the issue remains. The competencies required are different.The trend can be further expanded by examining the differences between parallel roles/positions.

The reality is that not all assignments are created equal. Highly successful sales reps in one market representing a company with a customer value proposition may find themselves completely unsuccessful in making a career change to a different market with different customer expectations. The reasons will once again likely be related to the genuine differences between the core competencies required in one role rather than those found in another. Some of the exceptions may be apparent and readily identifiable, but many are not. The requirements for success frequently vary between positions where surface-level similarities may suggest that the roles and people are interchangeable.

Understanding the differences in roles and responsibilities in similar but surprisingly different assignments can lead to the same poor results as promoting excellent achievers into managerial positions. If the core competencies necessary for success in the roles are different, then the likelihood that individuals will be interchangeable in positions is limited. The cost of misunderstanding is frequently declining results in individual performance.

Understanding the requirements in-depth, and having an objective data-driven assessment of the capacity of individuals to meet those specific requirements, is key to correctly positioning and promoting the members of your organization. A lack of this understanding will follow the same path as promoting high performers to jobs they are ill-equipped to handle.

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