Transitioning From Sales Manager To Sales Director – Why Many Find It So Hard

In coaching sales managers a reoccurring development need that comes from their boss is ‘they need to be more strategic’. Below we list the six major issues we’ve found helpful in repositioning sales managers:


  1. Many sales managers achieved the position because of their energy and industry. As managers they still run their teams by being into every facet, making sure everything happens and generally being a constant cheer leader for the performance of the team. This makes them very tactical in outlook. They need to learn to stand back a little more, be less of a ‘plate spinner’ more orchestra conductor.
  2. They often remain the best sales person on the team. This is a dead end. The only way they are going to position themselves differently is by recruiting and developing people who are better than they are.
  3. Many people who go into selling have a very practical, task focused approach to work. To make career progress they need to add (not replace) to that a more conceptual perspective. ‘How’ and ‘When’ are the sales managers watchwords, ‘What’ and ‘Why’ are the Sales Directors.
  4. They need to learn about strategy. They need a bigger picture perspective, their world has been sales targets and budgets, it now needs to be more strategic, as much about tomorrow as today. This intimidates a lot of sales managers; thinking strategy is very theoretical with lots of models to learn. It isn’t. Fundamentally strategy is about a five step process; doing some analysis, making some choices, writing a plan that moves the business from a current to desired state, implementation, and finally reviewing and monitoring progress.
  5. They need to manage up in a more sophisticated way. Rather than simply focusing on the numbers they need to focus on raising their profile in more senior circles. Boss management and internal networking need to move up their agenda.
  6. They need to make themselves available for project work and development initiatives. Always being too busy to widen their role means they will be permanently labelled Manager.


Put simply they need to direct more and manage less.