Pinpoint a Great Manager

When a person consistently excels in their position – say as a sales rep – it’s a common practice in organizations to assume that person will make a great manager of their team or division.

Most companies have made at least one successful salesperson the sales manager, only to find their effectiveness in the managerial position a surprising disappointment. The skills required for effective sales don’t necessarily mirror the skills needed for effective management.

We see this frequently on the playing field. Sometimes a successful former player makes a good coach. Sometimes they do not. And sometimes a former mediocre player makes a great coach.

It can be helpful for the sales manager to understand the specific demands of this sales team selling this product – which they do when they rise from that team’s ranks. And it certainly helps for the manager to have the trust or respect of the sales force going in. But how do you know if one of your sales professionals can manage the team?

How do you choose a sales manager that can actually manage? 

Frank Cespedes, Senior Lecturer in the Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School (one of Forte’s clients) writes:

To identify salespeople who can become effective sales managers, leaders need to clearly define the specific behaviors required of managers, and then test for them effectively. And this actually isn’t so hard if you use the right framework and assessment techniques, and then use that knowledge and tools to communicate shared expectations with those aspiring to be sales managers.

So the first step is to clearly identify what traits and behaviors are required for successful management of this team.  Forté can help you do that – either by identifying the traits of your other/former top managers, or by getting the input of several key people in key positions and forming a top performer profile.

The next step is to compare that top profile with the profiles of your potential candidates – which Forté can also do for you. Even if you do not have a close match in your talent pool or applicant pool, Forté can help you coach the manager you hire to adapt themselves to display the needed traits and behaviors.

Reality is, to be profitable and competitive in today’s marketplace we cannot simply rely on our gut in promotion or hiring decisions. In fact, interviewing alone rarely results in a slam-dunk hire. Research reveals there’s only about a 14% correlation between a hiring manager’s perception of a candidate’s potential for success, based on an interview, and how the candidate actually performs in the job.

You need to see how your pool of candidates are likely to think and behave in that position, not just hear how they will talk about it in an interview.

So employ assesment techniques such as role plays, tests or simulations in addition to the interview. Have a clear vision of the traits and behaviors this position requires. And utilize software like Forté that can show both you and the applicant, in a matter of mere minutes, their communication and leadership style, and how that compares to the particular needs of this mangerial position.

You can hire a great manager.

We can help.


Give us a call at 910-452-5152.

The Forté Institute’s Rachel Olsen is on faculty at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the Communication Studies department. She is a communication specialist, and a trained and certified coach.