Moving From Salesperson to Sales Manager

John Ace Underwood

Transitioning from a salesperson to a sales manager is a significant career step that requires a shift in skills, mindset, and responsibilities. While successful salespeople possess qualities that can lead to managerial success, the transition involves learning new competencies and adopting a leadership perspective. 

Failing to provide these additional skills will set up what was a successful sales professional to likely fail at being an effective sales manager, and when within the same company, will likely cause irreparable damage. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide to making this transition effectively.

Key Differences Between Salesperson and Sales Manager Roles

1. Focus on Team Performance Over Individual Performance

  • Salesperson: Concentrates on achieving personal sales targets and building individual customer relationships.
  • Sales Manager: Focuses on team performance, setting collective targets, and ensuring the entire team meets their goals.

2. Strategic Planning Over Tactical Execution

  • Salesperson: Engages in daily sales activities and immediate customer interactions.
  • Sales Manager: Develops long-term strategies, plans sales campaigns, and analyzes market trends to drive the team’s success.

3. Leadership and Mentorship

  • Salesperson: Operates independently, managing personal sales pipeline and customer relationships.
  • Sales Manager: Leads by example, provides coaching and mentorship, and supports the professional growth of each team member.

4. Administrative Responsibilities

  • Salesperson: Primarily focuses on selling activities and customer service.
  • Sales Manager: Handles administrative tasks such as performance reviews, budget management, and report generation.

Essential Skills for Sales Managers

1. Leadership and People Management

  • Ability to inspire and motivate the team.
  • Skills in conflict resolution and team building.
  • Providing constructive feedback and facilitating professional development.

2. Strategic Thinking

  • Developing and implementing sales strategies.
  • Understanding market trends and adjusting plans accordingly.
  • Setting realistic yet challenging targets for the team.

3. Analytical Skills

  • Analyzing sales data to identify patterns and opportunities.
  • Utilizing CRM tools to track performance and forecast sales.
  • Making data-driven decisions to optimize team performance.

4. Communication Skills

  • Clear and effective communication with the team and upper management.
  • Ability to convey expectations and provide guidance.
  • Listening to team members’ concerns and addressing them appropriately.

5. Time Management

  • Balancing between managing the team and personal tasks.
  • Prioritizing activities that drive team success.
  • Delegating responsibilities effectively.

Steps to Transition from Salesperson to Sales Manager

1. Seek Learning Opportunities

  • Participate in leadership training programs.
  • Read books and articles on management and leadership.
  • Attend seminars and workshops relevant to sales management.

2. Find a Mentor

  • Identify experienced sales managers who can provide guidance.
  • Learn from their experiences and seek advice on handling challenges.
  • Observe their management style and strategies.

3. Develop a Management Mindset

  • Shift focus from personal success to team success.
  • Practice empathy and understand the needs and motivations of your team.
  • Be open to feedback and continuously seek improvement.

4. Gain Experience Gradually

  • Take on small leadership roles, such as leading a project or mentoring new hires.
  • Volunteer for tasks that involve team coordination.
  • Demonstrate your ability to lead before officially stepping into a managerial role.

5. Network with Other Managers

  • Build relationships with sales managers within and outside your organization.
  • Join professional associations and attend networking events.
  • Exchange ideas and best practices with peers.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

1. Balancing Management and Sales Tasks

  • Solution: Develop strong time management skills and delegate tasks effectively.

2. Maintaining Team Morale

  • Solution: Foster a positive work environment, recognize achievements, and support team members during tough times.

3. Handling Underperformance

  • Solution: Address issues directly with empathy, provide clear guidance, and create a performance improvement plan.

4. Adjusting to a New Identity

  • Solution: Embrace the change and focus on developing a leadership presence while retaining the qualities that made you a successful salesperson.


Transitioning from a salesperson to a sales manager is a rewarding yet challenging journey. It requires developing new skills, adopting a leadership mindset, and focusing on team success. By seeking learning opportunities, finding mentors, and gradually taking on leadership roles, aspiring sales managers can successfully navigate this transition and excel in their new role. is a learning resource committed helping factory-built housing industry professionals sell more homes and lease more spaces. Find out more at


About John Ace Underwood

John Ace Underwood has a very successful 30-year career in the manufactured and modular housing industry. As a manager for a single lot retailer in the southeast, he managed up to 9 salespeople with sales typically over 45 homes per month. John has also served as Vice President for multi-lot manufactured housing retailer in the southwest.
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