May 2021
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TD Magazine

Sales and Leadership Skills Don’t Go Hand in Hand

Friday, April 30, 2021

Being a top seller doesn’t mean an individual will be a strong manager.

Promoting a top seller to a manager position may seem logical, but it may not be wise—especially if the seller lacks the skills or training to effectively lead. According to Sandler Research Center’s Leading From the Front in Challenging Times report, that is one of the most common mistakes in the sales industry today. The skills needed to manage aren’t necessarily the same that are required to sell.


"Ineffective sales leadership is the main reason why so many sales teams are failing," the report states, adding that the responsibility for developing the team lies with the sales leaders. "The development of the sales team is not something to ignore or leave to training departments—the responsibility belongs to the sales manager."

Sales leaders who are too focused on producing often overlook the opportunity to boost performance by investing in developing their teams, which could signal lack of clarity on their role. According to the report: "The sales manager’s role is transforming from evaluator to developer, from expert to resource, from teller to questioner."

Sales leaders’ skill sets must extend beyond selling for them to be effective. As the report notes, today’s leaders need a strong command of soft skills. A survey could be a first step in identifying other development areas. When researchers asked about the biggest gaps in their leadership approach, sales leaders cited multiple areas, including remote management and coaching.


At the time of the report, 10 months into the pandemic, more than two-thirds of sales managers and leaders said they had received no training on remote coaching. Couple that with the fact that around 40 percent of sales leaders said they didn’t receive adequate training before assuming the role in the first place.

Identifying and targeting gaps is one way talent development practitioners can help sales leaders at their organizations become more effective.

About the Author

Derrick Thompson is a former writer/editor for ATD.

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