It’s Tuesday and you are sitting in your office.  Typical start to the morning and then, you get “the call.”  Your West Coast Sales Manager has just resigned.  He tells you he appreciates all you have done, but has found another opportunity.  Your first reaction may be, “Can I save him?”  You chat about why he should stay rather than leave, but nothing changes.  Now you start to panic and wonder where you will get a replacement.  You work out of the main office in NY and he was in the LA office.  You don’t have anyone ready in that location who can step in.  What do you do?


Sound familiar?  Most sales leaders focus on rep recruitment, but spend little time on succession planning.  It may be a false sense of security.  It could be that they wait until they get “the call,” before reacting.  Planning for the worst case is vital to hitting your number.  Take a few minutes and answer the following:


  • Do you have someone on your team that could be promoted?
  • Why do you think they are the right person to get promoted?
  • Where are they located?
  • How long would it take to find someone from the outside?
  • How disruptive would it be to the business if they did get promoted?
  • Are they the right person or are you looking for a “quick fix”?
  • What are you doing to groom your next set of managers?
  • Who owns building a management bench of candidates?


Don’t pass the buck to HR when looking to build a plan. I wouldn’t pass it to sales training or enablement either.  The reason is, you know your team better than they do.  You also know what makes a great Sales Manager.  Take the time to understand the 3 factors to building a successful management bench. Below is the approach to be used.



This sounds like a no-brainer, but look at sales results over the last year(s).  Review where the candidate has been against key performance metrics.  You want to set a standard within your organization that performance matters.  Even when you look externally, make sure you validate how the candidate did in their last role.


WARNING- Do not stop after this factor.  You need to look at the next two with even more rigor.  Don’t fall into the trap of promoting your top sales rep without reviewing the whole picture.  I’ve seen too many sales leaders make this mistake.  One of three things may happen:


  1. You fire them for poor performance or lack of management skills
  2. They leave because they find that managing others is not for them
  3. You move them back to individual contributor role because you don’t want to lose them



Take a look at the key competencies of your existing managers.  This is what you need to benchmark against when evaluating your next manager.  Some competencies may include the following:


  • Conflict Management
  • Resourcefulness
  • Self -awareness
  • Negotiating skills
  • Adaptability


Build a core list that is relevant to your organization.  Once you have identified them, benchmark your candidates against this list.  This includes both internal and external candidates.  If you don’t benchmark, you are making decisions on “gut feel.”  Make better decisions with the competency checklist included in the guide.


Coaching and Mentoring

Think back to a great coach or teacher you’ve had.  What traits did they possess that inspired you?  The key for many successful managers is the ability for them to coach.  There is a reason organizations spend millions a year on training and coaching.  They know it’s an important skill every leader needs. 


When evaluating your next manager candidate, see if they are natural coaches.  Notice if they are helping other members of the team.  Have they volunteered to be a mentor for a new hire?  If they aren’t proactively coaching, put them in a situation to coach.  Have them sit in on a 1-on-1 to experience the situations.  Then take the time after to get their feedback and suggestions on the meeting.  This may be a great indicator of how they think about helping others. 


Remember, identifying management candidates is one piece in the overall talent management process. Unfortunately, it is an element often overlooked by sales leaders.  Don’t get stuck if that call happens to you today.



Josh Horstmann

Brings a deep level of experience and insight in helping organizations develop and execute their corporate, sales and marketing strategies.

Josh specializes in helping clients solve demanding sales and marketing challenges through aligning functional strategies within an organization. He has worked with clients in manufacturing, ecommerce, software, financial services and technology sectors.


Recently he helped transform an international services company ‘go to market’ strategy, which included assessing talent, re-organizing the sales force, increasing team productivity, reducing the cost of sale and aligning the marketing and sales strategies.


Josh continues to provide thought leadership to his clients advising them on how to build inside sales teams, develop compensation programs, share best practices on social selling, transform sales organizations, drive demand generation programs and acquire and cultivate talent. Along with this he helps organizations align functional strategies.


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