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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

How to Manage The 3 Career Stages of Salespeople

How to Manage The 3 Career Stages of Salespeople

Parenting small children is not easy. I recall when my daughters were toddlers and how exhausted my wife and I were at the end of the day. We fantasized about when they would be older and more independent. We imagined parenting would be a lot easier.

Well, as I prepare for my oldest daughter's wedding in two weeks, I can tell you parenting older children is different, but it's not necessarily easy. The challenges change, the decisions become more important, and our role as parents evolves.

As a new parent, I read an article about parenting children through the different phases of childhood. Early on, your role was much more directive, and as your child grew, your role transitioned to more of an advisory role. It did help me prepare for the stages of my daughters and how my role would change in the process.

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Three Stages of Salespeople's Experience 

As a sales manager, your role in managing your salespeople also changes as they grow and develop in their careers.

You can't treat a successful, experienced rep like you do a rookie. If you do, those reps will resent you and often look for somewhere else to work. At the same time, you can't just toss a new rep out into the field and expect them to know how to perform like your 20-year veterans. This is why you need to manage your salespeople differently based on their experience and performance.

For the sake of clarity, I break salespeople's experience into three groups:

  • Rookies - 0 to 1 year
  • Journeymen - 1 to 5 years
  • Veterans - 5 plus years

Stage 1 - Rookies - Coach

New salespeople need a Coach.

They don't need a Dictator. They don't need to be micromanaged or told exactly what they need to do every moment of the day. These are adults. They need to be taught the fundamentals of the game.

You need to provide the game plan for them, but they will need to execute the plays. You will set expectations, goals, and activities for them. You will meet with them regularly and hold them accountable.

Great coaches also encourage, observe, and provide feedback. Early on, you will go on calls with them to demonstrate what they need to do. Then you will observe them in action and provide feedback to help them grow and develop. You will provide motivation and cheer them on, but ultimately, your job to make sure that they are becoming successful and productive salespeople. 

Stage 2 - Journeymen - Counselor

When a salesperson survives their first year on the job, it's time for them to graduate to the next level, Journeymen. A journeyman is, for the most part, self-sufficient, but that doesn't mean that you aren't still needed. During these years, account executives begin to chart their own courses. You are no longer the most influential person in their career, but rather they are. 

During the journeyman stage, you will focus on being regularly available to counsel them on their productivity, performance, and path. You still will set their goals, maintain expectations, and become a resource for their success.

Your individual focus meetings shift from directive and coaching to questioning and counseling them on what they believe they need to be doing to be successful. They've earned the right to make their own decisions on how they will achieve their goals, but that doesn't mean that we should be counseling them on ways to improve those actions. 

Stage 3 - Veterans - Consultant 

In the last stage of salespeople, Veterans, your job becomes one like a consultant. You are a resource to them. They know what they need to be doing. They've been doing it for a while, and one can assume that they are successful or they wouldn't be on your team. They have the skills, experience, and talent to hit their budgets, achieve their goals, and be an important part of your team.

Often, they just want to be left alone to do their job, which is fine at times, but that does NOT mean that you are to ignore them or leave everything to them. You need to see your role as a true resource. You are there to help them be even more successful.

It is your responsibility to meet with them regularly, review their plans and activities, discuss their Key and Target accounts and look for ways to help them move their clients and prospects through the sales pipeline. Truly great veterans will not only want to meet with you and ask for your help but will be irritated when you are unavailable. These should be your superstar salespeople, so they are your most valuable people. Treat them that way and always look for ways to make them even better.


As a sales leader, the way you manage your salespeople should be adjusted based on their individual talents, performance, and experience. Each rep will have different needs that you must focus on so that you get the best results possible from every salesperson on your team. 

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Topics: sales coaching