We asked these sales experts what advice they would give a salesperson that has taken on the role of sales manager.
Understand that what has allowed you to succeed in the past will likely cause you to fail as a sales manager. Your ability to win opportunities, your ability to close, and your ability to be valuable to clients may be what brought you to this position, but it isn't what will help you succeed. You aren’t the super-closer.
Your primary stakeholders are the individual members that make up your sales team. Your role as a sales manager is a leadership role. It's now your job to lead the sales force. It's important to remember that your new quota is the combined quota of all the individual members of your team. The only way you can reach your quota is by helping them reach theirs.
Your organization is going to make demands of you that will be impossible to meet. They're going to require more reporting, more meetings, and more paperwork than you have ever imagined. It will be easy to fall into the trap of believing that all of this work serving your organization is the most important work you can do. But it isn't.
Remember what's most important: your team. The more you focus on helping your team succeed the greater your results. The opposite is also true; the less you focus on helping your team succeed, the poorer your results.
~ Anthony Iannarino, The Sales Blog
Realize your role is now as a sales leader. This means shifting your focus to leveraging the strengths of the sales team and each individual salesperson. You have to think strategically and strive to understand each person on the team.
Too many salespeople move into a management role thinking they must lead every person the way they (the manager) would want to be led. In reality, nothing can be farther from the truth. Great sales managers know each person on their team is different and, therefore, manage accordingly to each person’s unique needs and opportunities.
The other suggestion I would make is that the new sales leader becomes diligent about price integrity. What this means is the sales leader believes in the price, protects profit and does not allow habitual discounting among the team.
~ Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter
Learn to listen; the role of sales managers has changed. It’s no longer about being taskmaster; it’s about enablement and support.
Hierarchical, prescriptive management is dead, don’t try to control everything. Communicate a vision instead; let people try to figure out how they are going to get there on their own.
Have empathy; remember what it was like when you sold. Use that empathy to see things through your team’s eyes.
~ Jim Keenan, A Sales Guy
Be a scientist. The more objective you can make everything the better. Try to map out our sales process and break down how you were able to be so successful so you can replicate it. If you try to turn everyone into an artist (like you probably were) it is going to be frustrating and won’t be scalable. As an example, develop criteria that breaks down the characteristics of makes a great (A), average (B) and poor (C) rep. Then, categorize all your reps based on those characteristics and manage accordingly. For your As – set long term goals, over communicate and overcompensate. Manage your Bs to become As so when they As inevitably leave you have someone to back fill them. Set very short term goals and celebrate small wins for your Cs to get them back on the winning path.
The best advice I have for a new sales manager is to help them understand that they will only be as successful as their team. As such they will need to:
- Recruit people to their team who possess the skills and experience to
succeed in their specific sales environment
- Develop effective sales processes that unambiguously define expectations for their sales team and provide a set of meaningful metrics they can use to manage the processes
- Provide their team the right tools (training, messaging, technology) to help their customers make informed purchase decisions
- Coach their team on a daily basis to help them plan their selling activities to provide the maximum value and impact to their prospects.
~ Andy Paul, Zero Time Selling
There are several big challenges in the transition from salesperson to sales manager, but the hardest may be changing your perspective on our most precious asset: Time.
The best salespeople are productively selfish with their time. Top-producers lock in on their goals and guard their calendars. Their time is their own; don’t even think about trying to take it from them! They instinctively resist distractions and interruptions from others. The ability to focus on what needs to be done -- to close the door, to decline incoming calls -- are all part of why they’ve been so successful as individual contributors.
That’s exactly why the transition to manager is often so frustrating.
As a sales manager, your time is not your own. You succeed not by keeping others away, but by investing in those through whom you’ll achieve results. My counsel for new managers is to be very aware of the fact that what has been strength of yours will actually hurt you in this new role.
Continually remind yourself that your time is no longer solely yours; your job is not to protect it, but rather to give it away to those under your care. Several times a day, ask yourself, “how should I be investing this hour to help my people achieve their goals?” It’s a radical and necessary shift required to succeed as a sales manager.
~ Mike Weinberg, The New Sales Coach
In the wise words of Grand Master Flash from the ‘80’s song “White Lines”: “Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t do it, do it, do it!”
Take a hard look. What makes you great as a salesperson will almost never translate to management:
1) You lose your autonomy (you now belong to your sales team – whenever they need you).
2) You lose your opportunity to sell (you need to let your salespeople sell).
3) It was hard enough to manage yourself (now you have to manage others, too.)
4) You can never go back.
~ Dianna Smith, The Irreverent Sales Girl
Become an inspirational leader because you understand what it’s like to follow.
Many sales managers are selected for this role because they are highly productive and profitable sales people. However, being superlative as a seller does not equate with being a great sales manager. Too many companies select the top seller to manage as a reward; they also anticipate the top seller/now manager will “manage” to mold a sales team in their own image, therefore making everyone into a great seller. We all know this is hardly the way things play out. “Sell just like me!” is not an option!
I recommend the seller-turned-manager seek training on how to manage a sales team, including a thorough understanding of the dollars and cents of how everyone’s efforts contribute to the overall profitability of the team and the territory. Work on translating your personal sales style into a message and methodology that is accessible to the rest of the team. Make everyone on your team into a better overall business person instead of a sales rep chasing a quarterly quota.
If your reps understand how money walks through your sales territory and team, they will be better prepared to learn about profit and loss – a relevant and valuable discussion to have with their customers! You have an opportunity to make your reps, and yourself, into more competent business people. Everyone should get to the finish line each quarter, pulling together, having made their numbers.
~ Babette Ten Haken, Sales Aerobics for Engineers
What advice do you have for a salesperson that has just taken their first sales management role?
Step 1: Know what is expected of you and how you’ll be measured.
Step 2: Communicate to your team what is expected of them and how they’ll be measured.
Step 3: Put metrics and process in place to measure and report on everything.
Step 4: Coach like crazy so your team hits their numbers
~ Kyle Porter, Sales Loft
GET HELP! And get it fast. Your life is in serious jeopardy. OK, not literally. But it’s going to get a lot more stressful. Management is about leadership – which is quite a bit different than your past job where you could do just about whatever you needed to do in order to close the deal.
Get help. Ask for coaching. Find a mentor. Read books on leadership. Stay humble. Be courageous.
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