Sales professionals spend a lot of time cultivating deep, meaningful relationships with customers in order to grow their business. If they’re successful enough to be promoted to sales manager, though, they often have to start focusing on building a different kind of relationship: the one between supervisor and team.

Fortunately, many of the skills and qualities that make for great sales people are also transferable to leadership situations. This includes making decisions based on timely, accurate and relevant data, treating team members as individuals and being focused on delivering some kind of value.

Although many organizations offer some kind of formal development process as people take on sales management, a lot of the real hard work and initiative will be up to you. We’re gathered some key pieces of advice to begin your self-development journey:

Be Prepared To Take Action On Data

Kevin Hallenbeck, principal of Sandler Training, suggested in a recent article that sales managers need to be strong advocates for the role their team plays in the organization’s success and keeping them organized. However he also suggested that the job is not merely to become everyone’s best friend, but to have the tough conversations that create necessary changes and improvements.

“As the sales supervisor, you will largely determine and enforce the rules for such vital tasks as setting activity goals, using the CRM, accurate call reporting, forecasting and data collection,” Hallenbeck says. “Therefore, it’s your job to analyze results against forecasts, possibly needing to confront anyone on the team whose numbers aren’t on track.”

Offer Smart Questions, Not Just Smart Answers

Sometimes when we’re put in charge of a team there may be a sense it’s all about telling people what to do and how to do it. A post on the Canadian Professional Sales Organization counters that notion by recommending sales managers routinely probe reps on areas that will stimulate their own self-improvement. Some of these could be as straightforward as “How much revenue did you generate this month?,” but there are many others. Some of the more intriguing include:

  • What coping methods did you employ this week to deal with all the Nos you’ve encountered?
  • How have you worked on developing a more positive attitude?
  • Which webinars have you attended this month?
  • What new industry/product knowledge/insights have you gained recently?

These questions could be asked in one-on-one conversations for some sales reps, or in other cases they could be part of a team meeting, kick-starting an important discussion that will benefit everyone.

Always Aim For Transparency

In a recent post on Saleshacker, a group of selling experts offered their best pieces of advice for sales managers. One really stood out: Designing a transparent organization.

“Transparent means that your peers, managers, everyone, should know how you’re performing. The best sales organizations should know each team member’s goals and their progress against them,” the post says. “For example, the number of calls made every day, the amount of time spent on the phone, what each person’s pipeline looks like – these should be available for everyone to see. Your work ethic should be on display.”

Experienced CRM users have an advantage here, because the technology allows all the key information on sales activities to be in a common place for all team members, from the manager to the most junior team member, to see whenever they want.

Look Beyond Sales Itself

When you’re on the front lines, it’s usually all about the numbers. As a sales manager, though, your priorities have to occasionally be higher-level. Take it from Steven Rosen, a sales coach who recently discussed this in a post on 10 reasons why new sales managers fail:

“Many new sales managers become overly focused on sales processes, while neglecting other facets of sales management such as customer service and sales support. Sales is a broad field and needs to be managed in its entirety,” he writes. “(They) fail because they neglect to allocate a sufficient amount of time and resources to training and developing their teams. Improving the sales team is a proven method of improving sales results and any successful sales manager must spend the time to train and develop his or her team.”

You could turn that concept around and say the best way for new sales managers to succeed is to take a continuous improvement approach with everyone on their teams. The best part? It’s also one of the fastest ways to develop yourself, too.

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