Whether you are currently a sales rep looking to advance your career into sales management or a newly minted manager trying to make the transition to leader, there are some important things to keep in mind as you evolve from one role into another.
The transition from employee to manager is tricky in any position, but it can be especially challenging in the sales department. High performers in sales don’t necessarily make high-performing managers. The skill sets are different, and the boundaries can get blurred in sales. It can be difficult for sales managers to watch their team mess up, and they have a tendency to swoop in and try to do it better.
On top of that salespeople are an especially hard group to manage. They can be out of the office, as well as being scattered in both their sales approaches and skillsets. Salespeople can be independent and challenging to supervise. And finally, salespeople can sell, which means they can often convince managers of things that other employees would never get away with. Do any other departments call sporting events “business networking”?
To make the most of your time and efforts as a Sales Manager, it is important to remember that your job is not to sell; it is to help the team sell more and sell more easily. You are in the sales enablement business, and to that end, there are four ways you should be spending your time.
As a supervisor, you need to make sure everyone is doing their job. Supervising is about managing the day-to-day activities, checking call reports, and making sure everything is reported in the system. Hopefully, only a small portion of your time will be taken up by this important task. However, you may need to do more supervising to start and then loosen the reigns as you and your team grow.
Mentoring is about being a player-coach and setting a good example. Your sales team will need you to show them how to doing things and how to handle certain situations. By role-modeling and role-playing (with you as the salesperson), you can demonstrate how the job is supposed to be done. A significant amount of your time should be spent mentoring your team.
You will also want to spend time teaching your salespeople how to fish so they can go out and do it on their own. Training is an important part of any sales manager’s job description. You will have to teach your salespeople about the product or service, your sales process, your sales technology, and the other soft and hard skills they will need to be successful.
Finally, coaching is a critical sales management skill that is often overlooked. A recent study found that only 15% of all sales managers spend as much as 25% of their time on coaching, and the time they do spend on coaching is ineffective. Coaching is a formal process that uses one-on-one meetings to help people discover hidden issues that inhibit their performance so that they can achieve new levels of success. Coaching is all about helping the individual overcome their “head trash,” finding motivation, and unlocking the potential of each person on your team.
Here are some other things you can do to make a smoother transition from Sales Rep to Sales Manager:
1. Focus on your team, not the clients. – It is now your job to serve the people who serve the clients.
2. Ask for honest feedback. – If this is your first leadership role, getting accurate and honest criticism will help you learn and refine your leadership style.
3. Set agendas for every sales meeting. – Remember, it is now your job to lead, not just show up and say “what have you got?”
4. Set aside some time to coach. – It is good to schedule some 1-on-1 time with your team to get to know them and coach them individually on what they need to improve.
5. Set time for you to learn new leadership skills. – Learning on the job is great, but failing in a classroom or another safe environment is better.
Sales management, like any other job, can be learned. There is no such thing as a “born leader.” To make the most of your new position, focus on mentoring, coaching, training, and supervising your team. It is those high-leverage activities that will help you and your team reach success.