Today’s post is by Nick Kane, managing partner at Janek Performance Group. He has trained more than 15,000 sales professionals worldwide and is passionate about helping sales professionals improve their selling careers – as well as their lives. He is co-author of Critical Selling: How Top Performers Accelerate the Sales Process and Close More Deals.
So, you’re a new sales manager. Congratulations on entering the world of management!
If you want advice on how to do this job well, you’ve come to the right place. Below are some key things to know as a new sales manager.
1. The team culture will be determined largely by the example you set.
Because you’re the leader of the team, you set the culture. Even the most independent sales rep will take cues from you. So, if you tell your team to be in at 8:30 am every day, but you stroll in at 9:00 am, the team will ignore your instructions and come in at 9. If you tell your reps the phone is important, but all anyone sees you doing is email contact, the team will likewise default to email. So be sure to practice what you preach.
2. Learn to let it go.
When you were a sales rep, you probably excelled at your job (thereby earning you the promotion). You know how to talk to clients and connect with people. When you see your now direct reports struggling, it’s tempting to jump in, take over, and save the day.
But there are many reasons you shouldn’t do that. Sure, you might win the deal, but that’s a short-term gain that damages your chances of long-term success.
Firstly, you’re potentially creating confusion for the buyer: Who’s the main point of contact for them – you or the sales rep they were working with?
Secondly, and most importantly, you’re robbing the rep of valuable learning and development opportunities. You might also run the risk of the rep becoming demoralized, demotivated, or dropping in work ethic because they didn’t impact the sale in a positive way – and they may get the idea that they don’t need to work as hard, because you’ll just come in on falling deals.
3. The skills of a sales rep and those of a sales manager are completely different.
It’s a common error. Like when the owner of a sports team hires a former athlete as manager or coach, then watches it all implode.
Two different major factors are at play in this type of failure. One, some people are so naturally talented at what they do that teaching and developing others in their field is too difficult – the skills they’re supposed to be imparting to the next generation are so instinctual that they can’t transmit their knowledge in a way that connects.
Two, managing and coaching involve skills different from selling and playing – you need to be able to instruct and inspire, consider the long-range growth and development of other people, and take a role of oversight and administration. As a sales rep, you don’t necessarily need to be a leader. As a sales manager, you do.
4. Your most important duty isn’t selling – it’s developing your team members.
When you were a sales rep, the numbers and metrics were likely major measurements of your success. As a sales manager, you still might be judged that way by your leadership. But, while you should pay attention to what the numbers say, your primary focus should be on growing the knowledge and skills of your sales reps. When you have a knowledgeable, skilled team of sales reps, the numbers frequently take care of themselves. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.
5. You’ll need to make a lot of judgment calls.
As noted earlier, as a manager, you’re a leader. That means you’re going to have to make decisions – who to hire, who to fire. What skills each of your team members should be working on. How to handle a star performer who is detrimental to the rest of the team. At what levels you should set the sales forecast and quotas (depending on the size and structure of your organization).
Being a sales manager is a lot of responsibility. It requires a new set of skills and can be challenging. But it’s also an opportunity to create something exciting and dynamic – an entity that brings real value to your organization. So think about what type of manager you want to be, what type of team you want to have, and what culture you want to create.
For more helpful advice on how to advance your selling and sales management skills, visit Janek’s resource library.