If I Only Knew Then…

By Malcolm Fleschner

One of the benefits of having a time machine is that you could go back and tell your younger self how to avoid some of the costly mistakes that go hand in hand with inexperience. Then afterward you could put in an appearance at the lightly attended Microsoft IPO.

Since we don’t have time travel yet, the next best thing is learning from others. When asked what important lessons he’s learned on the job as a sales manager, Jess Williams with Orlando’s Cummins Southeastern Power gives the following four tips to bear in mind.

1. Celebrate diversity.
Each salesperson is an individual with unique goals, motivations and skills. Get to know them all and develop individual plans that capitalize on your salespeople’s strengths and improve on their weaknesses. Recognize that even if others go about things in a way you wouldn’t, because people do things differently they most likely will do the job just as effectively.

2. Seek and ye shall find.
Some lessons you just have to learn for yourself, but you can learn them more quickly than you realize. Seek out others in the company whom you trust and respect. Talk with them about the struggles you are facing, and let them share their challenges as well. This will prove valuable for both of you.

3. Wean the people.
If you’re managing a new rep in your old territory, it can be difficult to give up the accounts you’ve worked so hard for. Make a point to go with the new rep to all the important accounts, not just once but two or three times. Then slowly transition such duties as handling service questions and drafting letters until the new rep has full responsibility for taking these calls. This not only trains the new rep about the idiosyncrasies of the individual accounts but also weans the customers off of you and establishes their relationship with the new rep.

4. If you fail to plan…
With the excitement of the new position, you may be eager to do too much too quickly without a plan. Instead, spend the first 60-90 days traveling with your salespeople, going on calls, getting to know the reps and the customers. Then come back and develop a detailed plan for each of those territories, based on the information you’ve gathered. Write down the plan and then stick with it. Keep the plan in front of you so you see it every day, and update it once a week. This policy will sustain you long after the excitement of becoming a manager wears off.

For more great tips on improving your selling skills click here.