In some cases, a successful selling career results in a bump up the ladder to sales manager. Whereas before you just had to manage yourself and your accounts, now you have the responsibility to make sure your team stays on track to achieve company goals, build a team, train new hires, motivate, hold sales meetings and plan out territories, not to mention dealing with upper management.
While this shift may not always go smoothly, there are ways to minimize the strain. Use these tips to help you successfully transition from the role of individual contributor to sales manager.
1) Be highly observant. The first few days or weeks on the job, you should do more listening than talking. A period of observation will help you get your bearings and give you time to see people and situations from a new perspective. This will also help you establish a sense of separation so that people become comfortable with you being in your new role.
2) Be empathetic. Even if you have previous sales management experience and just came on board with a new company, you need to establish your credibility, bond with your staff and set the management tone for your department. If you’re new to the company, people will likely want to know who you are, what you did before, and whether they are still going to have a job after the next couple weeks. If you’ve been promoted from within, it’s time to communicate that you earned the job and are well qualified for the role. Talk with your team, solicit their feedback and questions, and you’ll build rapport that will help everyone reach their goals.
3) Get help where you need it. Make a list of all the skills and activities that made you successful as a salesperson. Now make another list of all the skills and activities you need to become a good manager. Get the appropriate training to fill the gaps.
4) Let go. Your new job now is to manage people, not to rush out and make sales. Often if new managers have a choice between meeting with a prospect and closing a deal or meeting with a salesperson to coach him or her to success, they’ll sometimes be inclined to revert back to what they know best. Remember that a good manager empowers others to achieve first.
5) Resist the urge to fix mistakes. One of the hardest things for new sales managers to do is to accompany a salesperson to an account they know they can sell and then watch that salesperson make mistakes in front of the prospect and lose the sale. The natural reaction can be to jump in and save the day. But new sales managers have to learn to let salespeople stand on their own feet and learn from their failures.
A final piece of advice is to pace yourself. While it’s admirable to give a new job your all, remember that you’re new and still learning. During a transition period you should set your goals, develop a game plan, and establish a timeline. Don’t try to accomplish too much too soon, and you’ll end up accomplishing more in the long run.