Being promoted from a sales rep to a new sales leader is a heady experience. You have a new title, new prestige, and a new career opportunity. But, you also have new expectations, goals, and a steep learning curve to master quickly. I reached out to some expert sales coaches for their best advice on making this transition. Here’s what they said:
Jeff Shore Says: What Really Matters? Two Words: Lead Conversion.
As a new sales manager, you will face an immediate battle for your time and focus. Everyone will want to define the job for you. And, if you are not careful, you might find yourself spending your days only fighting fires, wiping noses, and breaking up playground fights.
The key question to ask yourself in your first 30 days is this: “What really matters?” You need to have a firm and unshakable answer, and you need to defend that answer with every fiber of your body.
To my mind, a sales leader should be absolutely consumed with one objective: Lead Conversion.
Nothing – and I mean nothing – in your day will ever compete with the importance of lead conversion. You need to think it, eat it, sleep it, and talk about it nonstop.
Lead conversion in deal-making. Lead conversion in coaching your salespeople. Lead conversion in CRM accountability. Lead conversion in sales meetings. Lead conversion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Everyone in your organization needs to understand this priority. Being asked to sit in a stupid meeting? Not if it costs you lead conversion time. A bunch of important paperwork on your desk? Is it more important than lead conversion? Being volunteered for a special project? Only if the goal of the project is lead conversion.
Make this your mantra. Let everyone in your world know it. Post it on your wall. Talk about it at every sales meeting. Heck, get a frickin’ t-shirt made.
My advice for your first 30 days in just two words? LEAD CONVERSION!
Lee B. Salz Says: This Isn’t a Promotion, It’s a Job Change
Congratulations! You’ve just been promoted to the rank of sales manager. Yet, it is the very word “promoted” that puts you at risk.
Let’s be clear. Sales management is not a job elevation — it’s a job change.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t recognize that selling did not fully prepare you for the role of sales manager. While your bosses don’t acknowledge that this is a job change, you will still be held accountable for performance. And, they won’t wait long to get it!
What can you do? Here are four important steps to make sure you succeed in this new role:
- Accept that this is a job change and do not let ego get in your way. While you may have been a rock star salesperson, you are now a novice sales manager. Once you come to terms with that, the road to success becomes much clearer.
- Study and research the role of sales management. There is a wealth of information available to develop role mastery. Read blogs and books on various aspects of sales management. Watch webcasts to learn about your new role. Become a student and learn, just as you would expect the salespeople who now report to you to do.
- Find a mentor. This role is new to you, so working with a successful sales manager can shorten your learning curve. Look for a mentor outside of your company with whom you feel comfortable discussing confidential issues.
- Hire a coach. If you are one of the lucky new sales managers, your company will invest in you to help you succeed. Based on the blogs and books you’ve read, select a thought leader with whom you feel there is philosophical alignment. Then contact them for a coaching engagement.
Lisa D. Magnuson Says: Follow The A, B, C’s: Assess, Build, And Catapult
What is the best way to get off to a fast start with your new sales team? It’s not by doing what you know best, which is probably selling as if you were still an individual contributor. Instead, stop and think about the A, B, C’s: Assess, Build, and Catapult.
Assess: Use formal assessments, observations, solid analysis to evaluate your team’s results so far. What are the strengths and true motivations of each seller? Prioritize field travel and take careful note of each rep’s preparation, approach, and selling skills. This is a golden opportunity to develop a baseline.
Build: Now that you have a baseline, resist piling up meetings. Instead, build your management foundation. Decide on the core activities that will drive success and schedule those first. Consider field travel, coaching, seller growth and development and recognition as part of your base. Build your team on a rock solid foundation.
Catapult: Top sales managers lead their teams to the top of the rankings month after month and year after year. They know how to catapult each team member to excellence. New sales managers must shift from individual contributors to team champions. The only way to accomplish this is to keep your vision set on the critical few versus the unnecessary many.
Gerhard Gschwandtner Says: Get Personal With Reps And Believe In Their Dreams
Create a Wall of Dreams next to your scoreboard
Ask each of your salespeople to share what dreams motivate them. Do they crave a fancy SUV, a vacation home in Hawaii, a heli-skiing trip in Chile, a yoga workshop in India, or to volunteer in a Tibetan orphanage? Invite them to paste pictures of their dreams on the wall next to the scoreboard.
While the scoreboard reminds reps to make their numbers, these images allow salespeople to express their inner desires and assert their individuality. This small change can transform the conversations in your office. Reps will understand their peers on a deeper level and become more aware of the “why” behind their sales goals. As the saying goes, the bigger the why, the harder the try and the better the how.
Deploy empathy as a leadership tool
If you want your company to be customer-centric, you must inspire your sales team to show empathy for their customers. Emotions play a vital role in the client experience. Customers want to be understood on a logical and emotional level. The same is true for your coworkers. “If you treat people with dignity and respect, they will give it right back to you,” Bill McDermott wrote in his bestselling book Winners Dream. Empathy elevates the dignity of the human spirit.
Evangelize a no-limit mindset
Salespeople come to work to win, and they don’t want to work for managers who set limits. Great sales managers are CEO’s – Chief Encouragement Officers — who believe in each sales persons’ capacity to grow. If you can believe it, they can achieve it. It’s that simple.
Mark Hunter Says: Praise In Public. Critique In Private.
As a leader, one of your most powerful tools is something you can’t measure. It’s something you can’t see. But in the end, it will make a bigger impact than nearly anything else. It’s culture!
Team and company culture play a much bigger role in sales than people realize because culture is the core of how people see themselves. Never forget that culture starts at the top. It begins with you! Your people will look to you and will watch you. They will watch what you do and, just as importantly, what you don’t do.
To create a positive culture, treat people with respect. A simple way to do this is by coaching people privately and praising them publically. When your team hears you discussing others in a positive light, they naturally will want to succeed and get you talking about them too!
Conversely, never share negative comments publically. The moment you speak negatively about one sales person you will damage the trust you earned with the rest of the team.
It’s a simple concept but is worth repeating. Praise in public. Critique in private.
The culture you create will determine your team’s level of motivation. And, a positive culture can motivate people to achieve what they didn’t think was possible.
Carol Roby Says: Learn And Unlearn Quickly
You’ve just been promoted from being on top of your sales game. Now, you must lead a sales team without a road map. But first, you must learn how to be a successful team leader in as short a time as possible. At the same time, you must unlearn what made you successful as an individual contributor. Often the skills and strategies you used to reach the top of your sales game will not work as you lead a sales team.
To achieve this, focus on these five areas:
- Take Stock. Listen and get to know your team’s strengths, opportunities, and needs from multiple perspectives. Do this by:
- Spending time with each team member
- Getting out in front of customers to hear how they are responding
- Connecting with other functions within the company to understand how your team interacts
- Create a 90-day plan. Develop an onboarding plan that will enable you to establish relationships and create an engaged team. Try:
- Immersing yourself in the business
- Looking for places to get quick wins
- Leveraging the diversity of your team
- Understand the strategy and develop a communication plan to translate the strategy to the team
- Be aware of the “mind-shift” of this role. This is one of the biggest transitions there is – moving from an individual contributor to leader.
- Don’t go at it alone. Find a peer, mentor or thinking partner to share ideas and gather input. Unlike being a member of a sales team, a sales leader often finds him/herself isolated.
One final piece of advice. If you want to jumpstart your career as a sales manager and overcome some of these common hurdles quickly, you need a coach. A sales coach (like me!) can tailor a training program to your individual needs, skills, and strengths. To learn more about how I can help you become the best sales manager you can be in the shortest time possible, call me at 775-852-5020.