You’ve worked hard. You’ve achieved targets. As a sales person you’re at the top of your game. Then management comes forward and offers you a new opportunity – to be a Sales Manager.
After the initial excitement of being recognized and having the opportunity to be responsible for a bigger portfolio wears off, you sit back and think. What is it that a Sales Manager really does? What are your new responsibilities and how do you function in a way that assists your Team?
At first the shift from individual contributor to first line leader is a difficult one. You will be tempted to step in and ‘do’ things for your Team. In fact some members of your Team may expect you to do this. Resist this temptation. Your role is not to replace the salesperson or do their work, rather it is to provide focus and enable solutions.
What you will find is that the good Sales Managers are a combination business leader, coach, cheerleader, shield (blocking things from impacting your sales Team), analyst (reviewing targets and results), escalation point (for customers), and advocate (for your Team with senior management and product/finance/pricing Teams). Given this long list of responsibilities where does one start? Where should you focus to get the best results?
For me this has always been with the Team. It is important to understand each member of your Team and to know their specific strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand individual motivations and desires as well as past performance. Motivations and desires will tell you where they want to go. Past performance will tell you what they have been capable of doing in the past and therefore it is reasonable to expect similar results in the future. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each person is extremely important as well – you will need to know these as you take each individual and build them into a Team.
Here’s a critical secret that may seem obvious but that beginning Sales Managers tend to forget. You don’t need to know everything all of the time. You will gain far more trust and support from your Team if you openly ask them for help. If you don’t know how something is done, don’t fake it; admit it and ask for help from your Team. Not only will this help you build your relationships with your Team in a genuine way but you will also have the opportunity to find pockets of knowledge in your Team that can be shared with all.
The bottom line is that in order to be truly effective you have to move your Team from working for you to working with you. Sales management is a partnership whereby the Sales Manager serves the salesperson as much as the salesperson is expected to provide results for the corporation. Not only is the Sales Manager the conduit of information from and to the senior management team, but they are also the partner of the salesperson. A Sales Manager is a resource that the salesperson has to know how to use as much as the sales manager needs to understand how to help the salesperson.