PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

Moving into the role of Sales Manager is a challenge for everyone. Most people struggle, and if you aren’t struggling, perhaps you should be worried. Often, new managers don’t get great coaching from their managers. Often, new managers don’t pay attention to the coaching they get from their managers.

Too often, new managers rush in to change things–because they think that’s what managers do.

Too often, new managers rush do the things that made them successful in the past–sell! But selling isn’t the job, maximizing the performance of the people who do sell is their job. As a result, they aren’t doing what they should do or the things that their people most need them to do.

Too many new managers fail in their first 90 days, yet never know it.

They may stay in their job as a manager, but fail to progress in their career. Unfortunately, they may fail and are moved–tenure of sales managers is less than 18 months and falling. That average is impacted by new managers who are removed in very short time.

So what does the new manager do?

Some thoughts:

Know your job, know that it is different. Your first job as sales manager is different from everything else you have ever done before. If you keep doing what you have always done, except are doing it at a higher level, you are doing the wrong thing. Your people and your company don’t need a sales person on steroids, they need a sales manager!

Your job is different. Your job is to maximize the performance of each person on your team. The way you get things done is through your people. Repeating myself, your job isn’t to sell, that’s your team’s job. This doesn’t mean you aren’t involved in deals and supporting them on calls, but their job is to sell–let them do their jobs! Focus on how you help them do their jobs at the highest level.

Make sure you understand your manager’s expectations. Know how she will evaluate your performance.

Know your people. Take the time to understand who they are, as human beings, as sales professionals. Learn what drives them, learn their hopes and dreams, understand their strengths and weaknesses. Understand their expectations of you, but don’t be limited by them. Find out what they think their jobs are–they may not really know, they may not understand performance expectations (Making quota is not a job definition or a complete set of performance expectations). Learn what you need to do, with each person, to maximize their performance.

Know you serve your people, they don’t serve you.

Know you will only be successful if your people are successful.

Know your numbers. I’m constantly amazed that new managers don’t really understand their “numbers.” They may know quotas, they may know YTD performance, but they don’t know much else. They don’t know what drives the numbers. They don’t know the integrity of the numbers. They may be measuring the wrong things.

Knowing the numbers means knowing what they mean. The numbers aren’t the problem, they are indicators of where there might be problems. To address these problems, you have to dive beneath the numbers to understand what’s not working, then figure out what must be done to correct the situation.

Know your customers. Make sure you understand who they are, their expectations of your people and your company. Understand their attitudes and perceptions of your company and your people. Understand their business drivers, understand the structure of the markets, what drives them and how you help them succeed.

Know your company and how to get things done. A large part of your job is helping them get things done within your own company (or protecting them from well intended distractions in the company). What are the tools, systems, processes, programs you and your people should be leveraging to maximize performance.

Build your “support” structure within the company. You and your team will need help and support, build the relationships and alliances critical for you and your team.

Know your priorities and know everything can’t be a priority. Sometimes you go into a situation where a lot of things need to get done. Things may be broken, things may be changing. Inevitably, there may be people problems, customer problems, internal problems, competitiveness/market problems. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority and nothing gets done.

Focus on no more than your top 3. While there may be a lot of urgent things competing for your time, don’t get distracted, focus on the top 3 things most important to your and your team’s success. Realize, if you choose the top 3 correctly, a lot of the other issues will be solved, as well.

Be consistent in your priorities, don’t succumb to the “crisis du jour.” Don’t succumb to the dozens of things that could distract you every day.

Be purposeful and focused, you’ll get more done for you and your team.

Know what you can change and what you can’t. You can’t fight every battle. There may be some things that need should be changed, but are way beyond your control or outside your responsibility. Do what you can to make sure the people who own those problems recognize it, understand your/your team’s needs, and let them do their jobs.

Don’t waste your time on things you can’t change.

Know that you need to accelerate your learning and that you must always be learning. The pace of change is accelerating. Success requires constant learning, innovation and change. Being named manager doesn’t mean you know everything and can stop learning, it means learning becomes much more important.

You aren’t helping your team, your customers, your company, or yourself if you aren’t continually learning and changing.

Know, also, you don’t have to know everything. The great leaders surround themselves with people who know more than they–empowering them to leverage that knowledge to drive results.

Know your limitations and how to ask for help. Often, when a person moves into a leadership role, they think they must be perfect in everything and be able to address everything. It’s unrealistic and not helpful to you or your people.

Every leader, at every level, needs help and support. The best leaders recognize this and actively build their support networks–within and outside their organizations.

Know you will make mistakes. No one is perfect, no one never makes a mistake. Leadership is not about avoiding mistakes, it’s recognizing we and our people will fail. What’s most important is what you do to recover and what you learn from the mistakes.

Know, also, assigning blame in mistakes is wasted time and effort, as well as setting a bad example.

Know that you are a role model. People will be watching you. What you say and what you do must be consistent, it sets and example for your team. Your behaviors and the example you set are critical to driving the performance in your team and building your credibility in the organization.

Say what you mean, do what you say!

There’s a lot more you need to know, recognize that often you don’t know what you don’t know–and you need to figure that out. That’s just part of the journey of being a great leader and manager.

But finally…..

Know that you have to have fun. Despite all the problems and challenges, being a front line sales manager is one of the most fun jobs one can ever have. If you aren’t having fun, it will impact everyone around you.

Don’t forget to have fun! It’s infectious.