10 Tips for a First-Time Sales Manager

First-time sales manager

Have you just become a sales manager? Congrats! You’ve either climbed the career ladder at your company or applied for this job and succeeded at the interview, which all means you’ve come a long way to achieve it. However, it doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels.

Whether you’re supposed to lead a successful team, start or join a new company or help a team that doesn’t deliver the expected results—lots of hard work is ahead of you. Being a newly promoted leader is never an easy task, so we’ve analyzed stories of numerous sales managers and gathered the tips that will help you thrive during your first 100 days as sales manager. Even the most challenging role is easier with the right preparation!

 

1. Observe and listen

You won’t thrive if you don’t understand the workplace dynamics first. It’s reasonable to spend the first weeks on observing, taking notes, meeting team members and asking them questions about the company, the way they work, their daily routine, customers they deal with, relations in the team. Don’t talk too much, listen intently, and get to know the surroundings.

The first months as a sales manager are crucial and you will never have a second chance to look with fresh eyes. Click To Tweet

Treat your sales team members the same way you treat prospects, and keep in mind that almost half of all sales reps will take nearly a year to become productive enough to meet company expectations. Don’t be too hard on your team, especially if you’re just getting to know them.

 

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2. Be open-minded and learn

Because you’re experienced, you’re probably tempted to manage your new team with methods and metrics that you know from the companies and organizations that you’ve worked for. Although experience is crucial, you should also stay open-minded. Every company is different, every team is different. Even if the team seems to work in a familiar way, the customers they deal with may be completely different than those you know. Keep that in mind and restrain from enforcing your way of working during the first 100 days. Use every opportunity to learn—about the product itself,  the sales cycle, the corporate culture, and don’t hesitate to take part in every training for employees.

3. Treat your team like top-notch professionals

Many sales managers think their teams should follow the scripts and guidelines. Sales representatives are not encouraged to experiment and think outside the box. Of course, some rules and standards are inevitable—they simply work. But employees who do only that will never thrive. A leader would teach them how to become business professionals who function like entrepreneurs—hungry for results, creative, with growth entrepreneurial mindset.

As a matter of fact, 60% of sales representatives say they’re more likely to leave their job if their manager is a poor leader and coach.

Simply encourage your team to go further than recreating simple scripts all day long—they’ll not only thank you later, but the results will speak for themselves.

4. Set yourself as an example

Your team will always be watching you and you should lead by example. Don’t expect an extraordinary quality of work when you do your tasks negligently. And never ask anyone to do the task you have no clue about, at least assuming you don’t work with people with rare and level-master skills.

5. A sales manager and a salesperson: two totally different roles

People are often promoted when they do their jobs extraordinarily well. The problem is that management requires a completely different skillset. If you approach your new role and tasks the same way you did before, it’s not going to work. It will no longer be possible to be involved in every deal and to keep others at bay. A successful sales manager has to be a leader who mentors team members and holds them accountable. You should make the stars in your team rather than be the star, which also means that managers should never do the tasks for their team members. The sooner you understand it the better.

6. You’ll be assessed based on the results, not the amount of work

This is also a significant difference between a salesperson and a manager. Depending on the job, employees are judged based on what and how much they do: how many calls, how many deals, how much time spent in the office. Managers, on the other hand, are judged based solely on the results. No one would take into account the number of meetings organized or emails sent—what matters is the final performance. Such responsibility is a challenge for many new managers, but it also gives them the freedom to choose the way they want to achieve the results. Speaking of: during your first 100 days, you might consider investing in powerful sales tools to boost your team’s productivity.

Top-performing companies are twice as likely to have automated their sales processes, while 69% of salespeople admit that a CRM system is the most valuable tool to increase their effectiveness.

Not to mention that the average return on investment for CRM is $8.71 for every dollar spent. If you’re trying to figure out how to increase your team’s performance at this point, you should definitely take these numbers into account.

 

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7. Determine what needs to be done

In order to get the results you want, you need to be clear about what needs to be done and how. Observing and learning is the first step, then it’s time to take the initiative and start preparing a thorough plan. Although it’s always reasonable or even crucial to be data-driven, especially during the first 100 days you should study all the available numbers carefully. Check the sales pipeline and determine bottlenecks. Analyze the sales processes and find a way (or ways) to improve them. After meeting and discussing with team members, take notes about their daily routine, energy, motivation. Doing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is also advisable. It will help you identify both internal and external opportunities and challenges. All these insights will make it easier for you to decide on the next steps, including a potential investment in tools which are going to be used by your team. Once you’re at it, you might want to give Livespace a try—it’s a powerful sales CRM that happens to improve the quality of data collected, facilitate teamwork, and boost sales results.

Conscious management of sales on the B2B market – what to pay attention to when building a sales department
Conscious management of sales on the B2B market – what to pay attention to when building a sales department

8. Overcome obstacles

Once you get to know your sales team and analyze the numbers, you’ll likely find obstacles and bottlenecks. No business is completely free of them—as a matter of fact, lost productivity and poorly managed leads cost companies at least $1 trillion every year. Still, it’s a manager’s task to notice those issues and to have a plan for how to overcome them.

Some managers tend to think that if a team is not performing, it’s time to change it and hire new people. It’s usually a mistake. Click To Tweet

If you’ll find yourself in this situation, take a step back and get involved in your team. Lead by example, don’t hesitate to get your hands dirty.  If you see the opportunity to improve something with quick fixes, do it, but don’t spend too much time on that—you need a long-term strategy.

9. Master communication

Excellent communication skills are a must-have of every sales manager skillset. We’ve already mentioned how you should approach your new sales team members, but you also need to communicate efficiently with the leadership team. You should always keep them in a loop—they obviously need to be informed about what’s going on in the organization, what are the short-term and long-term goals and what’s the progress. Also for your own good, as they’ll judge you based on the results.

10. Say thank you

Finally, don’t neglect simple words like ‘thank you’. Be grateful to the people you work with, because you all cooperate together to achieve the goals.

Being a sales manager means having a lot of responsibilities. You don’t only have the chance to help prospects and customers but, more importantly, to make a difference for your sales team. And it’s all connected: in fact, companies that provide quality coaching to their sales teams can reach 7% greater annual revenue growth.

That’s precisely why being a good leader matters, and you should be able to prove that during your first 100 days as a new sales manager. Follow our ultimate to-do list and make sure you’re well prepared for the task at hand.