5 Tips to Become a Successful Sales Manager
At some point in their career, most sales reps want to move into management. Why? Perhaps because they want to emulate one of their mentors that helped shape their career. Maybe they feel like they've grown to the point where they can transfer their learnings and skills onto others. Or maybe they just want to get out of an individual contributor role.
From having been in sales and leadership for 7+ years, and having managed 30+ inside sales managers (many of them first-time managers), I can confidently say that I've been able to identify what separates good from great, what disciplines are necessary to develop prior to taking on a managerial role, and how to best prepare yourself for the journey of leadership.
1. Everyone wants the role, not everyone wants to do the role.
I was given this advice when I first told my manager that I wanted to get into leadership, and at the time, I didn't really appreciate it. When most people think about what a sales manager does, they think of the glorified aspects: creating contests, celebrating, cultivating a successful environment, helping people develop, etc. What most people don't think about (or even know about), is the tougher, less attractive requirements: firing people, reporting, HR woes, onboarding new reps, turnover, increased quotas, constant changes, etc.
Before you really determine if you want to pursue the path of management, figure out exactly what it entails. My recommendation would be to meet with current sales managers and ask them what they don't love about the day-to-day, which are typically things that happen behind the scenes.
2. Do the job before you have the job.
Now that you've heard from others in the role that sales management is truly a grind, and you've decided that you still want to pursue it, it's time to begin your path. You should always work with your direct manager to see what elements of their day-to-day you can learn, and over time, take off their plate. When you get promoted, you're going to be expected to perform right out of the gate. Creating and delivering trainings, understanding how to run an effective 1:1 meeting, working with newer reps to help them onboard, and focusing on larger, more strategic deals are just a few things that you can do (all of which a manager needs to be great at) before your title changes. Sit with your manager, devise a plan, track your growth, and you'll be in the driver's seat.
3. Preparation and opportunity; you only control one.
You want the role, and you're beginning to take ownership of some of the responsibilities. You feel ready, perhaps a bit impatient, and you're desperate for your chance to lead. You're asking to do more, and begging your manager to keep you abreast of openings. However, there are none. A classic mistake I see from reps trying to position themselves to become a manager is impatience. They feel that they're owed a role, and they become frustrated. Avoid that! You control preparation: you can read leadership books, shadow other managers, and continue to develop in the necessary areas. Opportunity however, you don't control. It must present itself. You never know when a new role may open, or when an existing manager may leave. Your job is to do all you can to be top of mind when that opportunity is available. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by laying off the gas in frustration, or showing signs of immaturity during the waiting period. Stay confident, continue to develop, and your time will eventually come. Patience is key, as that's an attribute you'll need while in the leadership role.
4. Go above and beyond.
During the waiting period, you need to outperform your peers. You need to establish credibility with those around you so you'll be trusted when you move into the management position. Always lead in activity, and do your best to consistently remain atop the leaderboard. Speaking up in trainings, assisting with new reps, and establishing a reputation as a top performer will help put you on a platform needed for immediate success in the new role.
5. Be careful what you wish for.
And...now you're a manager. Your life changes overnight. You can't socialize with your former team, you're no longer accountable for just yourself, and you're pressed with questions and issues you never thought you would be. It's okay! The best teacher is experience, and so long as you are keeping note of your progress, learning opportunities, and questions, you'll be just fine. Continue to learn and get better every day. Leading people isn't easy. It requires the highest EQ of any role. It's a marathon, not a sprint.