Promoted to sales management? Read this first

Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to sales management.

You hold a vital role within your organization, so it’s imperative that you take your new responsibilities very seriously. As Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana say in “Cracking the Sales Management Code,” frontline sales management is the most powerful point of leverage in any sales organization.

Your first couple of weeks in a sales management role can be a little rough, especially when transitioning from an individual contributor role. That’s why we reached out to Israel Stacy, a SVP and zone manager at Combined Insurance. Here are some great lessons he shared from his years in sales management.

4 vital sales management lessons for new leaders

Sales management lesson #1: It’s no longer just about you.

The transition from individual contributor to sales management requires a fundamental change in your approach to work. Instead of striving to achieve quota for yourself, you now have to guide and motivate an entire team of individuals to achieve quota. This is the most important lesson Israel has for new sales leaders.

“It’s not about you anymore. It’s about your teammates. When you understand that, you’ll be able to develop the sales team,” he said.  

Part of this understanding is adapting to the multiple personalities of your reps. Many people expect reps to adapt to the characteristics of their manager, but it must be the other way around.  You’ll simply never find enough people who can completely adapt to your work style, so you must make the effort to work with theirs.

Sales management lesson #2: Leadership is a partnership.

As a leader, your main job is to work with your reps to accomplish their individual or team goals. Don’t treat your reps like lowly workers who must follow your every command. Reps are your teammates. They just have a different job than you.

“I create a partnership. It’s not about my number. It’s our number,” Israel said. “With our sales team, I look at the number as a piece, and each person has a slice.”

In addition, you have to set an example for your team. Don’t just tell them how they should perform. Show them. Motivate them to do their best work by always doing your best work. People will follow what you do, not what you say.

Sales management lesson #3: Focus on developing your reps.

Another part of your new role is developing reps’ professional skills. You’ll do this through proactive coaching sessions, training exercises, and weekly one-on-ones.

“Multiply yourself through them,” Israel advised. “You have to take the time to develop them for what it is you’re truly trying to get from their role.”

In addition, make sure you understand your reps personal and professional goals, then find ways to align them with company and team goals. This shows reps that you care about what matters to them and are invested in their future success. Understanding their aspirations is key to effective leadership, because no one wants to work for a sales manager who doesn’t care about them.

Sales management lesson #4: Avoid micromanagement like the plague.

Micromanagement is a productivity killer. Reps who feel like you don’t trust them to perform a job well done won’t be motivated to perform at all. Yes, you should define key selling activities and align your team around them. You should also monitor and course-correct performance.

But you should not try to manage with excessive control or attention to details. Do not needlessly or superfluously scrutinize, control or participate in the work of those you supervise.

“I’m not going to let [reps] fall off the cliff, but I’m not going to micromanage them,” Israel said. “I’ve always believed that if I entrust someone to run a patch of my dirt, I’m going to give them ownership of how to do it.”

Here are six types of micromanagers as defined by The Poynter Institute:

  • The Well-intentioned: Managers who want to demonstrate their care and work ethic, so they “keep a hand in the mix.”
  • The Worriers: Managers who are terrified of failure and think they must control decision-making.
  • The Brainwashed: Managers who worked for micromanagers who trained them to think it’s normal leadership.
  • The Bullied: Managers who are kept on a tight leash by their own managers and are expected to follow suit with their staff.
  • The Correctly Cautious: Managers who have yet to develop a trusting relationship with those they manage. Or, to be more blunt: The staff’s performance needs to improve before the manager can exercise less control.
  • The Control Freaks: Managers who enjoy their power and don’t want to share it with others.

The best way to avoid micromanagement is to maintain an open feedback loop between you and your team. If you trust them to do their work, they will trust you with honest, constructive criticism of your management style.

You’ll receive many more lessons during your first few weeks (and months) in sales management. Find more tactical advice for your role from the sales experts featured in one of our most popular eBooks:

Promoted to sales management? Read this first
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Promoted to sales management? Read this first
Your first couple of weeks in a sales management role can be a little rough. We asked a senior VP of sales for some tactical advice for new leaders.
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