You got the job! You’ve been promoted or hired to manage a team of salespeople. Perhaps this is your first stint as a manager and you want to make the most of it. But, what do you do? Is there a guidebook you were given on how to transition from salesperson to Sales Manager?
Never fear. I’ve assembled 10 tips to help you not only handle your new position, but succeed and make an impact.
1. Everyone is different, manage them accordingly: This is rule number 1. Every salesperson you have—whether it is two or 102, is different and they require different management style and techniques. What works for one won’t work for another—there’s no cookie-cutter to this. It’s your job to get to know your people well enough to see what type of management they need and respond to. Take the time to learn because it’s not always an obvious answer and it’s never easy.
2. Treat everyone equally: But, wait you just told me everyone was different? That’s correct. You must manage them differently, but you have to treat them equally. Don’t play favorites and don’t let your personal opinion of someone play into how you treat them. Be a professional. Treat everyone with respect.
3. Talk to someone NOT about them: This one is huge to me. Too many times you will have people come to you and want to talk about another salesperson or another person within the company. The easiest way to handle this is to stop them in their tracks and say, “Let’s do this, instead of talking about Bob, let’s talk to Bob. I’ll invite him into the conversation.” Many times the story changes or the complaint isn’t that important. As a new manager do not foster and environment of gossip and infighting.
4. Find out what motivates each: We’re back to the individual again. In order to be successful you must find out what motivates each person. For one it may be money while others simply want recognition. And, you’ll always have at least one who is driven simply to be the best. They have to be the top salesperson or close to it. Nothing else matters. (I love these people)
5. Don’t do it or them: While it may be the quickest, easiest way to get things done—the last thing you need to do is to do things for your people. You are there to manage, teach and coach them. Think of it this way: if you went to the gym and hired a personal trainer and showed up every week and he or she lifted the weights or did the treadmill for you, how is that helping you?
6. Teach them to make decisions: This may be one of the biggest challenges you face. You will have a certain amount of salespeople who want you to make all the decisions for them. Even the smallest details. You can’t. Teach them to—and let them make a decision. Even if they’re wrong you can deal with that, but if you have to make every decision for them, do you really need them?
7. Praise publicly, scold privately: I once knew a Sales Manager who walked into one of his first sales meetings and his exact words were, “There’s a new Sheriff in town.” Really? Does it get much more juvenile and unprofessional than that? It’s not about you, it’s about them. You don’t have to have a reputation of being a jerk in order to lead people. At the same time you can’t be a pushover, either. If someone does something wrong you need to handle it privately. NEVER embarrass someone in front of their peers or in front of a customer. At the same time when they do something right, shout it from the rooftop. Using this attitude you’ll develop a team who will want to run through walls for you.
8. Understand they won’t do it YOUR way: I know it may be hard to believe but there is more than your way of doing things. Let your team do things their way. That’s the way they learn and grow (and you will learn and grow as a manager). Accept the fact their path from A-Z may be totally different from yours, but as long as it is not something major against company policy and is simply a matter of style—accept them and move on. Don’t let it eat at you. If they get results with their style, the last thing you need to do is change that.
9. Take less credit and more blame: Remember this to have a long career as a successful manager: when things are great give your team credit. When things aren’t so great, accept more blame than you deserve. If you’ve done everything else correctly, it will almost kill your team to see their leader in that position and they will do everything in their power to change that. I’ve seen it happen many times.
10. Constantly train and coach: You’ve heard (or read) it here many times, “If you’re as good as you’re going to be, life’s as good as it’s going to get.” Never stop improving your team and their skills. Sadly that may mean losing members of your team who aren’t up to the challenge. Those are the hard decisions you get paid to make. Make them for the good of the rest of the team.
There you have my 10. I’d love to hear some tips that have worked well for you.