Sales management success requires a different skill set than success as a salesperson. As a salesperson, you can focus your efforts primarily on turning prospects into customers. But when you find yourself rewarded with a promotion to Sales Manager, suddenly you have a whole new set of challenges – including a big one: managing and leading sales team members who were once your peers! Naturally, the interpersonal dynamic changes between you and your co-workers, but there are ways to ease the transition and move successfully from one role to the other. Let’s look at some best practices for sales management success for the new manager:
What Got You Here…
Executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith has written that “what got you here won’t get you there.” In other words, the skills it took to get you where you are won’t necessarily take you where you want to be. And if you want to succeed as a Sales Manager and leader, it will take both a new set of skills and a strategic approach.
While it is not uncommon for top performing salespeople to be promoted to Sales Manager, this is not always the best move for the organization. In my article, Why Promoting Your Top Sales Performer to Sales Manager Could Backfire, I note that “the sole reason to place someone in the position of Sales Manager is because…they have the potential to succeed in that role.” Turning that potential into sales management success requires a new kind of drive based on a big-picture perspective, the ability to learn new skills, discipline to avoid straying back to the front line, and yes, leadership.
Knowing these new requirements, then, what are some specific short-term strategies and methods to help you ease your transition from salesperson to Sales Manager?
1. Acknowledge the Elephant in the Room
There’s good news, more good news, and some bad news. First, your company promoted from within! Good for them. That should send a positive message to the entire organization. Second, they promoted YOU! Good for you. That should give you a warm feeling of confidence, even if it is accompanied by occasional panic! The bad news, of course, is that other team members did NOT get the promotion. That means there could be hurt feelings. Any way you look at it, the interpersonal dynamic between you and your former peers will change – in fact, it changed the moment your promotion was announced. So, there’s no use denying it or trying to preserve the dynamic that existed before. Instead, acknowledge that this just got weird. Address the awkwardness. Get it out in the open. That alone will make the path ahead a little clearer.
2. Get Face-to-Face
Don’t just address the awkwardness with the group. Get face-to-face, individually, with your sales team members, to discuss any concerns they have with the new pecking order. Getting these concerns out in the open ensures there will be fewer land mines ahead. While you are at it, make it a practice to have regular face-to-face time with your sales team members. They will feel listened to, even if you can’t eliminate all their concerns or implement all their ideas.
3. Be Open About Your Vision, but Ask for Help Making It Real
Naturally, these one-on-one conversations can be a great time to ask for help, ideas, and support. While it’s true that, as Sales Manager, you are expected to have a personal vision for the future, you will need your team members to help make it a reality. At some level, you will need their “buy in”. And because you, too, were very recently on the front lines of sales, you probably share with your team members a realistic perspective for the true challenges and opportunities at hand.
4. Be Firm, but Fair
Taking on a new role as Sales Manager often brings two tempting management styles: being extra hard-nosed, or trying to be everyone’s friend. Being extra tough in the beginning is usually meant to send an assertive signal that you are, indeed, the boss – the proverbial “new sheriff in town”. Being buddy-buddy, on the other hand, is an optimistic approach that tries to preserve the former peer dynamic, while hoping the org chart speaks for itself. Frankly, neither approach works. Instead, strike a balance. Be firm and resolute when making sure your vision and strategies are understood and implemented, but don’t be a bully. Be fair and even-handed to earn respect. Neither, however, should you try to maintain relationships as they existed before. The elephant will stay in the room until the new dynamic takes hold.
5. Build Trust to Defeat Doubt and Sweeten Sour Grapes
By being fair, even-handed and willing to listen, you can build trust on a new level. And by consistently personifying these traits over time, any initial disappointment or resentment by team members passed over for the promotion will probably fade. If sour grapes continue, that’s a problem to be addressed individually. No one said this would be easy!
6. Catch People Being Awesome
Building trust and restoring positive relationships is always made easier when you recognize effort, commitment and results. Don’t just “catch people doing something right,” catch them being awesome, catch them being productive, catch them being successful! Above all, praise publicly, and chastise privately. Build up more than you tear down. Do these things and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you earn trust, support, and dedicated effort from the entire team.
7. Seek Leadership Training
Again, what got you here won’t get you there. Being a leading salesperson doesn’t necessarily arm you with the skills you need to lead a sales team. So, seek reputable leadership training opportunities. Read books on the subject, watch online videos, listen to audiobooks. Ask successful leaders about their favorite resources. Better yet, ask one or more of these leaders to mentor you. They’ll be honored, and you’ll become better at your new job.
The Bottom Line:
Sales management success, especially for the newly promoted sales professional, is challenging, but also rewarding. The biggest challenge may be making the transition from salesperson to Sales Manager now tasked with leading former peers. The interpersonal dynamic will indeed change as you take charge, but the new dynamic can certainly be successfully managed. To learn more about sales management strategies and practices that work for virtually any new Sales Manager, connect with a licensed Sales Xceleration Advisor in your area, or contact us today at 1.844.874.7253.