Your Guide When Transitioning Into a Sales Management Role

You were a top dog sales rep for years, but now you’re transitioning to sales management — are you prepared? Although the process is exciting, the act of putting on this new ‘hat’ is far more complex than many people initially believe.

The truth is, the qualities that make you a great sales rep do not always transition seamlessly into a managerial role. To dive into your new role successfully, here’s what you need to know.

What Is Sales Management?

Put simply, sales management is the process and application of various sales techniques as you manage a company’s sales operations. Sales managers are primarily focused on progressive sales operations, but they also need to oversee sales strategies and sales analysis, all while being a supportive leader.

In a nutshell, you’ll oversee:

  • Sales Planning — This will include: fully understanding the products or services, being able to identify your target market, developing strategies to increase sales, and analyzing the needs of customers.
  • Sales Reporting — This will include: implementing strategies to increase sales, tracking the effectiveness of these strategies, evaluating outcomes, observing and mapping the performance of your sales team, and providing actionable feedback to improve future performance levels.
  • The Sales Process — This will include: determining how to create value for the customer, engaging your team to identify both problems and solutions, setting goals, enhancing lead generation, and creating better sales tools.

Steps to Becoming a Great Sales Manager

You want to take what you’ve learned as a sales rep and apply various tactics to your new role; however, you also need to develop new characteristics. After all, just because you were a successful sales rep does not mean you will excel as a coach.

1. Participate in a leadership course

When moving up the sales ladder, which includes the transition to management, you can take training courses to improve your capacity to both mentor and coach. These courses will help you think about goals outside of sales and targets as you switch your attention to coaching techniques.

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From setting up team meetings to educating your sales force, you need to be able to educate, stimulate and, most importantly, motivate. When you truly fill that leadership role, you will be able to effectively coach sales reps based on your goals and targets. This will not only keep your team engaged, it will also encourage sales growth.

2. Learn new, effective selling strategies

Just because you’re no longer a sales rep doesn’t mean you won’t need to come up with fresh sale tactics. Just like taking leadership courses, staying up-to-date with sales techniques can help you hit your targets. In fact, a study of 213 companies, including 25,800 sales managers, revealed how those companies outperformed their goal by 15 percent when they spent 50 percent of the overall sales training budget on management.

3. Know how to adapt

There’s no doubt that the marketplace is forever changing. As a sales manager, you need to be able to direct your team and provide them with the level of guidance they require to succeed. You should also remember that the buyer and seller will change as technology continues to evolve. In order to continually adapt, you must:

  1. Know your numbers, so you can provide your sales team with constant feedback. Focus on 2-3 core controllable metrics, and then continuously offer these values as key performance indicators. As you analyze the daily numbers, you’ll be able to adapt more efficiently.
  2. Know your team. Track their progress so you know which team members are the top, middle and bottom performers. This will allow you to become more in-tune with each member’s varied skill set, level of motivation and potential. In fact, it’s recommended that you spend more time with the middle performers because they typically make up 60 percent of your sales force. If you are able to drive a 6 percent boost in performance from this group, you will yield more revenue than the same performance shift among your top sellers.

4. Lead, but listen

As a sales manager, you need to move away from ‘me’ to ‘us’ — which means you need to apply the 80-20 rule in terms of listening to speaking. Although you will need to fill an authoritative role as a manager, you want your team to be able to approach you. You’ll gain access to greater feedback when your team feels like they can approach you — especially in terms of what customers say.

When you listen, you show your team that you care about their opinions. This can actually motivate them to work harder, since they begin to feel less like a tool or resource and more like a valued asset. In addition, you should listen and observe your reps so you can provide them with valuable feedback during 1:1 meetings.

As you learn to become a more effective leader, you’ll become more mindful of your surroundings. This means that you’ll pick up on both verbal and non-verbal communication, such as body language and facial expressions. Staying in-tune with these forms of communication will ensure that you do not become disconnected. As you transition into your new role, remember that although you will be managing your team, you need to work together. After all, Henry Ford said it best, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

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