First, congratulations, your first job as a sales manager is a huge step forward in your career. Now, don’t screw it up—you’ll get a lot of managers who will immediately congratulate you, shake your hand, smile then say, “What have you done for me lately?”
Before I go on, let’s backtrack a little bit.
How did you get here? Probably one of a couple of things happened. You are working for the same company and have gotten a big promotion, moving from an individual contributor role to the first line sales manager role.
Alternatively, you competed for a sales manager job in another company and were hired.
In either case, you probably got the role for a number of reasons:
- You were a top performer as an individual contributor. You consistently met your numbers and did a great job.
- Your peers and your management may have considered you a role model.
- You may have had a developmental assignment, since you were a top performer, to mentor or coach new sales people.
- You were the best candidate of several that may have been interviewed.
- Someone may have died, been promoted, or left the company and you were the most “painless candidate to select.”
Don’t get me or my humor wrong, however you got the role, congratulations are in order, you got it because you earned it and deserve it.
What you did in your previous job has little to do with your new job as first line sales manager!
However great a sales person you may have been, being a sales manager has little to do with being a great sales person.
The BIG change with becoming a first line manager is that now your job is to get things done through your people.
In the past, your success was based on your ability to get things done yourself. Whether it was your adeptness in developing and executing winning deal strategies, getting partners and others in your organization to help you, your success was primarily based on what you did and how you performed.
Now, as sales manager, your success will be based on your ability to get each person on your team to perform to their fullest potential. If you can’t get each of them to be successful, then there is no way that you can be successful.
However great you were in making sales calls, closing, and negotiating deals is relatively meaningless. Your own personal ability doesn’t count, it’s your ability to get each member of the team doing the right things with the right people at the right time.
Don’t get me wrong, you have great experience in doing all these things yourself, and that experience will serve you well. It will provide a strong foundation to teach, coach, and develop your people.
So you know all the what, how, why—the trick is how to you get your people to know the what, how, why and to execute it as well or better than you did.
How do you help them see the things that maximize their performance and results they produce?
How do you get them to execute consistently, at a cadence that supports the attainment of the overall team goals?
Some things you need to know are true, whether you like it or not.
- You can’t tell them what to do. Think back to when you were a sales person not so many days ago. How did you react to someone telling you what to do?
- You can’t do it for them—there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Let’s do some quick math. Say you produced $1M a year, consistently (Yeah, I know you did much more, but humor me.) You know that took you full time to do that—you probably worked evenings and a little on the weekends, as well. So now you have 10 people, each with $1M to achieve. If you try to do it yourself—they may be glad to let you do it—the math works against you. It’s simply impossible as long as you are managing any more than one person.
- You can’t do nothing, sit behind a desk, producing reports and trusting they will produce the numbers. What happens when they don’t? Or sitting in endless internal, “important,” meetings.
- You can’t sweep in like, “Super Sales Manager,” closing the deals yourself. Go back to 1—re-read that.
- Improvement will always take longer than you or your manager want it to take.
There are some things that will frustrate you:
- Lots of the time, you know you can do it better, faster yourself. You may be right, but that doesn’t help them improve and perform, and then you end up doing it for them.
- Sometimes, they just seem too slow, they don’t have the urgency you do. It’s your job to figure out how to light a fire.
- Sometimes your temperamental 4 year old at home will seem to have more sense and maturity than people on your team.
- Sometimes, you will have the wrong people. They simply won’t be able to get it done, regardless how well you teach, coach, and develop them.
- You will always be caught between a rock and a hard place. You have your management with high expectations of your performance—and you are dependent on your team to get it done.
- Things never go as fast as you will want and are always more difficult than you anticipated.
- You are no longer the “hero,” it’s your people–suck it up, that’s as it should be.
- You will never have enough time to do the things you should be doing or that you want to do. You will always be time poor, but you have to figure out how to make the time for things that are important—and those things are always working with your people, coaching and developing them.
Suck it up, that’s what management is all about.
But that’s part of the joy of being a manager—figuring it out!
- Figuring out who each person is on your team, what they are good and bad at, what their capabilities are, what their aspirations are, and what makes each of them tick.
- Figuring out the highest leverage area of performance improvement, focusing your coaching on that.
- Figuring out how to inspire and light a fire under each—getting each to perform to their full potentials.
- Figuring out how to get the support your people need, and how to protect them from the internal corporate distractions.
- Figuring out the right systems, tools, processes, programs, training to provide to help your people be successful.
- Figuring out how to get them what they need to be successful—and what to do when you can’t.
- Figuring out how to manage your manager, getting the out of your way so you can do what you need to do, but getting their support through the process.
It’s like working a puzzle, without knowing the picture, and being certain a couple of pieces may be missing.
But for now:
- Be proud that you are a first line sales manager. It’s probably the toughest sales job in the world, but it’s through you that things happen.
- Know that your job is different. The one lesson to take from this article is: “Your job is to get things done through your people!” (Write this down and keep it on your desk, read it 3 times a day.)
- And right now, don’t rush to change anything. Get to know your people, what they face, how things work. I’ll talk more about your first 30-60-90 days in the job in the next few articles.
But being a manager, seeing your people succeed, helping them develop to achieve their full potential brings such great joy. For those who see management as part of their career, I can’t imagine something which brings such joy–when properly done.