Congratulations—you’re a sales manager! To succeed in your new role, you’ll have to draw on a different set of skills than when you were an individual contributor. As a salesperson, one of your main goals was to crush your sales numbers. Now that you’re in a sales management position, it’s your responsibility to lead your entire team to success.
To manage your team well, here are seven key skills you need:
1. Clearly communicate expectations to your team members.
It’s not enough to just give your team members a quota and expect that they’ll know what to do from there. You’ll need to provide active instruction in terms of what they need to achieve to get to their number.
Communicating expectations isn’t just about nuts-and-bolts process issues. You also need to communicate what you expect from your team members in terms of work ethic, attitude, and ownership. Be conscientious about the messages you’re sending through your own behavior.
2. Provide tactical advice to your team instead of simply giving commands.
While it’s critical to make yourself available to the rest of the team, there is a strong possibility that you will be put in the position of constantly having to put out fires. To some extent this is fine—it’s part of the job, after all.
However, the most effective managers are able to train team members on how to problem-solve for themselves. To do this, you need to get into the habit of resisting the urge to tell people exactly what to do. Instead, be collaborative. Help your team members to figure out the best course of action in consultation with you rather than awaiting your instructions from on high.
Some situations may require a quick answer from you—but they’re less frequent than you think.
3. Learn how to deliver actionable and constructive feedback.
Sales professionals rely on feedback to grow in their roles. As a manager, you’ll need to give feedback early and often. Waiting to give feedback until evaluation periods is usually too late.
You’ll also need to learn how to deliver feedback effectively. Positive feedback is essential for helping your reps feel appreciated and motivated. Providing critical feedback is trickier, but no less essential. To deliver critical feedback well, honesty is key.
Avoiding the issue does nothing to help your sales representatives.
The best feedback is actionable. Learn how to leverage critical feedback into opportunities for learning. Good managers don’t stop at saying, “here’s what you did wrong.” They must guide the representative towards learning better practices. Oftentimes, this can be done effectively by asking questions. Prompt your sales representatives with questions such as, “What do you think you could have done differently in this situation?” If you can help your team members identify concrete steps they can take to improve, they are more likely to internalize the feedback. You can make suggestions and go through a collaborative process to lay out steps for improvement together.
4. Make yourself available to team members.
As an individual contributor, asserting ownership over your time was an asset. Now, your time doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your team. You need to show your team that you’re available to them by asserting your presence in the office. While you’re working, you need to constantly ask yourself how what you’re doing is helping your entire team to perform better. Generally, the bulk of your activities should fall within three broad areas of responsibility: coaching your team members, improving processes to help your team members, and recruiting new members for the team.
With so many different responsibilities, managing your time efficiently is more important than ever. If this is something you’ve struggled with in the past, experiment with productivity and scheduling tools to help guide you. Remember—you’re also modeling effective time management and organization techniques to the rest of your team.
5. Respect that salespeople have different methods.
You’ve succeeded as a salesperson so it’s tempting to think that your team members should replicate your methods. However, trying to force the rest of your team into your mold is a major mistake.
Accept that there are different ways to be a successful seller. Your job isn’t to turn the rest of your team into you, but to figure out how they can best succeed. Something that motivates you may be unhelpful (or worse) for a team member.
6. Help team members with their continuous learning.
It’s your responsibility to inspire team members to improve themselves consistently through learning. Inspire them to do so by devoting yourself to continued learning. Bring it up in conversations: “I just learned something interesting about…”
Using your knowledge of team members’ motivations, encourage them to engage in their own learning activities. Guide them towards the right resources and offer praise to those who show a commitment to continued learning.
7. Get to know everyone in your team
Effective sales management isn’t one-size-fits-all. Take time to get to know all of your team members as individuals. Where do they excel and what skills they need to improve? What’s the best way to motivate them?
Even if you already know your team members from your prior work, understanding what makes them tick from a manager’s perspective is different. You want to be able to tailor your management style to each member’s needs to some extent.
You can learn more about your team members by having conversations with them individually, shadowing their calls, and spending time with them to establish your relationship (for example, traveling with them to client sites or getting meals together that serve as meetings and getting-to-know-you sessions). The more you demonstrate your desire to understand them better, the more you’ll be able to effectively work with each team member.
Sales management is a complicated job that requires you to develop a deep understanding of different people. If you can successfully develop these skills, you will be able to guide your team to sales success.