New Sales Manager Essentials

Jan 24, 2019

If you’re a new manager or a salesperson who aspires to management, you know in advance that you’re going to need a certain skill set. Whole books have been written on this subject but let’s look at skills that you can hone every day so that you have a better grip on how to be a world-class sales executive. Just working on them will give you more self-confidence because you’ll know that you’re taking charge of yourself as well as your sales force.

1. “Ride gain” your personality. “Ride gain” is a broadcasting term that pertains to adjusting the input up or down for maximum clarity and minimal distortion.  In this case, the “volume” is your personality. If you’re a laid-back, introspective type, open up and become more involved in conversations.   If you’re a garrulous, life-of-the-party character, ramp it down a couple of notches. Not everyone is comfortable with someone who is always “on,” and when you’re in a leadership position, you need to project a more even approach.

2. Cut the cord. Yes, you’ve been in sales for some time. You’re good at it. You like it. But now you’re managing a sales force, not directly calling on accounts yourself. In the office or on ride-alongs, step back and let your salespeople do the selling. You’re there to provide leadership and support, not to jump in and close the deal yourself.  Moving away from the well-known dynamics of day-to-day selling is a major adjustment for many salespeople when they move up to management. In fact, it’s a deal-breaker for some who just can’t step back from the daily buzz they experienced from calling on customers and tracking down new business.  If you’re truly ready to lead the whole team, get out the mental scissors and snip the ties that bind you to the old selling routine. You’ll get plenty of jolt from leading the whole crew—more, in fact, because when they win, you win, and you’re entitled to give yourself some of the credit.

3. Walk the walk. Sales management is not for the timid. You need to project measured self-confidence, even when you don’t really feel up to it. Your sales force looks to you for leadership, inspiration, and support. You’re not just another salesperson now—you’re the boss. You have to be able to project an air of leadership that reassures the members of your crew that everything is on the right track and that their careers are going to profit if they stay with you. Leadership and self confidence can’t be allowed to go over the top, though. In-your-face management may be fine for military boot camp, but you don’t get to be the playground bully with professional salespeople. No one will follow a belligerent, arrogant hard-ass.

4. Learn to make decisions.  It’s up to you as the leader to sift through the information, rhetoric, politics, and egos that accompany almost any issue and decide what to do. Of course, there are two parts to this. First, you have to make a decision. This is hard enough for some people to do. Second, you have to make the right decision—or at least one of them, since there is often more than one right way to do something. That goes back to asking questions and being persistent until you spade up the truth.

If you aspire to management but aren’t already there, you can get some practice by observing other managers. Look at the decisions, big and small, that they have to make. Ask yourself what you would do in their place. Would your decision work? Could you make it stick? Would people understand it? Or are you trying to pound a square peg into a round hole? That’s a decision, all right, but it isn’t a good one. Practice making decisions on issues that confront someone else, then fully justify your choices to yourself. Come up with at least three solid reasons why each of your practice decisions is right. If you can’t do that, you made the wrong decision.

5. Look in the mirror. Look at the eyes. Is this an honest person? Or can you not even maintain eye contact with yourself for more than a couple of seconds without looking away? A world-class sales executive is an essentially honest person. The leader of a top sales force not only approaches life honestly but projects honesty. People can count on that person.  For some people, personal integrity is the hardest trait to master. Great sales executives have it, use it, foster it, and require it in their daily business relationships.

These five traits will go a long way toward helping you when you don’t know what you’re doing. To paraphrase management guru Peter Drucker, great management skills do not exist in nature. They have to be honed and practiced, then applied in earnest. The fact that you may not know it all doesn’t make you unfit to be a current or future sales manager. In fact, your realization of this shortcoming is what can make you great.

©2010 Doug McLeod.  Adapted with permission of the publisher from The Zero Turnover Sales Force (AMACOM, a division of American Management Association, 2010).