When I first started as a sales manager, I was excited. I was the boss. I got to be in charge. How hard was it going to be to tell someone what do, right? Now, when I look back on my management style then, as it compares to today, it’s like I’m looking at two totally different people.
So as we look ahead to 2016, here are eight lessons I wish I had known back when I first embarked on my journey in sales management.
1) Remember Your Buddies? They Aren’t Your Buddies Anymore…
There’s a good chance you were a sales rep before you were moved up to manager. It’s a great opportunity, but that means you can’t commiserate with your fellow reps over beers anymore. Yes, you can still hang out, watch the game, and maybe chat over some brews – but no more shop talk. Those days are now over, and should remain so if you expect to be successful.
2) “One Size Fits All” Isn’t a Thing
We were all told that everyone is a unique snowflake when we were growing up. And as hokey as it sounds, it’s still true. So, as a manager, you can’t expect all of your techniques to work the same for everyone you pversee. You’ll need to be open to those subtle differences and adjust your style accordingly.
3) Hard Work Will Go Unnoticed
When you’re a sales manager, you’re going to be feeling the burn of pressure from up-top and down below. Not only will executives be expecting you to hit your numbers, your sales team will be looking to you with their own set of expectations. True “glory” for a sales manager comes from increased revenue that your team will bring in – their success will be your success.
If you can’t handle that, you may not be in the right position.
4) Hiring the Right People Isn’t Easy
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you aren’t Yoda, and your gut feeling isn’t good enough to bring the right people in the door. It’s time to improve your ability to hire good sales reps. So use a sales skills assessment to help qualify and identify the right people. Create a clear hiring process and then stick to it.
5) Also, Having to Fire Someone Sucks
There’s no way around it. Even if you like one of your reps, if they’re not performing, you’ll need to let them go. And that just sucks.
6) Have Their Back
Here’s the thing – if your team knows you’ve got their back, they will want to work for you. If you think the managers above you are asking for something ridiculous or unrealistic, push back. Then only hold your reps accountable for the stuff that really matters.
7) Expect to Longer Hours, Higher Expectations
This is just the reality – you’re going to work longer, and the demands to deliver are going to be greater. Make sure you’ve got a good work-life balance to help you unplug.
8) Welcome to Office Politics
Office politics at any scale is an unfortunate reality for most organizations; you’ll need to shelter your reps from the melodramas that may plague upper management. Yes, there will always be those who seem to enjoy stirring the pot, but keep in mind successful sales reps rarely get fired. The flipside, of course, is that managers who are doing that job aren’t often afforded the same courtesy.
So be ready for battle – or it might be time to move on. Because never – and I really mean never – is it worth it to work in a truly corrosive, toxic environment. Life is too short.