Land Your First Sales Manager Role? Here’s What I’ve Learned

Congrats! Your efforts to prove that you have the ability to close with the best of them have been recognized, and you are now the proud manager of your very own sales team!

You have taken great care to ensure that your team has a well-established sales process in place. You’ve dutifully evaluated and chosen just the right tools to support them. And now you’re ready to start crushing that quota!

However, it takes you about 5 seconds to realize that managing a sales team is MUCH different than selling yourself. So where do you begin? Having been through this journey myself just a few years ago, I’d like to offer my fellow sales managers a few tips that I learned along the way.

Filter out the noise and set your priorities.

There are some really great articles about can’t-miss metrics, like this one. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring and maximizing sales – and that’s because every team has a unique set of goals and priorities. You can waste months digging into all kinds of unnecessary metrics or focusing on the wrong things if your priorities and desired outcomes are not 100% clear.

To avoid this timesink and guide your team down the path toward meaningful processes and behaviors, ask yourself the following questions before embarking on a quest to change your team’s day-to-day activities:

1. Does changing this process or behavior have the potential to make an impact?

For example, lead scoring can be very effective, but it’s only useful if you must prioritize outreach. If you have bandwidth to touch all of your leads in a timely manner, then there is no benefit to scoring them, and your time would be better spent on other initiatives.

2. Do I own this process or behavior?

Only focus on things that you have total control over. Many metrics bleed into marketing or support, so invest your time in things that fall entirely in your domain and that you and your team can actually own.

3. How hard is this to change?
4. How long will this take?

The trick is to first focus on the low hanging fruit that will have the most impact on your number. Answering these two questions honestly will help you decide what to start working on today.

5. Can I measure the change?

As renowned physicist Lord Kelvin once said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” You can completely revamp your entire sales process, pipeline and methodology, but if there is no way to prove that these changes made a positive difference, then you’re just right back where you started. To learn about one of the key metrics that we rely on to help us consistently measure process and behavior changes at Base, check out this eBook.

6. Does this align with the company vision?

Before pursuing any process or behavior changes, take a step back and run it through your company values and mission. If you don’t have company values, stop reading now and go find your CEO.

Hint: There is a huge difference between processes and behaviors. There may be a quick fix if a process is broken, but typically behavior is much more difficult to change and is where you should place the majority of your focus.

Maximize your time coaching.

If you did the first exercise properly, the odds are you are going to want to change some behavior through coaching. The best leaders find out how to deliver meaningful coaching at the right times and ensure that it sticks.

Let’s say you want to increase your average deal size by selling more add-ons. You will probably put together a product training so everyone is aware of the value props of each add-on and knows when and how to pitch them. You many even put an incentive on it. Is that going to drive long-term behavior change?

Great managers will identify and change how reps think and act by coaching in real-world settings. They sit in on discovery calls to make sure reps are uncovering pain and gain appropriately. They will shadow demos to make sure the features are being aligned to customer value. Great managers will listen to negotiations and make sure reps are not leaving money on the table. Sounds like a lot of work, huh?

My advice for coaching is to put in place a structure that allows you to target high-value or high-risk moments particular to the behavior you are interested in coaching around. Here are some great places to start. Note that the ability to record all phone calls and email interactions will be a HUGE help.

1. The first five and last five-minutes of introductory calls
2. The middle thirty-minutes of discovery calls
3. Deals in stage two or three of the pipeline that go to lost or, even worse, unqualified
4. One of my favorites is negative sentiment analysis on emails. I get an alert any time we get bad news and I can coach in real time
5. Use a sales methodology and hold reps accountable to doing a deal strategy on qualified opportunities (MEDDIC, Sandler, Challenger, etc.)

Never lose sight of the customer.

How many times have you dealt with a company or salesperson who made your life more difficult because they had to follow a specific process? All the time! When behavior and process get too far removed from customer focus, it causes major issues. As you select processes and behaviors to change and coach around, be sure to ask yourself:

1. Will this have a noticeable outward effect?
2. Does it help or hurt (are prospects going to like it)?
3. How will we communicate this change?

This can be a difficult situation. Often an ultimately beneficial change may help some customers and hurt others. This is where it is critical to ensure the change fits well with the company values, and to be sure that this change is communicated very clearly both internally and externally.

For example, imagine if your company has decided to create and enforce a minimum seat count for your product. Your reps can handle this situation one of two ways:

Never Stop Learning

While being a first-time sales manager is full of trial and error, the truth is that you never stop learning – and you shouldn’t want to! Each time you discover a new high-impact process to improve, coach a rep through the biggest deal of his career or build a new customer relationship, you will continue to grow.

Sales managers, what are some of the biggest learnings that you’ve uncovered in your career thus far? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. Good luck on your journey!

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