7 Sales Leadership Rules for New Sales Managers
Lead, follow, or get out of the way, is a saying attributed to General George Patton. If you are in sales, you likely see yourself as a leader. If you are a sales manager, you must be a leader. It’s your job to get the most out of your team. But if sales management is a new role for you, it can feel like you are swimming upstream. In this article, we will provide seven practical rules for new sales managers so they can lead their sales team to high performance.
First Rule of Sales Leadership: Know Your Purpose
The first step in becoming the sales leader you want to become is to know your purpose. What is that purpose of a new sales manager? To help everyone on your sales team succeed. If you have ever worked for a bad sales manager, you know the characteristics because you had to live through them–scrutinizing, critical, and only pointing out your mistakes. These are not leadership skills; these behaviors will only ostracize your sales team. Your job is to put your sales team first. The best sales managers know that when the team looks good, they look good. When you have a genuine interest in ensuring your sales team does well, you’ve taken the first necessary step into sales leadership.
Second Rule of Sales Leadership: Set the Example
The second step in becoming a sales leader is to set an example. You must be willing and able to do everything you ask your sales team to do. By showing your sales reps first, you are setting an example. Showing up to work on time is not setting an example. If you feel like picking up the phone and making prospecting calls is below your pay grade, how will your sales reps be able to model the right behaviors? Sales managers set an example by showing their willingness to share in the difficult tasks the sales reps are asked to perform. You cannot set an example if you are always behind your desk. Sales leaders are judged by their actions, not their words. Leadership requires actions, this means you must demonstrate to your sales reps how to connect with prospects, handle objections, and even save accounts that are slipping away. If a sales manager fails to model the right behaviors, expecting different behaviors from the sales team is infeasible.
Third Rule of Sales Leadership: Seek to Improve Yourself
To improve yourself you must first know yourself. All sales managers have unique strengths and weaknesses. Just because you have a new title does not cure your old deficiencies. Take an inventory of yourself and work to improve your weaknesses and utilize your strengths. Think you have no areas to work on? A simple and practical way to identify your areas of improvement is to ask others for their honest feedback. Before you can go about improving your team, you should take time to assess yourself, which in the end, will help you do the same with your subordinates. For sales leaders, there is no room for excuses. It’s time to break the bad habits that are no longer serving your goals and take charge of yourself. Sales managers must look into the mirror of accountability daily to ensure they are making progress, not excuses.
Fourth Rule of Sales Leadership: Don’t Play Favorites
This is a sales leadership rule that you must follow at all costs. If you were promoted internally and your best friend is now a direct report, you need to treat all sales reps equally. In your new role you must give equal opportunity to everyone on your sales team. There are no favorites, regardless of past relationships. Giving time and attention signals to your sales team that everyone is important.
Fifth Rule of Sales Leadership: Keep Your Team Informed
Your sales team is not under a top-secret classification. They are not on a need-to-know basis. As a sales leader, you have access to more information than your sales team. It’s your responsibility to keep your team informed. When sales teams are not updated on the company’s top priorities, for example, low priority work becomes the standard. Very often a company launches a new product or feature, and adoption is less than desired. Upon review, the sales team was not updated, trained or given incentives to best position the new product/feature. In modern selling, the only constant is change, so the sooner you inform the sales team, the more cohesive the team will be.
Sixth Rule of Sales Leadership: Be Committed to Change
Most sales managers are promoted to that position because they were the top-performing sales rep of the organization. It’s a false premise to believe that everyone can be a sales leader. Top sales leaders are aware their role is to bring about change. Indifferent sales managers take an “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it approach.” This attitude creates a lack of urgency which perpetuates mediocracy. Change is uncomfortable and complacency is comfortable. There are sales managers who have been in their role for years and think they have everything figured out. Therefore, there is little to no need for change. “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up,” is a quote by James Belasco and Ralph Stayer that a new sales manager would benefit from to have memorize.
Seventh Rule of Sales Leadership: Learn to Delegate
A common trap new sales managers fall into is taking over all tasks instead of delegating. There is a difference between managing your sales team and doing their job for them. But superstar salespeople who get promoted to sales manager find themselves closing the deal themselves rather than dealing with the frustration of losing the deal. This does more harm than good. By delegating in this case, you allow reps to make mistakes and learn. If you don’t give them this chance, you will continually be chasing new deals to close for your sales reps and not investing your time making your sales team better. Delegation is one of the hardest skills for new sales managers to learn, but it’s a skill that will build trust and increase performance.
Sales managers have one of the most critical roles within every organization. Every organization is a reflection of its leadership and the sales department is a reflection of its sales leaders. For new sales managers who are promoted to the position, these seven tips will be a great starting point to get on the road to developing your sales leadership skills. General Colin Powel shared these wise words on leadership, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” Keep these rules in mind and your sales team will know you care and feel comfortable bringing you their problems.
If you are a new sales manager or recently promoted a sales rep to sales manager and are looking for resources to up-skill your current skill set, visit the sales management section of our blog where you can find more free sales management resources.
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