Advancing from a sales representative into a sales manager role requires polishing your skills and presenting your best leadership qualities. When learning how to become a sales manager, there are several important steps to consider. These include:
- Aligning with required credentials
- Being a leader and team player
- Knowing how to prioritize and delegate
- Delivering coaching
- Implementing effective training
- Demonstrating good communication
- Enjoying mentorship and sharing knowledge
- Identifying strengths within a team
- Executing a strategic sales plan
Each of these takes time and experience to master. While some of these are necessary to be a good sales representative, it takes extra steps to go above and beyond as a manager and acquire the skills to lead others. Exploring each of these further can help you better prepare for advancement and reach a higher level of performance.
Align With Required Credentials
The first thing to consider when becoming a sales manager is if you can meet the requirements of the role. Sales job listings for management positions typically ask for specific credentials as a basis for hiring. These involve education, work and sales experience, technical proficiency, and demonstrated leadership. Recruiters and HR leaders want to see an established history of high performance through a combination of these factors.
For example, a person with 10+ years of experience will be viewed as a stronger candidate for a sales manager position than someone who only has one or two years of development under their belt. However, many companies are open to candidates who do not have previous management experience if you display many of the other qualities required for the role and the organization has a strong sales management training program in place.
Each organization will list their must-have credentials versus nice-to-have qualifications. These give you an idea if you’re qualified for the role. This will serve as a starting point in determining which areas you’ll need to build upon and improve. Or, if you find yourself simply trying to advance your role within your current organization, understand the credentials that are important to your company’s leaders. Ask questions and show them how you can meet these expectations to develop your role as a sales manager.
Be a Leader and Team Player
The role of a sales manager is different from the responsibilities of a sales rep. A person in this role must take on the presence of a leader but also know how to be a team player. It takes strategizing and communicating a sales plan and working with the team to execute it. A clear sales strategy with outlined roles and tasks creates progress.
Many of the qualities of a great sales manager are established in their time as a sales representative. These include confidence, decisiveness, and a willingness to improve, among others. Showing consistency in these areas is part of how to become a great sales manager. However, a team is more responsive if they know their sales manager is familiar with the work and challenges involved to reach success.
How confident is your team in your capabilities? Can they trust you to follow through on a plan? How do you motivate them to persevere during tough times? These are some of the questions to ask yourself when striving to be a high-performing sales manager.
Know How to Prioritize and Delegate
Learning how to prioritize tasks and delegate responsibility is important. This frees up time to concentrate on matters of higher priority and bolsters confidence in team members assuming new responsibilities. Consider tasks that a sales admin or someone in marketing could take on.
Learning how to navigate this transition is one of the biggest challenges for someone advancing from a sales rep to a sales manager, as you may be accustomed to conducting many tasks on your own. However, upholding a strong organizational structure relies on each person doing their part of the collective whole. It starts with organizing daily, monthly, and quarterly tasks that work toward achieving overall sales quotas. Then, apply timelines and assign specific team members to each role. This streamlines processes and increases effectiveness among the team.
Becoming a sales manager also requires knowing when and how to deliver effective coaching. When advancing within a company, you may now have members of your team who were previously peers and are now reporting to you. Strong coaching skills are essential in earning respect, building skills and guiding your team to success. Constructively delivering coaching includes highlighting areas for improvement and giving direct feedback that helps sales staff grow their capabilities. This can be achieved through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, observing live or recorded sales calls, and putting peers together. Collaboration and clear expectations are necessary, along with always following up, to help build skills individually and as a team.
A great sales manager is able to identify coaching opportunities and help close those performance gaps without making the team member feel like it is personal or subjective. Using data and gathering information from various sources to make decisions and coach is part of what shapes a high-performing sales team. Also, listening to feedback and leaving room for sales members to share ideas allows for open and honest communication.
Implement Effective Training
As a sales manager, it’s important to implement effective training to a consistent sales methodology so all team members are aligned, regardless of each individual’s experience level. Impactful sales training involves behavior change that improves sales performance long-term. It provides the tools, technology, and structure to build new skills and make them sustainable.
An established sales methodology allows sales managers to coach objectively for all members of the team. Once aligned, consider the specific roles and responsibilities of each of your team members and think about any additional training they may need to succeed in their roles. This may include, but isn’t limited to, account planning/management, prospecting, and improving negotiation skills. Knowing how to develop effective individual messaging and craft development plans tailored to each direct report is part of becoming a good leader.
Demonstrate Good Communication
One of the most important sales manager skills is the ability to communicate well. Good communication involves transparency, openness, and empathy. Sales leaders must work with employees who have varying skill levels, personalities, and expectations. Forming a communication strategy that’s effective for all is challenging. It requires message consistency and clarity. It also involves active listening and applying feedback as necessary.
Choosing the right medium for communication is also important. Since the majority of a salesperson’s role on any level involves outreach to others, poor communication skills is one of the main factors that can inhibit performance. Whether the appropriate communication calls for an email, one-to-one meetings, or group brainstorming, applying the right kind of communication for the setting is as critical to the information shared.
Enjoy Mentorship and Sharing Knowledge
Another factor in becoming a sales manager is the ability to mentor others – and enjoy doing it. Favorable qualities include empathy, flexibility, and openness. To be a good mentor, it’s necessary to be seen as a respected expert in the field with knowledge to share. However, it also takes being an active listener, being responsive in a timely manner, and allowing autonomy for sales reps as they brainstorm solutions.
Mentorship also requires knowing when and how to offer constructive criticism in a nonjudgmental, direct way. Research shows that a large number of sales managers spend up to 60 minutes individually coaching sales reps each week. This shows that mentorship involves guiding a process rather than dictating instruction to inspire growth and success among your team.
Identifying Strengths Within a Team
The best part about building a strong sales team is focusing on each person’s individual strengths and maximizing them to their fullest potential. While there may be common attributes all salespeople should uphold, some people excel in certain areas more than others. Putting the right people in the right roles to improve performance is what drives teams to success.
Underutilizing sales reps or becoming complacent with strategies can be detrimental to team morale and leads to missed opportunities. When learning how to become a successful sales manager, work with as many people as possible to get an idea of where they’re most valuable and consider any role changes you can make in order to maximize individual strengths and capabilities.
Executing an Effective Sales Plan
A sales process is developed by sales leadership. Following this and ensuring your staff is executing it effectively requires consistency. Consistency helps create better performance and longer lasting results. It inspires team members to work together, and it’s easier to coach against.
Also, when a sales team is aligned by a set sales methodology, it’s easier to be objective when recommending improvements for individual sales members. It optimizes efforts by focusing on what’s already working while honing in on the smaller areas that may need adjustments.
Another aspect of sales effectiveness involves the ability to adapt to change when leadership implements changes in a sales plan. When becoming a sales manager, it’s critical to be well-versed in the latest technology and industry changes so that strategies remain as relevant as possible. Additionally, a sales manager should be willing to continue learning and growing in the new role to maintain a positive impact on the team.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Take a step-by-step approach by evaluating these factors and determining your place in each category. Learning how to become a sales manager takes time and dedication. Find areas of improvement and clearly define areas where you’ve succeeded. Taking time to identify these individual strengths and weaknesses will help you develop your individual skills that are crucial in guiding the rest of your team to success.
Actively pursuing opportunities that foster development demonstrates your commitment to becoming a sales manager with the skills and qualities to lead a team. If you’re still struggling to develop your role as a successful sales manager, don’t hesitate to gain further skills from Janek’s sales management training programs. By doing so, you’ll allow yourself to focus on the areas that need work and grow naturally into your leadership role.