Successfully Transitioning From Sales Rep to Sales Manager

We see it over and over: Top-performing sales reps are rewarded for their efforts by being promoted to sales manager. What better way for a company to retain exceptional talent? Sounds good … or maybe not. That successful sales rep who just got a bump in pay and responsibility may not possess the necessary leadership or managerial qualities that make an exceptional sales manager. Not yet, anyway.

Slow Down, Superstar!
Let’s say that exceptional sales rep who just got a promotion is you. Very cool! You’re going to be a manager! Your added responsibilities soon will include things like:

  • Managing an entire team—and managing yourself
  • Team building
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Conducting sales meetings
  • Commission reviews
  • Goal setting
  • Interfacing with upper management
  • And much, much more…

But don’t cut yourself a big slice of the office sheet cake just yet. No matter how far off the awesome charts you are, if you jumpstart your new role with a know-it-all attitude, odds are you’ll be driving down a rough road at reckless speeds.

Yes, you were a very talented sales rep, but you’re entering new territory now—and will need to learn some key things so that the transition from individual contributor to sales manager goes as smoothly as possible.

To be a success in your new role, follow these practical tips:

Observe and Absorb
Remember “stop, look, and listen” from around first grade? It was good advice to get as a child. We hope you’ll put it to use in all walks of life, particularly as you’re moving up the corporate ladder hoisting big boxes of responsibility under your arms. As the Greek philosopher Diogenes said (and, by the way, don’t ask us how to pronounce that): “We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.”

Take it from Diowhatsits: On your first few days and weeks in your new job, keep your ears open and your cake hole closed. By observing and absorbing, you’ll get acquainted with your future role and see people and situations in a new light, with a fresh perspective. Temporarily being on the outside looking in will also create a sense of separation, a necessary step toward allowing coworkers the room to feel comfortable with and used to you inhabiting your new role. Remember, it’s a change for them too.

One Sales Style Does Not Fit All
Things may be moving quickly, but just slow down and take the necessary time to come to a full understanding of your new role and the various selling styles of your team members. Your strong suit might be relationship building with prospects, or you might be all about process. However it’s worked for you, good selling is good selling. A common mistake inexperienced sales managers make is to coach their reps on the selling technique that’s always worked for them personally. But proactive sales managers understand that the way to build a great sales team is by playing to particular skillsets; in other words, nurturing reps based on their unique strengths as individual contributors. You never want to force a sales methodology on a rep just because it worked well for you—when you do that, you’re wasting reps’ talents and, worse, promoting failure.

What’s on Your List?
Many of us understand the power of list making. This small task can have huge results. In your new role, start by making a list of the skills and practices that made you an awesome sales rep; then make another list, one that includes the things you’ll need to master to become successful in your managerial position. There are going to be some gaps in your skillset. That’s OK. Arrange for training and sign up for leadership classes that will help you fill the holes in your experience and increase your knowhow.

Get Your Priorities Straight
Being a closer is in your blood. When it came to the art of the deal, as a sales rep, you were painting masterpieces. Now that you’re a sales manager, re-channel that creative energy into the duties of your new role, like:

  • Coaching sales reps
  • Guiding new hires as they train and onboard
  • Assigning accounts to your reps

Congratulations are in order. You’re rising up the ranks. And we’re proud of you. Make yourself proud by getting really great at your new job. And now … you may have your sheet cake.