Want to know how to become a sales manager?
If you’ve done everything you can at your current role and need the challenge only promotion will bring, you’re in luck. Because in this article, I’m going to give you a step-by-step process for becoming a sales manager.
- What’s the role of a sales manager?
- What are the responsibilities of a sales manager?
- Key statistics
- How to become a sales manager
- Sales Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
📚 Related! Read: 8 Tips to Advance Your Sales Career in Uncertain Times
What’s a sales manager?
Before you know how to be a sales manager, you need to have an understanding of the role of a sales manager.
A sales manager is a sales team leader responsible for guiding the sales team in its operations to realize more profits. If you want to be a successful sales manager, you must have unmatched skills in:
- Setting sales goals and sales quotas
- Mentoring your sales team
- Planning sales training for sales reps
- Building actionable sales plans
- Analyzing of sales data
You must also be able to hire and fire salespeople responsibly.
What are the responsibilities of a sales manager?
A sales manager executes several crucial roles in any organization, including analyzing sales statistics. The sales manager looks at the sales team’s goals and compares them with the current performance. Their analysis and projections provides insights into which products that are selling well and which are underperforming.
Sales managers also determine the profitability of products in the market and how to improve profit margins, and monitors client preferences and redirects a sales team efforts. Redirected efforts give more attention to the preferences and help to develop strategies that meet customer needs.
With more attention directed to client preferences, it is easier for a sales manager to prepare a fair budget. The manager will also approve any expenditures from the budget.
Whenever set goals are not being realized, a good sales manager organizes training sessions. Salespeople get training on how they will improve their sales.
Next, let us look at some of the essential statistics you need to know.
Sales management: Key statistics
If you don’t adequately train your sales team, you will likely lose 60% of your salespeople. This is why organizing training sessions is the role of the sales manager.
You need to motivate your sales team continually. This is because 44% of sales reps don’t make a second follow-up prospecting call. If they were adequately motivated, they would not hesitate to make even a third and a fourth call.
40% of sales representatives fail to meet their quotas in sales. As the sales manager, it’s your job to hire new sales representatives and ace sellers. These new salespeople help make more sales by putting more hours into the job.
67% of sales representatives spend their time on other activities apart from selling. This substantially reduces their productivity. As a sales manager, you have to design sales strategies that make up for this time.
How to become a sales manager
The key to becoming a sales manager is this: You need to stand out from your colleagues and distinguish yourself as the only logical choice for the next promotion.
Easier said than done, right?
Maybe. But not if you follow the process I share with you here.
Here are 5 steps to become a sales manager — crucial (and doable) steps that will take you closer to that promotion and the benefits it brings.
- Address your attitude
- Master feedback (both giving and receiving)
- Find a mentor
- Become the person you want others to believe you are
- Plan for it
Step #1: Address your attitude
I’ve seen it too many times.
A top-performing salesperson starts to believe the hype about their position. They begin to think that they really are the most important team members, a team they believe to be the most important part of the business.
And it ruffles feathers — not in the good kind of way. That kind of attitude will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons. If you want a promotion to the sales manager role, you have to adjust your attitude.
To make the right impression, focus on two aspects of your attitude…
Deals are won, and deals are lost. How you deal with success and failure is a key indicator of your ability to manage others successfully. If you become despondent after a failed deal and your productivity drops, no one is going to want you heading a team of your peers.
If, however, you lose a deal and get right back on the horse, you’re going to look like leadership material.
A failure is only a failure if you learn nothing from it. You need to view each failure as a learning experience to improve your overall success rate.
The same goes for successfully closed deals as well. Don’t get cocky thinking you’ve done enough. Use that win as motivation to close the next deal.
Be a team player
Sales is an important element of any business, but you’re not any more important than any other department. Don’t ever get too big for your boots.
Be careful to remain a team player throughout, and keep everyone — both from your own department and those outside — involved and in the loop.
For example, one of the biggest issues within sales is the gap between sales and marketing. Rather than letting this gap persist, do something about it. Spend some time, maybe one day per month, with marketing. Perhaps organize a presentation for marketing once a month to update them on successes and issues.
Even a small gesture to keep everyone in the loop will help establish yourself as a problem solver, and that’s an important skill for any aspiring sales manager.
Step #2: Master feedback (both giving and receiving)
Feedback is a necessary component of both your own and your team’s growth. 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognized.
Becoming a sales manager depends on your ability to receive feedback from your sales team with humility and give it to other sales reps without offending. It’s a difficult line to walk and not one that everyone is comfortable with.
The best way to prepare for this is to start practicing these communication skills now. It will help prepare you, and it will also make you look like prime promotion material.
Let’s look at a few key principles of taking and giving feedback.
How to receive feedback
One of the key issues people have when receiving feedback is that they take it personally. People view what is intended as constructive advice as a personal attack.
Every time you receive feedback, run yourself through the below process to stop any immediate emotional responses that prevent you from extracting the real value of the feedback.
- Stop yourself before you respond.
- Break down what’s been said and apply it to the situation it refers to.
- Analyze how that advice could have changed the outcome.
- Ask questions based on how the feedback would have changed the initial situation.
This step-by-step approach will not only help you avoid unnecessary confrontations but will allow you to focus on the real value of the feedback and develop great follow up questions.
How to give feedback
Giving feedback can be a minefield. There’s the unknown variable of the other person. Their response is something out of your control so you have to avoid making this seem like a personal attack.
Here’s how to give direct advice that’s focused on the problem.
1) Act quickly
It’s a mistake to wait days, weeks, or even months to follow up on an error or improvement opportunity. Wait too long, and everyone will forget what caused the issue; it will feel like your feedback is coming out of nowhere. You need to give feedback as close to the incident as possible.
2) Focus on the problem and the outcome
Try not to use personal pronouns because it makes it easy to feel like a personal attack. If you want the recipient to respond positively to the feedback, focus on the problem itself and speak about the benefits overcoming it could bring.
3) Focus on a specific problem
Be specific. You’re there to discuss a particular problem, so keep your advice hyper-relevant to that issue. If you’re too ambiguous, the recipient could take the advice the wrong way. Make sure you’re not only outlining the issue but providing a single, actionable piece of advice as well.
📚 Read: How to Become a Best-in-Class VP of Sales by 25
Step #3: Find a mentor
Without a mentor, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to become a sales manager. Finding a good mentor is like finding a map to buried treasure. It’s the shortcut you’re looking for.
There’s so much emphasis nowadays on the “self-made business person” that many of us believe we have to do it alone. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You might be surprised to hear this, but even some of the biggest names in business have come up under the tutelage of a mentor.
“If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.”
Keep these three steps in mind when looking for a mentor:
1) Make a case for yourself
Don’t just say, “I want a mentor.” Be specific about what you want to achieve, and be ready to show why someone should invest their time into helping you.
2) Start your search within your own company
Your current company should already have successful sales managers. Look for someone who’s had a similar career path to you and ask them for help.
3) Make it easy for them
You’re the one who’s going to have to bend to their needs here. Make sure you’re meeting at times that are convenient for them and that fits into their existing schedule without causing problems.
Step #4: Become the person you want others to believe you are
The New York Yankees have a unique method for choosing their team captain.
They wait until someone within the team shows themselves to be an outstanding player and leader before appointing them. They wait until someone is already doing the job of a captain before making it official. It’s why they’ve been without a captain since Derek Jeter retired in 2014.
Sales (and any promotion) is very similar
If you want to become a sales manager, then you’re going to have to start proving you can take on the relevant responsibilities. You have to start being the unofficial leader of the department today.
Show your employer that you are the only person capable of bringing the team together and getting the best results out of them.
Here are three tips to stand out as the unofficial leader.
1) Challenge yourself
Track your personal activity and success rates through your sales software—set sales goals for yourself. Try to actively increase email open rates, meetings booked, and deals closed on a weekly basis. A good team leader doesn’t just inspire others with words; they lead by example.
2) Become a minor mentor
If someone new joins the team — or if there’s a team member who’s struggling to hit their targets — help them out. It’s great practice acting as a leader, and it will establish you as a valuable member of the team.
3) Take responsibility
You need to own up and take responsibility for your mistakes. The best leaders never pass the buck. They share their successes with their team, and they take personal responsibility for every mistake.
It’s also important that you take on more responsibility when it’s available. Show yourself to be a trustworthy team player who’s not afraid to take on challenging tasks.
It’s going to mean longer days and a more stressful work life without any extra money, but in the long run, it will be a huge feather in your cap when the promotion decision is being made.
Step #5: Plan for it
Don’t misunderstand this.
You can’t plan for a promotion in the way most people plan their day. You can’t say, “I’m going to be in this position by this date.” It never works like that because there’s too much that’s out of your control.
However, you can plan the actions that will make you the perfect candidate. You need to be ready for promotion whenever it makes itself available. Start with the ideas above, set up realistic objectives for yourself, and you’ll already be one step closer towards your goal of grabbing that sales manager role.
Sales Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Revenue growth is a key performance indicator that you must calculate often. The first step in calculating revenue growth is tracking sales from a given period of operation to the next. Now take the revenue of the previous operation period and subtract it from your current revenue. Finally, divide step two’s results with the last period’s revenue.
Sources of income
The second KPI is your income sources. These are the streams that bring income to your business. Analyzing income sources helps you determine profitable clients. You, therefore, make better-informed sales decisions.
Your third sales key performance indicator is revenue concentration. Calculating your business’s revenue concentration helps you make sure that you don’t rely on one client for most of your revenue. If you are getting a significant percentage of revenue from one or two clients, work on your prospecting strategies to hook more clients.
Profitability over time comes fourth in our list of KPIs. Here, analyze your income and how your organization spends money. This analysis helps understand where you go wrong in expenditure to avoid straining your resources.
Summing up the list is your working capital. The calculations in getting your working capital are pretty much straightforward. Subtract your current liabilities from your existing assets. If the total shows a more significant balance on the side of assets, you are on the right path.
5 steps to become a sales manager.
As you can see, becoming a sales manager isn’t rocket science, but if that’s your plan, you need to be purposeful about it.
- Let your manager know you’re interested in the role.
- Get the support you need to level up your skills.
- And above all, start acting like a sales manager now.
Focus on these three things, and you’ll easily stand out as the obvious choice when the time comes.
Published December 2019. Updated January 2023.
Also published on Medium.