This article talks about how to become a sales manager in 5 crucial (and doable) steps.
You’ve done what you can at your current level and need the challenge only a promotion will bring. But it’s a task easier said than done.
How do you stand out from your colleagues and distinguish yourself as the only logical choice for the next promotion?
Well, you’re in luck. If you follow the below tips, you’ll be one step closer to that promotion and the benefits it brings.
1) Address Your Attitude
I’ve seen it too many times.
A top performing salesperson starts to believe the hype about their position. They start to think that they really are the most important member of a team, that’s the most important of the business.
And it ruffles feathers. But not in the good kind of way, because it gets you noticed for all the wrong reasons. If you want a promotion you have to adjust your attitude. You have to hit two key factors to ensure that you’re making the right impression.
In short, it comes down to:
Deals are won, deals are lost. How you deal with success and failure is a key indicator of how you’re going to manage others. If you become despondent after a failed deal and see your productivity drop, no one is going to want you heading a team of your peers.
If, however, you lose a deal and get straight back on the horse, you’re going to make a great impression.
A failure is only a failure if you learn nothing from it. You have to view each failure as a learning experience to improve your overall success rate.
The same goes for closed deals. Don’t get too cocky and think you’ve done enough. Use that win as motivation to close the next deal.
Being a team player
Sales is an important element of any business. But you’re not more important than the other departments. 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.
You could spend some time, maybe one day per month, with marketing. Perhaps organize a presentation from marketing once a month on updates on issues.
Even a small gesture to keep everyone in the loop will help establish you as a problem solver, and that’s an important skill for any aspiring manager.
2) Master Feedback (Both Giving and Receiving)
Feedback is a necessary component of both your own and your team’s growth. It’s so important that 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being recognized.
As a sales manager, you must be able to receive feedback with humility and also be able to give it without causing offense. It’s a difficult line to walk and one not everyone is comfortable with. However, I’ve listed a couple of key points below of what it boils down to.
How to Receive Feedback
One of the key issues people have when receiving feedback is taking 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 enabling you to extract 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.
- Analyse 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 help you not only avoid unnecessary confrontations but will unveil the real value of the feedback leading to relevant follow-up questions.
How to Give Feedback
Giving feedback is more of 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
Waiting days, weeks, or even months to follow up after an error or improvement opportunity has arisen is a mistake. Wait too long and everyone will forget what caused the issue. You’ve got 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 for this to feel like a personal attack. If you want the recipient to respond to the feedback, focus on the problem itself and speak of the benefits overcoming it could bring.
3) Focus on a specific problem
Be specific. You’re there to discuss a particular problem so keep to that topic or advice is hyper-relevant. 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.
3) Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor is like finding a map to buried treasure. It’s the shortcut you’re looking for.
Thing is, there’s so much emphasis nowadays on the “self-made business person” that we all believe we have to do it alone. But, and you might be surprised to hear this, 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.”
If you’re looking for a mentor, here are a few steps you should be taking:
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 in helping you.
Start within your own company
Your current company will have successful sales managers. See who’s had a similar career path as you and ask them for help.
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 convenient for them and that fits into their existing schedule without causing problems.
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 make the jump to sales manager, then you’re going to have to start proving you can take on the relevant responsibilities. You’ve got to start being the unofficial leader of the department.
You have to show your employer that you are the only person who is capable of bringing the team together and getting better results out of them.
1) Challenge yourself
Be sure to track your activity and success rates through your sales software. Try to actively increase email open rates, meetings booked, and deals closed on a weekly basis.
2) Become a minor mentor
If someone new joins the team or there’s a team member who’s struggling to hit their targets, help them out. It’s great practice as a leader and will help establish you as a valuable member of the team.
3) Take responsibility
You have to own up and take responsibility for your mistakes. But you’ve also got to 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 the extra money in the short term, but it will eventually be a huge feather in your cap when the promotion decision is made.
5) Plan for It
Don’t misunderstand this.
You can’t plan for a promotion in the way most people believe. 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 out of your control.
However, you can plan the actions that will make you the perfect candidate. Start with the ideas above, set up realistic objectives for yourself, and you’re already one step closer to your goal.
Also published on Medium.