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Your Foolproof Formula to Become a Sales Manager in 2020

HubSpotSales Management

You’ve done everything you can at your current role and need the challenge only a promotion to sales manager 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. I’m going to share 5 crucial (and doable) steps to take you closer to that promotion and the benefits it brings.

1. Address your attitude.
2. Master feedback (both giving and receiving).
3. Find a mentor.
4. Become the person you want others to believe you are.
5. Plan for it.

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, a team they believe to be the most important part of the business.

And it ruffles feathers… and 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 you have to adjust your attitude. 

If you want to make the right impression, it comes down to two aspects of your attitude…

Staying positive

Deals are won and deals are lost. How you deal with success and failure is a key indicator of your ability to successfully manage others. 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.

Being 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 manager.

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.

As a sales manager, you must be able to receive feedback from your sales team with humility, and be able to give it to your sales reps without causing offense. 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.

RELATED: How to Become a Best-in-Class VP of Sales by 25

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 are preventing 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 for this 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.

3) Find a Mentor

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.

As Richard Branson says:

“If you ask any successful businessperson, they will always (say they) have had a great mentor at some point along the road.”

Keep these 3 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.

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 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 3 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.

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 a 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.


Also published on Medium.

Dan Tyre joined HubSpot as a member of the original team in May of 2007, and has led the recruiting, training, and growth of HubSpot's sales team with vigor. An authority on inbound marketing and sales, Dan is a regular speaker, writer, and coach to those who yearn for inbound success.