Making the transition from sales to sales management
Topics covered in this article
Moving from selling to managing a sales team can be a hard transition. Great sales performers get promoted all the time, but only a few perform as well in their new role. It’s almost a business cliché. How can you change the script?
Before the promotion: prepare yourself
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you really sure they’re ready for management? Are they sure?
- Do they really have the skills and behaviors that can make them a great manager?
PXT Select’s leadership and selection reports can help you identify people with both great sales skills, and great leadership qualities. Be proactive and run these reports with your current employees and candidates.
Both sales and sales management positions need enterprising people. But managers have to deal with a lot more financial and administrative tasks.
If they’re hard chargers, as many great salespeople are, they may have to slow their pace, show some patience with new staff and work more methodically. They’ll also have to manage staff in a far different way than they managed their leads and customers.
Knowing what skills the manager role requires will help you identify and promote people who exhibit those skills and help you coach their development.
And don’t forget about the rest of your sales team—the ones that didn’t get promoted. Be clear why the person chosen got the job. Listen for possible resentments and be prepared for dips in sales performance while everyone adjusts.
After the promotion: prepare the new sales manager
Your goal is to set your new manager up for success before they even begin.
Your organization already has people with management skills. Current managers even in other disciplines should meet with the new sales manager and help them identify areas where they might need help. The PXT Select leadership report is another great source for these insights.
Take onboarding the new manager as seriously as you would onboarding a new salesperson. Schedule a few developmental coaching sessions as soon as the promotion is made, so the meetings are obviously for support and not to correct a performance problem.
- You need to help the new manager build on their success in sales as they transition to management. Remember that what they learn about the coaching process will help them become better coaches themselves.
- Engage peer mentoring, senior executives, or outside coaches. The investment of time and money will far outweigh the cost of a new manager failing.
- Review any new reporting or performance metrics the manager needs to create or follow. Help with business planning, recruiting, staff development, performance management, contracting, pricing or whatever areas are new to the manager.
- And don’t neglect the emotional side of things. Moving from colleague to boss can be stressful on prior relationships within the organization and even with clients.
Remember what worked and what didn’t
Don’t forget to document failure and success in developing your sales leadership pipeline. If a new manager doesn’t succeed, find out why. Was the job a bad fit? Was there a lack of training or support? Was onboarding to the new role not sufficient?
More importantly, dig to discover what contributed to a new manager’s success. How can you replicate this in the future? What changes to your sales management onboarding program should you consider? How can you prepare other salespeople for management without reducing sales productivity?
By using all of the tools available to you, you can help your employees make a smooth transition from sales champion to champion sales manager.