New sales managers – starting off on the right foot

New Sales Managers

New Sales Managers

Customers expect salespeople to know more today than ever before … and to know it at a higher level of proficiency. This difference constitutes an inflexion point. Customers now want sales reps who are trusted advisors not product facilitators.

All this means that in order for a sales team to be successful in the years ahead, front-line managers need be highly skilled. It is not an overstatement to suggest that front-line sales managers truly have become the pivotal job for sales success.

Build a solid foundation.  Let’s look at how a new sales manager can get off on the right foot.  Here are four ideas for getting started:

Do your homework to gain an objective lay of the land. Drill down and learn about the territory and the sales team. Here, the CRM system can be a best friend. Review the sales team members’ performance both currently and over time. Identify the top accounts – who has them, what solutions are being used, and what are the potential new opportunities? Become familiar with the sales pipeline and the prospects populating it and make revisions where necessary – like getting rid of no-win opportunities.

Talk with senior management. Although you’ve surely talked with senior management before taking the sales manager position, now you have an opportunity to address a different set of questions. Two particularly important areas of inquiry are: What are the expectations? and What are the institutional resources that are available to your team and how can you tap into them?

Solicit from the sales team what they want from their sales manager. Ask each member of the sales team what he or she wants their new sales manager to do – and what they expect? Some important specifics – how should coaching work and when and how should I help you sell?

Consider a personal 360-degree assessment.  After about three months into
your new sales manager position, consider an informal 360 assessment. Here the HR or sales enablement function should be able to help. Discuss with your boss, your sales team, and some peer sales managers your strengths and weaknesses in managing your sales team. Early on in a new position is a great time to pause and take stock of how you might do some self- improvement.

Getting managerial planning right. After the foundation is laid, it makes sense to lay a path forward. Unfortunately, immediate action often takes precedence over planning. This can be shortsighted. Here are 10 questions for getting started on a management plan.

  • What is going on in the buying environment that would impact how we sell?
  • How should I prioritize my coaching time?
  • How can I optimize the quality of feedback I share with my sales team?
  • How can I help my sales team better leverage institutional resources?
  • Under what conditions should I participate in sales calls – how does that differ by individual team member and type of call?
  • What can I do specifically for top performers? Underachievers?
  • How can I increase the percentage of time my team spends selling to customers? What is the major time sink?
  • What can I do to increase the overall motivation of the team?
  • What is one innovative idea I should try to increase the sales productivity of the team?
  • What is the one skill I must get better at?

Leveraging the power of culture. Traditionally, when talking 
about best practices, most of the emphasis has been on sales and
 management skill sets. But the more we have studied high-performing sales teams, the more we have come to realize that the
 cart has often been put before the horse. Perhaps sales teams 
would be even more successful if greater emphasis were initially directed towards creating a culture that drives individual excellence.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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One Response to New sales managers – starting off on the right foot

  1. Customers really do expect a lot out of their sales reps. They want a rep to be more than just someone who is trying to sell them something – they want a trusted advisor and someone who will help meet their needs. In order for reps to be effective at this, it all starts with the sales managers and how they train their reps to best service the customers.

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