Trials and tribulations of new sales managers

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Sales Manager

New sales managers often are promoted for their sales success – not sales management expertise. So what happens after the sales manager assumes the role and responsibilities of their new position?

Too often “paperwork” like CRM systems, HR concerns, and other administrative requirements take precedence.  Additionally many new sales managers are inundated by their sales team with fires to put out.  Few new sales managers find themselves “ahead of the curve”.

These institutional obstacles are difficult for a sales manager to avoid because they don’t go away. This means the answer centers on time management not prevention. On the other hand, there are some self-imposed pitfalls that can be avoided.  Let’s take a look at three:

1. Believing the way they sell works well – so their sales team should use similar strategies. So, when a salesperson wants to pursue a sales strategy that differs from how the new sales manager would attack the account, tension often arises because each thinks their strategy is better.  For argument’s sake, let’s say the sales manager’s strategy is better.  But the key question is: Does the salesperson have the experience and skills to execute it successfully? Just because a sales strategy or sales technique works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. And in the end … if the salesperson “gives in” to the sales manager and isn’t successful, there is resentment and lost revenue.

An alternative approach is for the sales manager to spend time upfront understanding each salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses and coaching then on an approach that fits each individual. It takes more time, but the long-term payoff is substantial.

2. Holding the reins a bit too tight. It’s impossible to script and/or approve every interaction between a sales person and a customer. If sales people have to go back to their sales manager to get an answer to every customer request – no matter how small it is – the sales person becomes frustrated, and looks “small” in the customer’s eyes. In these cases the new sales manager becomes a bottleneck – resulting in declining customer satisfaction and even revenue declines!

3. Being a funnel, not a filter. The most successful sales managers we know say they’re are a “filter, not a funnel”. They filter the unnecessary information “coming down” from the division or HQ and only funnel to their sales team the information the sales person needs to succeed.  As they explain, we’re “eliminating the clutter and freeing up more time for the sales person to spend on selling.”  Unfortunately too many new sales managers don’t eliminate the clutter and their sales teams spend a disproportionate amount of time playing with “paperwork” rather than calling on customers.  This can be difficult for a new sales manager but the sooner it happens the better.

Today it is more important than ever to have a superior sales force.  It is safe to say that it is near impossible to have a superior sales force without having a great group of front-line sales managers – front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for driving sales 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 Trials and tribulations of new sales managers

  1. Great tips, Richard. I agree with you. Most of these sales managers are promoted from sales so their management style would depend on what they think works well for them. This doesn’t work like that. I think they should go to coaching and management trainings to learn how to properly ‘manage’ the team. And as you mentioned on your first point, Richard, it shouldn’t be the same coaching strategy for everybody. Personalization in coaching is still more heplful than forcing the entire sales team to follow what (used to) work.

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