Sales managers – 6 tips when transitioning to a new sales team

Sales manager with a new sales team

Sales manager with a new sales team

As most in sales leadership would share – the front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for building and sustaining sales success.  And, perhaps the most critical time for any sales manager is when first taking over a new sales team.  Getting the right start means long-term success will likely arrive quicker and easier.

So what does a great start look like and what are the hobgoblins that are likely to get in the way?  Let’s take a look using the scenario of an existing sales manager from inside the company taking over an existing sales team in another region. Here are 6 tips for that sales manager:

  1. 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 team members’ performance both currently and over time. Identify the top accounts – who has them, the solutions they are using, and potential new opportunities.  Become familiar with the sales pipeline, the prospects populating it and make revisions where necessary like getting rid of no-win opportunities.
  2. 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?
  3. Solicit from the sales team what is working and what isn’t.  The best time to make changes is right up front when you take over the position.  There is a short window before everything again becomes frozen – so time matters.  The first step is find out what is working and what isn’t.  Soliciting ideas from your new sales team as to what needs to be changed and how it should be changed is always a good idea.  Using your sales teams’ ideas to augment your own is a no lose step.
  4. Solicit from the sales team what they want from their sales manager. As a build on the prior tip, ask each member of the sales team what they want 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.
  5. Share your expectations.  Sharing is a two-way street. Don’t make your sales team guess. Share your management style and what you expect from the sales team – in terms of sales performance and responsibilities as a member of the sales team.
  6. Consider a personal 360-degree assessment.  Although it is not always possible, before you leave your existing sales manager position, do an informal 360 assessment.  Discuss with your boss, your old sales team, and some peer sales managers your strengths and weaknesses in managing your sales team.  A fresh start is a great time to pause and take stock of how you might do some self-improvement.

As to the “hobgoblins” – number one is the pressure to get into the weeds before you lay the foundation for your transition.  You might score some early points but in the long- run you are less likely to accomplish that of which you are capable.

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC



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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1 Response to Sales managers – 6 tips when transitioning to a new sales team

  1. Brian MacIver says:

    A thoughtful blog with good tips.
    I can’t stress enough the importance of 1 and 2, these are ‘honeymoon’ tips.

    If you need to cut staff, do it early and do it once!

    I am less sure about asking people who may be incompetent incompetents:
    “How should coaching work?”
    That’s a question once the coaching relationship is established!
    360 feedback is the breakfast of Top Sales Managers.

    Thanks for the thoughts, Dick.

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