Fall is a time for transitions. Leaves change, football season starts, students go back to school and Starbucks introduces its much-anticipated fall menu items. The shift from summer to fall brings to mind other types of changes, one of which might be an evolving sales career. With sales in particular, jumping between roles as you progress in your organization can be jarring. The skills that make for a successful sales rep aren’t always the same ones that make for a successful sales manager.
Most professional advancements are made based on a concept called the Peter Principle—a management theory that suggests candidates are promoted as a result of performance in their current role, rather than being evaluated against the requirements for their future role. If sales reps perform well, they will be promoted regardless of whether or not they’re likely to make good managers. As a result, many new managers end up feeling like they’re in over their head.
Being caught in the tween years of your sales career is daunting, but there are ways to make the transition easier. If you find yourself suddenly in a leadership role and aren’t sure where to start, focusing on these key areas will set you up for immediate success and keep your team from working in a vacuum.
Use your data
Early in your sales career, you developed an appreciation for how data can influence strategy when it comes to reaching out to customers. Now, apply the same thinking to management. Rather than trying to operate on instinct, identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that really contribute to success at your organization and work backwards from there. Common metrics to measure include contact rates, acquisition rates, engagement and satisfaction–each of which is contingent on having access to that information through software that tracks it and customer feedback. It’s important to measure not only number of contact attempts, but also the amount of talk time and number of connections and conversions based on those activities–actions that actually move the needle. It’s also important to look at high-level information about the sales cycle as a whole like the time from opportunity creation to closed win, in addition to individual deals.
Our Ultimate Contact Strategy outlines the optimal approaches for phone, email and social interactions, which you can use as benchmarks for reps to aim for. For a sales organization to be competitive, it needs to be tracking and analyzing the performance of its sales team. If that data isn’t available, insist upon investing in the software that will track it. If it is, set a dedicated time every week to read through it, identify trends and possible problem areas, and address them as needed. Interacting regularly with the relevant information will keep you educated and on-track.
Reevaluate outdated processes
Good processes are key to the success of your sales organization. Relying on your team to decide on and implement their own best tactics does both them and the company as a whole a disservice. But not all processes are created equal. Take, for example, lead distribution. Historically, most companies have assigned leads based on physical location. In the cloud age, that’s no longer relevant. Instead, consider giving reps opportunities based on their areas of expertise, social connections, or adherence to best practices. One of the first things that any new sales manager should do is take a hard look at existing protocols and evaluate how beneficial they really are.
Build successful processes by trying new approaches
Openness to trying alternative tactics can set forward-thinking sales managers miles ahead. The best sales managers—like the best sales reps—are constantly learning and evolving. If you have the tools to document and measure your results, you’ll be able to refine your tactics as you go, depending on where you find the best success. Sometimes unusual approaches end up being competitive advantages. Set a goal to read a new report or attend a new seminar every couple of weeks and encourage your team to contribute ideas and suggestions. You might be surprised by what comes up.
Invest in resources
No sales manager, however attentive, will be able to support every rep at every stage of the sales process. Instead, invest time and energy early on to build up a resource library for reps to consult in times of need. This saves you the extra work of answering questions and empowers reps with the tools they need to make themselves successful. A software stack can also help keep teams empowered, controlled and on track to meet their goals.
As summer sun turns into sweater weather, it’s possible to get a little chilly–but there’s still a lot to embrace. The same holds true for management. The shock of new responsibilities is totally normal, but with the right precautions, you can set yourself up for a great new chapter in your sales career.About the author: Joshua Pittman is the Vice President of Inside Sales at Velocify. A seasoned Inside Sales expert with over 10 years of experience, Joshua specializes in architecting, growing and leading sales organizations within the technology space. He has built numerous high performing teams throughout the country; most recently designing and executing the sales growth plan of California-based startup, Cargomatic. Joshua also architected and implemented the sales structure and growth plan at Minneapolis based Sport Ngin, a leader in the emerging sports technology space. During his 4-year tenure at the high growth Washington DC social commerce startup Livingsocial, he built out an industry leading 100+ rep Inside Sales team while driving numerous successful pilot initiatives. Joshua studied at Anoka Ramsey in Minneapolis with a focus on business management and administration.