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Slammed: The First-Time Sales Manager

In my eight years selling for two different companies, I experienced four or five sales managers. As you can imagine, they each had a different style, patience and skill level. I can remember that those first six months as a new sales manager were a challenge. I took over from two previous sales managers who were now reporting to me and three other salespeople, for a total of five on my team.

I had participated in various sales training programs and I had a few perceptions of what a sales manager should do, but obviously I was scrambling and, at the same time, trying to achieve sales objectives.

Luckily, I received some assistance. The president of the company I was working for in Minneapolis gave me advice and also sent me to Boston to spend two days with "Dave," whom my boss called "the best sales manager" in the United States. I spent time listening to Dave and understanding his approach and systems, and then flew back.

Afterward, as time went by, I made mistakes, learned lessons, faced tough circumstances from firing, recessions, leadership-vs.-management topics, and actually did some things correctly. Amazingly, seven years after meeting Dave, I ended up working for him as a VP of sales running a North American sales operation. The next eight years I spent working at the street and corporate level, fine-tuning sales leadership and management challenges. I have seen hundreds of entrepreneurs attempting to manage their sales teams, first-time sales managers thinking they knew the job, and organizations under-achieving their opportunities and missing their objectives.

So what can a first-time sales manager to do? I can only give a few tips in a blog, but over the next few weeks I will continue to provide more insights and tips. To be open, my new book is also about to be published on the topic. It's titled "Slammed!!! For the First Time Sales Manager." Readers of this blog will gain insights, ideas and tips from that book, all for free. The book will be an e-book found on my Web site at AcumenManagement.com and at SalesGravy.com.

There are four sections in the book and 57 chapters. Be prepared for a ton of content and ideas that have faced me over 20-plus years of sales leadership challenges. The four major sections are:

  • Personal Leadership and Growth Development
  • Executive Leadership and Strategy
  • Creating and Maintaining a High-Performance Culture
  • Sales Leadership: A Year-Round Job

The reason I have 57 chapters is the first issue facing new sales leaders is Time Management. New sales leaders are quickly faced with the needs of the sales/marketing function and with directing their teams. Next, they need to work with their fellow peers on the management team. The third element is the demands of senior management requiring information and accountability. Each chapter is designed to provide a quick insight into certain issues facing the first-time sales manager.

Some hints on time management:

  • Protect your time and your to-do list. Don't take every problem your sales team gives you and put it on your own to-do list. Listen to the issues, ask them for three ideas to resolve their issues, and then suggest to them the best activity that will resolve it. If your to-do list expands beyond your capability to even react, then your team will lose respect for you and stop accepting your coaching.

  • If you are meeting one-on-one on a regular basis, do so early or late in the day.

  • Start your sales meetings early in the morning -- that means 8:30 a.m. at the latest. (One-on-one meetings can start at 7:30 a.m.)

  • Make a certain number of sales calls with each team member every month. This will help you understand the salesperson's skill level more accurately.

  • Plan your sales training meetings for the entire quarter before the quarter begins. Train on sales skills, product/service knowledge and sales operations.

The first-time sales manager faces many day-to-day and quarter-to-quarter challenges. Our job is to help everyone become successful. Let me hear your thoughts on the lessons you have learned by commenting below.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on June 10, 2014 at 9:47 AM