In 1964, tasked with defining what was, for want of a better word, was obscene and what was possibly offensive— but still protected speech, Justice Stewart famously wrote that he might not be able to define it, but that he knew what it was when he saw it.
In a similar way, you may not always be able to determine what you are walking into when you accept a new sales manager position. You most certainly will know however, when you begin to face the challenges of the job itself.
If you are taking on the role of a sales manager with a new company, or have been promoted from within to a new role, your actions, especially in the first few weeks and months on the job, will go a long way in determining your level of success down the road.
Like a game already in progress, it is never a good idea to walk in and make too many assumptions. The big temptation here is to come in and start making demands without really understanding the complex issues and relationships that are in place. Think of this time as your discovery stage.
That is not to say that you do not communicate your core values, expectations and ideas, but that you do so in a way that respects the pillars that are already in place (and holding up the roof). Now is the time to clarify and build trust; one way that you can do this by introducing yourself.
Be advised, your team does not know what to expect. It is up to you to begin to build the relationships that will create a successful team. They naturally want to know who you are, what your background is and where you plan on taking the team. A short “elevator speech” can explain your role, what you bring to the table and how you work.
Make it clear that you are not only there to lead, but to learn. Think about ways that you can create an open doorway for communication. That goes for those positioned above you as well as those who report to you. You are not a lone wolf and you will need the support of the people you answer to just as much as you will to the team you are leading. To that end, do some interviewing. What are the core expectations on both sides? Ask a lot of questions and focus on really, really listening to the answers.
Once you have gotten the lay of the land, you can move forward and begin setting goals and start to actually implementing change. You should also have more of an understanding of what motivates your. You should also begin to see how your sales pipeline is really moving.
You should be able to review the sales data so that you can help your sales team leverage opportunities. For instance, now that you have had a chance to observe them, how do they work as a team? How do they manage their time? What is the underlying culture (often unspoken) that is steering the sales department?
How well do individuals perform? Who are your rock stars? Is there a way that you can help your team follow their example and build a repeatable system of sales success? For that matter, what are the sales processes that everyone is using? How are customer relationships managed? How can you improve the customer experience?
Are there infrastructure blocks that are lowering their productivity such as too many or poorly managed mandatory meetings and reports? Do you need to coach individual sales team members? Is there a way that you can bring in relevant and timely performance metrics so that they can glean what they need in as little time as possible?
Now that you have begun to implement your vision, you have to keep it going. You should be reaching some short and well on your way to hitting some long-term goals too. You should also be more connected with your team now. You should know what their hopes and dreams are, what they value and what does and does not motivate them too. You will want to stop from time to time and acknowledge the small victories.
Remember, if the process were easy, anybody could do it. Taking charge is not for the faint of heart. Keep going. Keep refining your tools and filling your toolbox in a way that creates a framework for success (both for you and the members of your team).
As always, success is more about authentic leadership than simply making demands. It always comes down to your team. If you want to find the very best of the best for your sales team, give me a call. For more information on building a better sales machine, be sure to subscribe to our blog. If you are looking for those elusive sales rock stars that push your team upwards, give me a call.
At ProActivate, we locate, screen and vet the sales professionals you need to launch your sales rocket into orbit. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more insightful articles on sales leadership too.