Moving from Sales to Management? 5 Key Skills to Master

April 10, 2019
Moving from Sales to Management? 5 Key Skills to Master

Are you moving from sales to management? Or maybe you’re a senior leader about to promote one of your salespeople into a management role.

This can be a difficult career step, but it’s not impossible. In fact, some of the best sales managers got their start as salespeople.

But what makes the difference between success and failure is these key skills.

Read on for 5 key skills to master when you are moving from sales to management.

1. Coaching

The best managers are strong coaches. Rather than always having to manage activities and behaviors, successful coaches develop their team members’ skills so they can better manage themselves.

If you’ve never been in a position to coach before, this can be a challenging skill to develop. People moving from sales to management are often tempted to create a team of clones. They figure, “I was successful doing things my way, so that must be the best way for everyone to succeed.”

Unfortunately, what worked for you isn’t necessarily going to work for your team members, who have different personalities and skill sets. Instead of trying to change people to be more like you, work to make them the best versions of themselves they can be.

For a simple guide to coaching, check out our eBook.

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2. Giving Feedback

One of your most important skills as a manager is to give clear and actionable feedback that people can use to improve.

This is a key skill to master as you move from sales to management.

When you need to give someone feedback, it’s important to understand where they are coming from.

For example, if someone is in a state of emergency, they may not be open to a big-picture conversation about their overall sales process. They just need help getting back on track.

But if someone is doing well and building momentum, they may be more open to a planning conversation.

Once you know someone is in a good place to get feedback, consider how you will deliver it. Feedback is best delivered in a positive manner, when your team member can see that you are making a contribution.

It’s important to ensure that the feedback is actionable and you and your team member align on takeaways and next steps.

3. Setting Goals

As a sales manager, you’re likely responsible for setting goals for your team members. This may or may not be a skill you already have as you move from sales to management.

Just like it’s tempting to coach people to be like you, it can be tempting to set goals based on your experiences. While those experiences are valid, it’s important to remember that your team members are all different. They will have varied levels of ability, experience, and territory potential.

Instead of autocratically setting goals that your team might find unrealistic, use a bottom-up and top-down goal-setting process to gain alignment on sales goals.

For a deep dive into setting and achieving sales goals check out our eBook.

Free Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Setting & Achieving Sales Goals

4. Driving Accountability

You can set the best goals ever, but unless you can drive accountability to those goals your tenure as a sales manager is going to be limited.

As a sales manager, you are responsible for holding your team members accountable to follow their plans and achieve their goals.

In order to successfully drive accountability, you need to create regular touchpoints and simple information pathways. Our recommended approach is to require your team members to develop monthly prospecting action plans and weekly goals, all of which you can see. This allows you to see what your team members are planning on doing. It also lets you see how to measure performance – are people doing what they planned? And do their planned activities drive their desired results?

5. Managing Up & Out

When you are moving from sales to management, you are moving into the role of advocate for your team. To do this, you’ll need to develop the skills to manage up and out across the organization.

You’ll need to represent and advocate for your team members at a leadership level. What tools do they need to succeed? Which processes are creating busywork without adding value? What goals need to be adjusted or eliminated?

You also need to remember to effectively represent your team at a peer level. How does sales work with marketing? What channels of communication can you create? How can you best represent and add value to your team?

One great way to support collaboration is to invite other teams to participate in your regular sales team meetings. They could just observe to learn about what sales is doing, but even better, they could share updates for your team or be available to answer questions and provide subject matter expertise.

So how are you doing? Do you have the skills you’ll need when moving from sales to management?

Leave your feedback and suggestions in the comments!

And one of our best resources for sales managers is our Sales Management Checklists eBook – check it out below.

Sales Management Planning: Sales Management Checklists to Transform the Way You Work

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