Many may argue, but it has been said that the first line sales manager role within the technology industry is the toughest job there is. For many, this opportunity is their first venture into a leadership role. Most first time sales managers come out of a successful sales career and now must master the skills of leadership, coaching, talent management, etc. New managers are faced with satisfying three constituents: direct reports, customers and upper management. On top of that, this is one of the few jobs outside of professional sports where goals are measured on a scoreboard.
So, as a new leader, what do these constituents expect from you?
Direct Reports: Your direct reports expect value from you to be delivered three different ways. First, through innovative ideas. Second, through impactful customer interactions. Third, through support as they attempt to move deals and their careers through the organization.
Customers: Your customers expect you to provide thought leadership, effective engagement through escalation and a broader perspective on industry trends, technologies, and competitors.
Upper Management: They expect to have a clear understanding of the business, a crisp and concise plan on meeting objectives, mastery of large transactions, and an ability to represent and support management policies.
To be successful, you’ll need to develop a management system that provides you with a firm grasp on your overall business and key transactions. You will also need to know your team’s strengths and weaknesses and well as the industry trends and the business outlook for key customers.
Key Manager Tools
Control Book. New managers should develop a control book which puts the key information to manage your business upstream and downstream at your fingertips. This information will evolve over time but it can to be used to anticipate consistent requests from upper management providing a sense of control over the business. It can also keep personnel and large deal templates at your fingertips to make you more effective when interacting with direct reports, who will appreciate your grasp of their opportunities and customer set.
Sales Tool Kit. As part of this management system, the utilization of a sales tool kit which provides pipeline management, relationship monitoring and assessment and deal and pursuit tracking. Utilization of a robust and intuitive sales tool will assist you in objectively assessing talent, pipeline, deal status and forecast accuracy. It will help reduce style, optimism, aggressiveness and relationship influences which can blur your insight into the business based on your direct reports differences, skill sets and backgrounds.
Ultimately your success or failure in this role will result from ability to lead a team, develop and recruit talent and provide thought leadership. Initially focus your time and energy on driving value downstream to your team and customers. Recognize there are multiple paths to success and what worked for you might not be a fit for a direct report. Active engagement downstream will accelerate your understanding of the business, customers, deals and direct reports. This understanding will provide credibility with upper management as you develop tactics and strategies to meet and exceed objectives.
It may be the toughest job in business but it can also be the most satisfying. Many top executives look back on their career and highlight their first sales management role as the best job they ever had. Results are tangible, you get hands dirty and the thrill of teaching a team to win and seeing individuals grow into their potential is like nothing else. So immerse yourself in the challenge, dive in head first and embrace the complexity of delivering results through collective efforts based on your leadership.
Personal Challenge: As a new leader, immerse yourself in the challenges of a new role, new team, and new responsibilities. Dive in head first and embrace the complexity of delivering results through collective efforts based on your leadership. Develop your control book and keep accurate, up to date key information to please all of your constituents.