So, you are thinking about your future in sales and possibly becoming a sales manager. You have years of selling experience and multiple top performer trophies and you think you are ready for the next step in your career. Before you embark on your journey as a sales manager-in-training, let’s think about what this really means.
Are You Certain You Really Want The Sales Manager Promotion?
Seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? After all, the promotion will come with a larger salary, more ability to guide the company, maybe a larger office, less travel, and you will lose the stress and challenges of being a sales representative. Consider these changes:
Less Control Over Earnings
Even though your salary will increase, you will have less control over how much commission and bonus you will be able to earn. As a sales rep, you control your sales activities. As a manager, you are relying on your staff to maintain high sales activity standards to meet their goals.
You will be held accountable for any decisions you made as a manager that affect your company. If one of your decisions fails to pan out as you expected, it will come back to you. Also, there will be times when your decisions cause your staff to get the positive credit. Not you. You need to be OK with that.
You will no longer have the pressure of a personal sales quota to meet but now you will be held accountable if your team does not meet their quotas. That’s pressure at a whole new level and it may seem totally out of your control at times.
Repetitive Daily Routine
If you are currently on the road as a sales rep, you need to be prepared for a new daily routine as a sales manager. You will wake up everyday in the same bed, at the same time, then drive the same route everyday to the office, sit at the same desk everyday, walk past the same coworkers in the office everyday, and come home at the same time everyday. Some people might enjoy this change. Some might enjoy this change for a while. Some might not like this change at all.
Did you enjoy those frequent flyer, frequent stay, or frequent diner awards that you’ve been earning as a traveling sales rep? Sales managers still travel, but not nearly as often as their sales reps.
Walk the walk AND Talk the Talk
You’ve thoroughly considered the changes above, you still want the promotion, and now you are officially a sales manager in training. What’s the best way to get that promotion?
First, make it known to your current manager that you want the promotion. Take any advice that they provide you that will help your cause.
Then, act like you already have the position. Managers are leaders. Be a leader within your sales team. Volunteer your advice and assistance to others with less experience. Share your best practices. Managers hire and train new staff. Offer to help with the hiring and training of new sales staff.
Managers work with multiple company departments. Volunteer for projects that involve other company departments. Do as much of what a sales manager would do as possible. Just be careful not to step on your current sales manager’s toes while doing it. It’s best to consistently communicate with your manager about what you are doing.
Know Your Weaknesses
As you are today may not be the best fit for a sales manager position. You need to find out what skills and characteristics are essential in your company’s sales managers.
- Do you have to show a consistent history of sales success?
- Do you need to have a strong relationship with all of the sales staff?
- Do you need to be a strong negotiator? A strong closer? A strong prospector?
- Do you have proper phone techniques? Confident presentation skills?
Once you know what your company’s senior leadership is looking for, you need to look in the mirror and determine what you’ve got and what you need to get. Your current manager might be able to help groom you for the promotion; showing you what skills you need to polish, or what skills you will need to learn. Be critical of yourself and take any criticism as constructive. After all, it's meant to make you better, not to tear you down.
Once you know where you are lacking, you need to find resources to get stronger. Maybe your manager can suggest training, books, or seminars to attend. Maybe you will need to search for those resources on your own. Being willing to take the suggested training or having the drive to find your own training is very telling to those in leadership that will consider you for promotion. Do they want a sales manager that helps themselves or takes suggestions easily, or are they willing to gamble on someone that says, “Take me as I am. I’m not willing to go the extra mile for you.”?
Training for the Sales Manager-in-Training
Ideally, one of the resources you have at your fingertips is a full library of training videos, like those that ej4 offers. If your company opens up their library for self-directed learning, look for selling skills training videos like:
- Managing a Sales Process
- Creating an Ethical Sales Environment
- Sales Forecasting for Managers
- Sales Performance Measurement and Reporting
Make it a foregone conclusion that if a sales management position ever opens up, that you would be the obvious first choice. You’ve been doing much of the work already. You have the right attitude. Now, all they have to do is give you the title.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 28, 2013 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness.