How to Set Your New Sales Manager Up for Success

When you’ve promoted one of your sales people to the role of Sales Manager, you need to ask yourself: is this person ready to “manage” or will they get caught in the trap of being a “Doer”?

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, a classic trap I see newly minted sales managers fall into is to assume their new job role is to be an amplified version of what they were doing as a salesperson. Meanwhile, business owners often assume that first-time sales managers are prepared for their new management role when in fact, they are not.

Doing vs. Managing

The situation I most commonly see play out is one in which an ambitious salesperson is identified as the next great sales manager. That person gets promoted amidst high expectations, but eventually begins to flounder and gets buried six, nine, and twelve months into the role while all parties are left scratching their heads as to why.

The job of a sales manager is to manage the numbers and lead the salespeople. This means devoting time to coaching their reports rather than doing their jobs for them. A sales manager who is a doer will quickly get buried in tasks that they are doing on behalf of their team. In other words, their time gets eaten up by doing the fishing rather than spending time teaching their reports how to fish for themselves. 

How to Help a New Sales Manager Succeed

Here’s how to avoid the common pitfall of having a sales manager who is a doer rather than a manager.

1. Give Your Sales Manager Leadership Training 

Most people are promoted to leadership positions without having a clue how to be effective leaders. It is just presumed that because they were a good salesperson they will automatically be a good leader.  This is often not the case because leading is an entirely different skill set.

Look externally to find someone who can offer leadership and management training to your sales manager within their first couple of months in the role. If you google “leadership or management training” you’ll have more local options at your fingertips than you ever believed could exist. Another option is to find a paid leadership coach or mentor for your new hire. 

The reason for hiring someone external to your business is that they can provide an objective learning experience  to a new manager. They will guide this person in a way that teaches them leadership and management with a fresh perspective not beholden to anything in the organization.

 2. Establish Relevant KPIs for the New Sales Manager 

The first KPI to set would be the number of coaching sessions held with direct reports. You want to know the frequency, duration, and content of those sessions. This is the simplest way to know whether your manager is actually managing as they should be, or if they are guilty of doing.

If they are managing, they will be devoting regular time and energy in the form of 30-to-60-minute one-on-ones with their direct reports. The content of these coaching sessions should make sense to the business owner relative to what the salespeople should be doing on a daily basis.

If there’s no coaching happening, it’s not happening frequently enough, or when it is happening it’s focused on the wrong things, then you can be sure that your sales manager is not teaching their people how to fish. A new sales manager should be having meaningful one-on-ones with their team by their second month in their role.

3. Task the Sales Manager With Creating a Professional Development Plan for Each Salesperson

If a sales manager doesn’t have this documented, they probably haven’t considered the development of their people. When combined with not having coaching sessions that should be devoted to developing each member of their team the path is set for the manager to be doing rather than managing.

4. Assess Your Manager’s Approach to Problem Resolution

Ask your new sales manager what role their salespeople are playing in fixing problems that arise. If your manager is using language that has a lot of “I’s” (ex. I did x, I solved y, I took z over…etc.) then the manager is likely taking matters into their own hands rather than encouraging their people to find solutions.

Of course, there are natural points of escalation when a manager needs to get involved. But a manager’s role is to provide guidance to all their people and follow up as needed. Their reports should be the ones in there with their sleeves rolled up and fixing issues.

5. Structure Your Manager’s Role to Allow Them to Manage

You need to free up your manager to manage. If you want them selling, then their title should be a salesperson. If your sales manager has dual roles that require them to both sell and manage others, they’ll be challenged to succeed. 

It’s simply too much work for one person to sell and maintain accounts and lead others. When someone is tasked with both things, at least one of those two things will not be done satisfactorily. Or worse, neither of those things will be done well!

6. Talk to Direct Reports of Your Sales Manager to Assess How They are Doing

It’s a good idea to check in with the salespeople to see how they are doing working with their new manager. Of course, you need to keep in mind that people are generally reluctant to throw someone under the bus, so you need to ask questions carefully and read between the lines to interpret not only what they’re saying but also how they’re saying it.

As a business owner, you want your manager to succeed. So be sure to listen for things you may not want to hear. The sooner you have a real insight into how your new manager is doing, the sooner you can course-correct to help them improve.

By following these steps, you’ll give your new sales manager the tools they need to succeed and prevent them from getting burnt out. If you have questions about any of these steps or are looking for help with getting a new sales manager ready for their position, get in touch.

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