Survival Tips for the New Sales Manager
When I was a young, sales manager it was not really that hard to be good—even great. The recipe for “good” back then was fairly simple: work long hours, teach some type of sales strategy (by example) and occasionally have a pep talk with your team. If you wanted to be “crazy good” you held a sales meeting once a week, worked individually with reps and devised some type of incentive for getting people to do pretty much whatever you wanted. Sure there were challenges and competition and the need to get traffic through the door but somehow we overcame it all and were able to succeed and prosper with a fairly uncomplicated process. That was a long time ago.
Being great in today’s market comes with many of the same challenges as before—but they are challenges on steroids. Today’s sales manager must contend with tough competition, generational issues, a much more sophisticated buyer, a volatile economy and deal with major management and corporate office changes with regularity. Today’s sales manager must be a disciplinarian, a therapist and a recruiter–not to mention a stickler for managing by the numbers.
Can it Be Done?
So is it impossible to be a great sales manager? Absolutely not! There are definite strategies that can be employed to ease the challenges facing today’s managers. The modern-day sales managers must learn to be supreme sorters among the endless to-do lists that threaten to overwhelm them and must also learn to embrace change—to name a few. While we cannot cover ALL of strategies in the scope of this article—we can certainly hit on a few that might make an immediate difference.
Coping With Change-Whoever said “Change is Good” was on crack. (Actually I think it was President JFK –so no disrespect intended). Change is great until it happens to you. Departmental reorganizations, budget cuts, mergers, acquisitions and new bosses can rattle even the most solid among us. Even seemingly “smaller” changes like delays in a promised promotion, or a change in comp plan we have to sell to our team, or even a marketing strategy we completely disagree with, can be rattling because they have a direct effect on our jobs. It can feel like gut-punch and frankly being punched can elicit all kinds of inappropriate responses from us. So the next time you get hit by an email or piece of news you do not like do three things:
First: Do nothing. That’s right. Do nothing at all. Don’t send the email, the announcement, the letter or have that conversation. Just take it in. Do nothing. You need a day to think about this if you don’t have a day, take an hour a minute or a walk. But do nothing with your first impulse.
Second: De-personalize the situation. While this dramatically affects you; it is not necessarily about you. Chances are this change is part of a much bigger issue that you may not have the details about—and likely never will. Try and imagine what those issues might be. Your next move will be a lot smarter, more tactical and strategically beneficial to you if you can take your personal feelings out of the equation.
Third: Make a list of what you believe in. Not what you think or do—what you believe. And not just work beliefs—true, deep down, life beliefs. What do you believe about adversity? About change? About integrity? Now is your chance to live by those beliefs and make your next move.
The bottom line with change is that you need to get yourself into a state of mind where you expect it, deal with it and even welcome it. To accomplish this you must have a strategy for coping–otherwise the stress will kill you or will certainly impair your ability to succeed.
Combating the Overwhelm-If you have been staring through your computer or wandering around aimlessly lately you might be in a state of overwhelm. Check your Thesaurus for other words to describe the feeling and you will find: confounded, dismayed, dumbfounded, shocked, and thunderstruck among them. Anyone who as ever been overwhelmed knows that overwhelm leads to paralysis and paralysis in sales equals failure. Try these 3 steps:
1. One of the best strategies for dealing with overwhelm is to start by making the longest to-do list known to man. When I am overwhelmed I write down literally any item floating in my mind. If I am particularly breathless with To-dos I will take out several note pads (or Word documents) and categorize them by month or department or client or whatever. Just get it down on paper.
2. Next prioritize the list by writing down the top 5 things you MUST accomplish to be a success right now. The truth is that we all have way too much to do and telling ourselves that everything is of equal importance only makes things worse. Look closely at that list and ferret out the items that will directly affect sales, client or employee retention, morale, reporting and profitability. Chances are, if you succeed at the critical items on your list the other things will fall into place or fall away.
3. Once you have your list it is time to ORGANIZE your world. There is almost no chance that you are totally overwhelmed and working at a clean desk with organized files, a tidy home and a clean car. What is more likely is that you have fallen way behind on these items and the disorganization is adding to your sense of overwhelm. Take your anger out on your office. Clean it up, organize it and rearrange it and THEN attack that to do list.
Much of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s workforce falls under the category of perspective. You need perspective to remind yourself that not every change is about you. You need perspective to sort through the increasing number of things that are now “your job” and do what really, really matters first and you need the perspective to know that you got this job by succeeding at something and you can succeed at this too.