August 21, 2018

Congratulations, you are now a Sales Manager!

It is now time to cultivate the necessary skills to lead a team of your own.

As a first-time Sales Manager, you will likely experience a steep learning curve.

Do you sometimes feel as though you are expected to already know the ins and outs of this new role?  Does it seem like you are working harder than ever, without seeing results? 

Sales Manager Facing Challenges

If so, you are not alone.

Keep reading to learn about the top five challenges of first-time sales managers, and how to overcome them to lead your team more effectively—starting today.

The top five challenges of first-time sales managers are:

1. The Increased Pressure to Perform

As a brand-new sales manager, it is natural to want to demonstrate that you are equal to the task and ready for this new opportunityn.  It can certainly be nerve-wracking!

First-Time Sales Managers Oversight

Remember, there is a very good reason you were chosen for this role: the decision-makers in your organization believe in your abilities.  Developing your leadership skills is a journey – the more experience you gain, the more you will learn and grow.

For now, it is important to lay out clear goals and standards with your supervisor.  When everyone involved knows what to expect, you are much more likely to meet your goals.

2. Developing a New Set of Soft Skills

In your past position(s), you may have only been in charge of yourself and your own tasks.  Now, you have taken on the role of a leader who’s supposed to motivate others to accomplish their goals.

Business People Talking Challenges First-Time Sales Managers

As you guide your team, it is important to stay one step ahead and discern the kind of attention and support each of your employees require.

It is your responsibility to actively listen and read between the lines so each team member can feel supported and make their best contributions to the team goals.

Your employees want to hear from their sales manager on a regular basis, and they want to feel heard. To facilitate clear communication with your team members, always be direct and very specific.

You might support your team members and keep them focused by holding brief daily meetings.  When everyone presents their daily tasks to the team, they set their daily focus and cultivate an understanding of how everyone’s tasks fit into the overall team goals.

Also, consider scheduling one-on-one meetings to regularly connect with each team member.  The frequency that works best for each employee for these meetings will probably be different, so ask what works best for them.

3. Managing Your Time

One of the most common challenges for first-time sales managers is learning to juggle their own tasks with the seemingly-endless responsibilities of overseeing their new team.  Over time, you will learn how best to split your time, but always keep in mind that your team comes first.

Be sure to position yourself as someone who is always available to your team.

Start by setting aside blocks of time in your calendar for your own tasks and letting your team know when you will be unavailable.  This signals that being available for your team is your default, and they will appreciate knowing what to expect from you and your schedule.

When you are open and available for communication with your employees, they will feel comfortable coming to you to talk something through.  This also keeps you from slipping into the role of the dreaded micromanager.

4. Making the Transition from Co-worker to Supervisor

If you have been promoted internally to your new sales manager role, you will likely have former co-workers reporting to you.  Even among the many challenges of first-time sales managers, this one can feel particularly awkward.

It can be tempting to treat some co-workers differently based on who you connect with most naturally.  For example, do not fall into the trap of letting your former co-workers (or your top sellers, for that matter) get away with using their own sales techniques rather than your company’s established selling protocol.

Consistency is a key to effective management.  Your employees will quickly notice they are being treated differently than their colleagues, which erodes morale.

Be sure to address your team members directly about your new role as sales manager, and assure them you are still part of the team while establishing yourself as a communicative, consistent leader from the very beginning.

5. Hiring and Firing

Bringing new team members on board, and knowing when to let them go, is one of the more significant challenges of first-time sales managers.

Discussion Among First Time Sales Managers

When making hiring decisions, it is important to evaluate possible candidates holistically.

From past sales experience to their ability to fit into the company culture, always view your candidates as the unique and evolving people they are.  What can these candidates bring to your team beyond their skill sets?

Also, consider giving candidates a small project to see how well they perform, communicate and interact with your team.

When you have decided to let someone go, prepare everyone as best as you can to fill in the gaps in your team’s workload.  Be as transparent as possible and encourage a culture of open communication when addressing your team about the termination. Also, invite your employees to come to you privately with any concerns or feedback.

It is natural for a first-time sales manager to have questions about hiring and firing, so do not hesitate to ask other managers or your company’s HR team for help or advice.

In Summary

Above all, never be afraid to ask for help.

You are likely feeling significant pressure to have all the answers in your role from the very beginning, but it is perfectly okay if you do not.

As you take on this new professional challenge, never stop seeking out the knowledge you need to help your team succeed.