6 Steps to Building Your Career As a Sales Manager

September 28, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the twelfth and final post in a series devoted to helping new sales managers survive and thrive in their new role.

Over the course of the last 12 weeks, we’ve focused mostly on your role as a leader, coach and manager. We’ve discussed how to develop your people — both in their current roles and for the long term. We’ve looked at how to manage and improve performance and how to address performance issues, but now it’s time to turn that focus inward.

While every manager should strive to grow professionally, sales management is a high mortality job. The average tenure for sales managers is less than 20 months — that’s even shorter than the average tenure for salespeople. Even worse, much of sales manager churn is involuntary. As a result, there’s a tension between keeping your job and moving up the ladder and forward in your career.

So, how can you maintain this delicate balance while moving up the ranks? Let’s take a closer look.

1. Master Your Current Responsibilities

In order to keep your current job and to move forward in your career, whether that’s within your organization or at a new company, you have to master your current responsibilities.

If you aren’t excelling in your current position by building your team member’s capabilities and helping them grow and perform, you will never master your job as a sales manager. And therefore, you’ll never earn the right to step into a role with more responsibility.

2. Become a Perpetual Learner

To help your people develop, drive the highest levels of performance and to prepare yourself for future growth, you must become a perpetual learner. The rate of change in most of our professional lives is accelerating. If we aren’t constantly learning new skills, developing new capabilities and broadening our perspectives, we get left behind.

Develop your own learning agenda. Master the technologies that make you the most productive. Learn all you can about your customers and their businesses, your markets, industries and competition. And look outside your company, your industry and your competition to different industries to see what they are doing, what you can learn from them and what you can adapt for your own company, customers and markets.

3. Find a Trusted Coach

Make sure you are being coached and developed in your current role as manager. Seek the advice and counsel of your own manager to improve current performance and prepare you to take on additional responsibilities.

4. Master Time Management & Your Ability to Accomplish Goals

Become a master of getting things done. When I recruit leaders, a competency I look for is their ability to navigate their own organizations and get things done — formally and informally. The higher you go in an organization, the more important it is for you to know how to get things done. (This is not the same thing as being “political.”)

5. Learn the Business of Managing a Sales Organization

I don’t mean making the numbers. The numbers are simply the outcome of managing the business of sales effectively. Develop a framework for what the sales organization does and how it functions and determine the critical elements for both long and short term success.

6. Be Patiently Impatient

Everyone wants to move up on the career ladder, gain more responsibility and earn a bigger paycheck. So prepare yourself to do this, but not without being a master in your current role first. Look to increase your responsibility, but not before you have achieved and established a track record of success.

Sales management and leadership is hugely rewarding. Nothing is better than seeing your people develop, perform and achieve their goals. Nothing is better than seeing huge growth in the capability and capacity of each person in the organization. I can’t imagine anything more fun than leading a team to address the very difficult challenges each of us faces in growing our businesses.

Hopefully this series has provided you with some ideas on how to develop yourself and your team.  Mike Weinberg and I are passionate about sales management and leadership, so as you have questions about your people, team, organization or your own capabilities, don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us.

Thanks for joining us on this journey!

More Tips for New Sales Managers

Get caught up by reading any previous posts in the series you may have missed:


<strong>Dave Brock</strong> helps sales and business professionals achieve extraordinary goals through his consulting and services company <a href="">Partners In EXCELLENCE</a>. Dave is also an Advisory Board Member for <a href="">DecisionLink</a>.