New Course: How to Survive Your First 90 Days as Sales Manager

July 10, 2015

In small and mid-size companies there is no role more pivotal than the frontline sales manager or sales executive. New sales are the lifeblood of the business and the sales leader is the key leverage point to ensure the company’s sales engine is operating in the power band. In other words, as goes the sales leader, so goes the sales team. The role is that important!

I’m excited to kickoff this series for OpenView Labs and honored to be contributing alongside David Brock of Partners in Excellence, one of the brightest minds and most important voices in the sales improvement business. And I agree with what you’ll be reading from Dave in the first post in the series on Monday: the frontline sales manager is one of toughest jobs on the planet. Why? Because everyone wants a piece of you, has an opinion about how you should do you job, wants to put work on your desk, determine your priorities, and invite you to all kinds of meetings that have nothing to do with leading the sales team.

The CEO pressures you to hit targets. The CFO wants better projections and higher margins. Your top salespeople are high-maintenance and nothing is ever good enough for them. Your rookies are scared of their own shadow and afraid to make a move without you. Oh yeah, and on top of that, the entire organization is counting on you to deliver the numbers. Everyone else’s livelihood at your company depends on your team’s success. No pressure. Welcome to sales management!

I love that OpenView is committing the time and space necessary to give sales management its due. Over the next 12 weeks, we’ll unpack the essentials of sales management, covering topics including:

  • Setting the tone for your team
  • Creating a high-performance, results-focused culture
  • Increasing the accountability and heart-engagement of your team members
  • Leading 1:1 and sales team meetings
  • Managing talent (retaining your best people and quickly coaching up underperformers)
  • and more

Let me use this kickoff post to share one critical warning and one strong exhortation for all sales managers, but particularly the new or first-time manager:

1) The role of the salesperson and the sales manager could not be more different

There is almost nothing similar about being a sales manager and being an individual producer in a sales role. Almost nothing. That may come off as an extreme statement but it’s true. Aside from the word “sales,” the jobs could not be more different.

The high-performance seller thrives when she is selfish with her time, when she is laser-focused on her own goals and activity, when she jealously guards her time and her calendar.

The manager’s role, however, is the complete opposite. The most successful managers realize quickly that they win through their people.

The best sales managers understand that the job is not to be the hero of their sales organization, but to help turn their salespeople into heroes.

They see themselves as the coach and leader, not the star on the field. Productive managers grasp the reality that they can’t be everywhere at once or involved in every deal; they learn to multiply their skills and expertise by building into and mentoring team members, and holding them accountable to produce.

Let that warning serve as a wakeup call to the new sales manager. To win big as the sales leader you cannot approach your new job the way you did your old one. Closing your door, declining phone calls, and keeping others at bay may have done wonders for your individual sales production, but that approach will destroy your effectiveness as the leader.

The faster you accept that you can’t/shouldn’t do your team member’s jobs for them, the better off you’ll be. Again, your job is to lead the team and to make heroes, not be the hero. That mantra will serve you well as you look to build a winning sales team that will overachieve for years to come.

2) Your job as the sales leader is to ensure your sales team produces results, not to do work. 

Here’s a newsflash for overwhelmed managers: You are not being judged on the amount of work you do, the number of emails you send, or meetings you attend. Your job is to get your sales team to produce results.

Now would be a good time to embrace that fact. If you do, I promise that your life (and results) in sales management will be much more pleasant!

What to Expect: Tips, Tools, and Tactics You Need to Be a Better Sales Leader

One of our hopes for this series is that you’ll walk away not just better equipped to do your job more effectively, but that you’ll also understand which essential management activities move the performance needle. We want to help you have the confidence to say “no” to the nonsense and busy work in order to free up room in your day/week/month to focus on the few high-value activities that truly make a difference. Next week’s post will specifically address that topic in more detail.

Until next time, wishing your team great selling.

Photo by: Olga Filonenko


Mike Weinberg is a consultant, speaker and bestselling author of two #1 Amazon Bestsellers: <a href=""><em>New Sales. Simplified.</em></a> and <a href="//"> <em>Sales Management. Simplified.</em></a> He’s on a mission to simplify sales and offers blunt truth and practical help to executives, sales managers and sales teams.