The first few months for any one entering a new management position is daunting at the best of times. Even those lucky enough to be supported with management training will find it challenging. This is particularly true for sales people being promoted to sales managers. How they manage and what they do in their initial three months is critical to their future success as it will determine how the Sales Manager copes with your new employees, colleagues and superiors later on.
You should not fall into the trap of assuming that everyone will welcome you with open arms. Indeed, many people may initially observe you in a critical light. You are likely to have to manage anxiety from your sales team, colleague envy from those who attended the same management training as you but who were passed over for promotion, as well as resentment from people in other departments. Everything you do and every decision you make will be subject to scrutiny. Rumours will be rife. The tips that follow will assist you in making the move more easily.
Whilst it is important that you quickly acquire an overview of the sales situation, it is equally important that you do not rush into things. You should move forward instead in a systematic way. To do this we suggest you divide your first three months into an “orientation”, a “concept” and a “profiling” phase. What to focus on in these phases is described below.
The orientation phase is the initial phase in your new position. It will probably last about four weeks. You should spend as much of these first four weeks as you can away from the office and not in the company building. Arrange to accompany your new team on client visits for half days or longer. Conduct an informal chat with every member of your sales force so you get to know each of them.
In this first phase you should set the following goal for yourself: to listen, take on board the problems encountered by your salespeople and gain impressions of the market and your clients.
Never give your point of view on decisions your predecessor may have made as doing so will damage your credibility. If such matters are raised you should appear interested, but remain reserved.
During your first few months, avoid making any decisions that go beyond your day-to-day responsibilities. Defer making far-reaching decisions.
The next month in the job should be considered as the concept phase. You should spend most of this second month at your desk drawing up a list outlining the problems you noticed during your first four weeks.
Start by writing a rough draft of your future selling strategy and selling policy. This would include, for example, the competitive situation, sales routes, condition policy, offer programme, area structure, management of the external sales department and sales promotion.
To round off your information, have discussions with representative customers, large-scale buyers and colleagues – such as the Head of Marketing, the Production Manager, the Head of Logistics, etc. Your contact with your sales people should be limited to telephone calls during this phase. Remember to constantly discuss your thoughts and ideas with the company management.
Your third month in the job should be considered as the Profiling phase. Now is the right time to publish your “profile” and discuss the concept phase and explain your objectives in detail with your organisation’s management. It is important that you jointly identify priorities and so secure moral support. Keep your colleagues up to date with regard to your plans and intentions. Agree the “ground rules” for future co-operation. reassure your department colleagues of your own aim of cooperating with them.
You should also organise a working conference with your sales force. You will need to inform your salespeople of your conclusions from observations made during client visits and tell the sales force about the goals you have set and the expectations you have of them. Make sure you spend time answering any questions they might have. Also, let them know about any pending decisions or any decisions you have already made.
If you apply the above three month action plan you are more likely to be successful. If, however, you feel you need more support – as many new sales managers do – you can always attend a specialist sales force management training course which will help you build the specialist skills needed to do one of the toughest management jobs around – managing a sales force.