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Sales Manager Responsibilities: Your first goal is to get to know your people

You have worked hard. You have reached the objectives. As a seller, you are at the top of your game. Then management steps forward and offers you a new opportunity: to be a Sales Manager.

After the initial thrill of being recognized and having the opportunity to be responsible for a larger portfolio wears off, you sit back and think. What does a Sales Manager really do? What are his new responsibilities and how does he work to help his team?

At first, the change from individual contributor to front-line leader is difficult. He will be tempted to step in and ‘do’ things for his team. In fact, some members of your team may expect you to do this. Resist this temptation. Their role is not to replace the vendor or do their job, but rather to provide focus and enable solutions.
What you will find is that good sales managers are a combination of business leader, coach, cheerleader, shield (blocking things from affecting your sales team), analyst (reviewing goals and results), escalation point (to customers) and advocate (for your team with senior management and product/finance/pricing teams). Given this long list of responsibilities, where do you start? Where should you focus to get the best results?

For me this has always been with the Team. It is important to understand each member of your team and know their specific strengths and weaknesses. It is important to understand individual motivations and desires, as well as past performance. Motivations and desires will tell you where they want to go. Past performance will tell you what they have been able to do in the past, and therefore it is reasonable to expect similar results in the future. Understanding each person’s strengths and weaknesses is also extremely important – you’ll need to know them as you take each individual and integrate them into a Team.
Here’s a critical secret that may seem obvious but beginning sales managers tend to forget. It is not necessary to know everything all the time. You’ll gain much more trust and support from your team if you openly ask them for help. If you don’t know how to do something, don’t fake it; admit it and ask your Team for help. Not only will this help you build your relationships with your Team in a genuine way, but you will also have the opportunity to find pockets of knowledge in your Team that can be shared with everyone.

The bottom line is that to be truly effective, you need to get your team to stop working for you and work with you. Sales management is a partnership in which the sales manager serves the salesperson as much as the salesperson is expected to provide results for the corporation. The sales manager is not only the conduit for information to and from the senior management team, but is also the salesperson’s partner. A Sales Manager is a resource that the salesperson needs to know how to use just as much as the sales manager needs to know how to help the salesperson.

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