One of the biggest challenges in a sales career is transitioning from salesperson to sales manager—especially if that change happens within the same company. It can be difficult for team members to stop viewing you as a peer and to start seeing you as a leader. Growing into a leadership role requires sacrifice, hard conversations, and most of all an extreme level of confidence in yourself, regardless of if you’re moving up in your company or taking on responsibility in a new business.
There are varying mindsets on how to approach this shift in roles, each with unique benefits and drawbacks. Here are three tips for making the transition smoother.
1] Introduce and set expectations early
As early on as possible, schedule an all-hands meeting to introduce yourself and your role, and to set expectations. These should include both what they should expect from you, and what you will expect from them. Your direct reports and anyone else who supports your team should be included in this conversation.
There is likely to be a lot of speculation amongst the group as to how you will perform as a leader, and by bringing everyone on the team together, you get to control the message and how you present yourself. All team members will receive the same message, at the same time, and it gives you the chance to align the group.
Be clear, fair, transparent, and vulnerable here. Providing insight into your own thoughts and concerns about the new position reminds them you are a real person who wants to bring his or her best to the team.
2] Establish one-on-one relationships
Setting one-on-one meetings with each of your team members provides the opportunity for you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual. Armed with this understanding, you can work to properly align your efforts toward improving their strengths and avoiding their weaknesses.
Take time to examine your environment and who’s in it, so you can more easily set your team up for success.
Make sure to ask how they like to be led. This is a question many leaders miss, but it is one of the most powerful pieces of information you can gain early in the process. It helps you avoid butting heads later on due to miscommunication and personality conflicts, because you’ve gained insight into who they are as a person and as an employee.
The more clarity you have on how each employee wants to be communicated with, the better and quicker your success as a leader will build.
3] Create a 30-60-90 day plan
Having a clear 30-60-90-day plan that you share with your team is ultimately more important for you than it is for them. It’s easy to jump in and try to solve every problem, go after new accounts with your team, or make major changes to show that you were the right person for the job. But the first 90 days are crucial for getting the buy-in from your team on your initiatives, and for you to get a solid grasp on the personalities you have within your team.
Complete a deep dive into your organization—looking at aspects such as mission statements, previous successful initiatives, and current goals. Then, look at areas that could be improved upon, and create a plan of action for no more than three of those areas. If you implement too many changes too quickly, you may lose momentum and set yourself up for a no-win situation. If you take the time to examine your environment and who is in it, you can more easily place people in the right position to bring the team and the company success.
Focus your efforts on giving your employees what they need in order to succeed. As a salesperson, you worked for your clients and did what was necessary to bring success to their projects. Leadership is no different—your clients are now your employees, and it’s your job every day to service them to the best of your ability.