You know it’s ironic that I wanted to start writing this blog for the longest time but couldn’t find the time and now I cannot stop writing. Maybe I’m in the wrong line of work 😅 yeah I won’t quit my day job until this line of work turns a buck. But then again that is not my goal here. Or could it be? 🤔 (note to self, turn this blog into a profit center, been eyeing that new M3 competition)
Anyhow, what are we talking about today?
Yes, some advice for my comrades, my brothers and sisters in arms, my people, ma young ‘uns out there. Yeah I should not do street talk or act cool. God the 30s are approaching, evident by a litany of dad jokes and failed attempt to be hip. I too, was once cool…
Oh, so back to new managers. Yes!
So a little bit of background on why I wanted to write this blogpost. When I started my sales career (which was purely by accident btw), I started as your typical SDR/AE hybrid at a new startup. I learned everything from the ground up of what sales looks like in a B2B SaaS (shout out to my boy Kuba Krolikowski for showing me the ropes).
About a year into the role, my manager got a job offer and he went to work at a new company. I was always an ambitious fella, so when Bart (our CEO) asked whether I would be interested in being the new Head of Sales, well I jumped at the opportunity. The rest is rock and roll history, end of the today’s blogpost. Thank you. See you.
I really have to stop with these jokes… now reviewing them they sound more lame. Argh, alright gotta keep writing the way I write.
Needless to say that I did not have a clue about how to manage people, let alone build sales processes, do 1:1s, setup strategy sessions, how to report to the CEO. It was all alien to me, I only knew how my manager did it but even then not so much in detail.
Essentially I had to learn everything again from the ground up about what it takes to become a manager, that too a good one.
You see most of you, just like me probably at some point in your career will be given an opportunity to manage a team of your own. I mean who doesn’t like being called Patron? Whether or not you are built for this type of role is something you will have to decide but can only happen once you give it a try.
I feel like a lot of us are thrown in the deep end without any formal training and given opportunities to manage teams. I know first hand that companies are always looking for good managers and promoting from within seems like the obvious next step. I see it more often than not, that a sales rep was a great performer and had great relationships with the team and were moved up to the manager position and they just totally bombed.
Happens more often than not. Because they were excellent at being a sales rep but did not have the right skill set to be a manager. So whether or not you will make a good manager, time will tell. My goal here is to help guide you on how you can start in the right direction.
Somebody smart once told me that you should always say yes to a good opportunity, whether or not you know much about what is being asked of you, you can always learn on the job. Doing is more important, you just got to have that attitude.
So, you’re a manager now. What is the first thing you need to do?
You know they say the fool did it, because he/she did not know it was impossible. That is how you got to look going about doing any task that includes being a manager.
Reverse engineer it. Basically a fancy of saying, start from the bottom up. You have had the good fortune of being managed by someone, what is it that you liked and disliked about being managed?
What do you think should be structured well inside of the sales team, what needs improvement and what is good as is?. Write all those points down in a Notion doc/Gdoc and start creating a knowledge base of all the information for anyone new joining the team.
It does two things, it helps create a record of things so you don’t have to explain how the team works to any new hire. And two, it helps you put all your thoughts on the board so you know exactly what the process looks like, what works and what does not, and at anytime you can make tweaks and improve your process. Another benefit of this approach is that very quickly you start to realize where the gaps in your knowledge are, so you simply go ahead and learn those things to fill in the gaps.
Build out the process from scratch, the what and why of the team, what the ICP looks like, the lead qualification process (Who knows it better than you?), dumb that document down to make sure everyone and anyone understands how your sales team operates. And use your sales rep experience here because that will come in really really handy.
Just a quick example. Grammarly right now is showing a hundred different red lines on this blogpost because it does not like the way I write 😆. But that’s ok, this is how I write, you are not here to read this because its a well structured blogpost, you are here to read my experience and what I believe (I sure hope so) is the advice fit for new managers. Your uniqueness, never lose that, stay real and move forward, things will make more sense as you go along and you will stay true to yourself.
Knowledge base ✅, what next?
You know the thing that has always helped me in my career of over 10 years managing people, is that you always have to be honest with them. Sales people are good at detecting BS, so save them the effort and always be honest with them.
That means from the moment you hire them, or even in the interviewing process, be honest about your skillset, where you are with your knowledge and this new experience, you will see that your team will support you and will want the best for you. I have always been truthful with my teams and to this day I have built a great relationship with most of the people I managed, honesty goes a long way.
It helps level set with your team and builds good rapport. There are ton of books written on how to be a great manager and what you need to do to manage a team. What I very seldom see is a very important question that every new manager should be asking themselves.
Is this really for me?
Knowing whether or not you’re good at something is one thing but understanding and acknowledging whether or not this new role, responsibility gives you happiness is a completely different ball game. 5 years ago if someone would’ve told me (the immature me) they became a manager and are facing difficulties, I would’ve told them to suck it up.
But now, I would advise them to really see if this indeed is something they would be good at and would want to do every single day. Folks, managing people is hard, there are so many different variables and moving parts. It is effing tough and exhausting. No shame in really giving it a go and realizing whether or not this is meant for you, because if it’s not or if you’re not ready, better to find out earlier rather than later than to have to go through all that misery.
Do remember, it will take time to adjust. I recommend giving it at least 6-9 months to see if this is something you would enjoy doing and if it’s your cup of tea.
Lead your team
One of the things that I dislike about management is that often time you are not in the trenches with your team. You are not doing demos, making cold calls, sending follow-up emails, closing deals. And your inner sales rep, well it suffers. Think of it like a muscle that atrophies if you do not exercise. Do not skip leg day folks!).
One thing that really helped me stay sharp is that I always try and do demos on a weekly basis, or try to talk to customers, handle prospects to make sure that i’m quick on my feet. Because if the last time you sold was over a year ago, your advice, which your team will need time and time again might not be up to date so to speak. You have to keep your head in the game and see what works, what doesn’t because sooner rather than later it will become hard for you to relate with your team and your team with you, because you do not fully understand the issues that they are facing.
Reality almost always is different for folks doing it, as oppose to folks telling them what needs to be done. It’s good to get a reality check.
Remember the best managers aren’t always the best sales reps and that’s OK. You don’t need to be a rockstar sales person to understand what issues sales people go through and what the sales process looks like. You always need to keep your ear to the ground with best practices and what works/what doesn’t, it will make it that much easier for you to go ahead and lead your team. And lead them by example.
Get your reporting right
You are a manager and you probably will report to someone higher in the chain. Get your reporting right, that means all the KPIs that need to be tracked, make sure you track them. Think long and hard about what is it that you want someone to get out of the reports. Anyone with knowledge of the subject matter (or not) should be able to decipher fairly quickly how the team is performing and the direction in which you are headed.
I see people waste countless hours on this step. Buying expensive tools, trying to get it all in the CRM. Look if it’s an absolute must, go for it but to this day I still use a spreadsheet to record all my KPIs and it works like a charm.
Simpler is often better.
Speed beats accuracy
Much easier to ask for forgiveness than to apologize. Just do things, move quick and hit the ground running. It is so frustrating to see when people constantly just talk about things without taking action. Dude, just do things that need to be done, you will know soon enough whether or not it works or it doesn’t.
There is no need to wait a week, go back and forth with permissions and then get move the needle, delays delays and delays. None of that will help you get closer to your goals, so just like your team would like to close deals fast, you have to make sure that you are focusing more on doing rather than thinking about doing.
You are the manager now, you don’t need to second guess your decision making, make swift decisions.
Not sure about you guys but I like to spend equally as much time implementing what I learned from a book I read rather than moving on to book 2, 3, 4 and waiting to get those processes that I learnt implemented. So if you are getting advice from a book, just make sure that the advice is being implemented properly and thoroughly.
Wherever people are involved, safe to assume you will need to be patient, ha. But yes, it’s critical to be patient with your team. Don’t lose your cool, keep that rage for the punching bag in the gym and not direct it towards your team, no matter how big the mistake.
You know no one is intentionally trying to make mistakes at work. You as a manager might think it is ok to get testy with a team member because they made a mistake and you have a good relationship with them. Yes, you had a great relationship but that was when you were peers and now you are their manager and the power dynamic has shifted a little. So, you need to be careful in how you go about showcasing your frustrations or disappointments.
Whatever you do, do not micromanage
It can be tempting to stay on top of everything and get the best out of your troops. But what you don’t end up realizing that it looks a lot like micromanaging. No one and I mean no one likes to be micro managed. Give people space.
You know it’s funny how people behave like adults when you treat them like adults. Whatever you do, don’t micromanage your team. It can be tempting but don’t. Give them the freedom to shine and always have an open door policy where they can come to you with any issues.
A lot of advice, let’s wind it down.
Managing is not for everyone but if done right it honestly can be one of the greatest joys of your professional career. Just make sure that you are always being honest with your team, supporting team, understanding their professional needs, giving them all the tools and getting the hell of their way.
To tie things off, try to make sure you learn and evolve yourself into a better manager. Not that 1% better everyday horse crap. Most common way of improving is by learning from others who already have done a good job at what you’re trying to do. That does mean you start listening to Elon Musk or Bezos on how to manage people, they are way ahead of you and operate on a completely different level. Learn from someone who is 2-3 steps ahead of you. They have recently been through the same things you are going through and you will be able to closely relate to them than Steve Jobs.
So yea, not exactly rocket science, but not so easy either. Picture the worst manager you ever had and do the exact opposite of what they did 😅 Managing is big work not only because you are responsible for other people but also because you can affect their life at work and outside of work based on what you say.
So always be careful what you might say and the way you say it because it can affect someone in a negative way you might not realize is negative but for them, they take it home with them.
Yes, heavy is the head that wears the crown. But it can be really rewarding if you let it. And remember, just like everything in life, try to enjoy it. Yes you’re a manager now, good for you but always try to be humble and be there for your team.
You do that and I promise you, your team will appreciate it.