So you are the new Sales Manager, congratulations! While you may have thought getting the right company to give you the job offer was a challenge, you still have work ahead of you. The good news is that with a little pre-planning you will do great and can easily go on to become successful in your field. It’s all about having a plan and knowing what to do in those first 90 days.The first 90 days in your new sales management role will help lay the foundation for things to come. Go in looking weak to your team and they may always see you as that way. Come on too strong and you may create bad blood from the start. It’s important to enter the position with an open mind and a steady hand. As in other areas of life, first impressions go a long way.
Here are some tips to keep in mind for helping you to get through the first 90 days as a sales manager
Listen and Observe
The first few months as a sales manager are an ideal time to do a lot more listening than talking. You want to learn as much as you can about the company, the customers, and your team. Ask questions, listen intently, take some mental notes, and just get to know the surroundings. In order to be great at anything, you really need to have an understanding of it first.
Set Realistic Goals
It’s tempting to go into a new role with all guns blazing but you need to rein those bigger ideas in a little and be realistic about what you can accomplish in those first 90 days. You may not be able to set hard goals for the sales department straightaway, but you can set some personal goals as a Sales Manager.
This is where the first point comes into play: listen and observe, and you will soon identify the key areas you need to concentrate on at the start. This will help you in setting your team and individual goals for the short, medium, and longer term, crucial in sustaining your Sales Team’s motivation. Start considering how these goals and subsequent rewards will work for the team. There is numerous research available to help inform your decisions, including some interesting research carried out by Harvard Business Review that looked at how often goals are set and the effect on motivation in the short and long term.
Evaluate your Team
As the Sales Manager, you will of course need to identify who and what will make your team most successful, and those first 90 days will provide ample time for you to assess and evaluate each team member’s particular skills and capabilities.
Establish clear standards from the outset and ensure everyone is aware of what is expected and how their performance will be measured. This will also make your job of providing feedback and coaching easier, and ensure everyone remains motivated and working towards the same goals.
Once you have performed a proper assessment, you may find you have to make some changes in your sales team but first take this time to establish a clear understanding of where they are performing well, as well as not so well, both overall and individually.
Foster Team Spirit
Competition between sales people is natural, and I would argue that it is a necessary part of creating a results-driven, successful sales environment. However, fighting over leads is not in anyone’s interests and as Sales Manager, it’s something you will need to keep a lid on if you’re to get the best performance from your team.
A strong team spirit is hugely important for both morale and performance, so ensure you foster this by taking the time to develop an ethos of working collaboratively, and of sharing information openly on what is working, and what isn’t. This will help to improve your own performance and that of the whole team, building trust and skills, as well as improving the sales process.
Certainly, without this ethos, not only will you and your team struggle to really gel, but you will find it a lot harder to track trends, stay on top of changing customer needs, and to learn vital lessons that will help improve the sales process.
Assess Sales Techniques
It’s not just about how your team interacts with customers and each other but about the overall sales strategy that your organization has in place too. With so much accessible information to hand buyer behaviors have changed considerable.
Today’s consumers are now much more knowledgeable and in stronger buying positions than ever before. This requires changes in sales strategies, with onus on inbound marketing and consultative sales as opposed to outbound (pushed) techniques.
Delivering valuable sales interactions and experiences will help build trust and successful closing, leading to loyal, fully engaged customers.
All customer interactions need to be handled with this in mind, so one of your first tasks should be to assess how your new team does things, and to start them along the right path if they are not already on it.
Identify Training Gaps
Sales techniques, communication and admin skills, product knowledge, rules and regulations – there are so many areas that require regular training and development to keep a team fresh and on top of its game. A well-trained team will be more motivated and successful, and chances are, there is some training that you or those on your team could use to help with all of the above. By assessing how they each work, you will be able to identify what that training requirement is and put it into effect.
Gather Necessary Tools
As well as ongoing training and development, every sales team, and especially the Sales Manager, needs tools that will help them to be more successful.
For example, using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution to capture, organize, and analyze data at every stage of the sales lead nurture process and produce hugely valuable intelligence that will help your team to be more effective at keeping track of potential customers, sales leads, and deliver timely, relevant and compelling interactions that translate into smoother, higher value sales. This will take your customer understanding, and your team, to a new level.
Technology should accelerate and enhance your processes. So during these first 90 days, make it a priority to familiarize yourself with the full functionality of your company’s chosen solutions to work out their potential to improve your productivity, customer insight and pipeline management and to enable you to deliver those all-important first results in your new role – as well as to identify any gaps.
Align with Marketing
CRM can also be a hugely valuable tool for bridging the divide between sales and marketing. I’m sure many of you have experienced companies where sales and marketing do not always collaborate very well. But as the emphasis on content marketing grows and cold calling diminishes, the dynamic between the two functions is changing, and sales people play as much of a role as marketing in cementing the organisation’s credibility.
If they don’t already exist in your new organisation then, it’s up to you to start building those bridges between sales and marketing.
Simply by using the same CRM system, you could win newfound visibility of the campaigns that your marketing colleagues are running for example, and use these insights to dictate the timing of your follow-up calls and direct the content of conversations, helping you to deliver more personalised, joined-up and effective interactions. As sales improve as a result, it will be a win-win for everyone.
The Final Word
In summary, it’s important to remember to walk before you run. Those first 90 days are crucial, but what you should look to accomplish in these early days will, necessity dictates, quite often be different from your longer-term strategy. Tick off these key initial steps though, and the next 90 days will be easier, as well as the next 90 days after that.