While they may not admit it, all new sales managers feel some form of insecurity about their role of leading others. After spending twenty years leading hundreds of people and giving dozens of promotions, I’ve seen the stress that the first year brings to new managers. Even in my own household, I witnessed my spouse start a successful business. With this being the first time she has directly managed 10 or more people, our nightly conversations were consumed with how to develop her staff.
Whether you are trying to fill big shoes when taking over a winning team, grasping the reins of a new company, or helping a broken team with a challenging culture, the sense of humility about your own ability is refreshing and actually helpful. The confidence that helped you stand out as a future leader should remain intact, while balanced with a humble approach to inspiring others.
Why the insecurity? As reported by Business Wire in September 2007, “nearly 60% of frontline managers underperform during their first two years in the seat.” In 2011, Development Dimensions International (DDI) released a study after surveying more than 1100 supervisors and found that only 1 in 10 leaders were actually groomed for their job. No wonder many managers feel like they were thrown into the deep end of the pool immediately after a promotion.
A 2014 Gallup report asked U.S. managers why they believed they were hired into their current role and they commonly cited their success in a previous non-managerial job or tenure in the company/field. The 2011 DDI study identified these top five most uncomfortable situations for a manager during their first year:
1. Reprimanding an underperformer
2. Firing someone
3. Going from co-worker to boss
4. Learning the ropes
5. Dealing with senior management
There is certainly more than one way to be an effective leader, for instance reading books or blogs regarding leadership to get daily, thought-provoking insight. From my experience observing dozens of new managers, there are common characteristics between those who improved their teams the quickest. I’ll break out this conversation into two parts. The first part is what you should do in the first 100 days as a new sales manager. The second is the set of skills you should immediately practice, improve, and develop.
Seven Things to Do in Your First 100 Days
- Observe a lot! Not just in your first 100 days, but for the rest of your leadership career,use your two ears more than your one mouth. Watch your team in practice. You can listen to them on the phones or shadow a sales call. Identify your long-term players. At first, you may not want to give too much coaching or feedback. Ask lots of questions. Observe so you can learn your people, processes, and technology.
- Meet one on one with your staff. Individuals are motivated by different things like pay, career growth, company culture, recognition, autonomy, security, awards, helping others, etc. Find the one or two primary motivators for each member of your team.
- Study the metrics. Find the measurable tasks in the sales process. Identify the bottlenecks in the process. Establish the correct key performance indicators or benchmarks. Create a monthly, quarterly, and yearly recognition program that encourages people to exceed those metrics.
- Build an internal network. Forge relationships with people inside the company from all departments. Meet one on one with everyone at your level or higher from each department. Those relationships will come in handy when you need to ask for favors or require urgency on a project.
- Have high hiring standards. If you are new to hiring, meet as many candidates as time allows. Nobody is perfect at hiring and never will be. Only hire those who match your core values, not just required skill sets. If there is any concern about perfectly matching your core values, then pass.
- Take notes of your ideas. Prioritize your notes at the end of the 100 days, so you can tackle low-hanging fruit ideas immediately and begin the process of testing your transformative thoughts. Avoid trying to do everything at once.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s been said many times that you will learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Don’t beat yourself up. Recognize mistakes as development opportunities.
Six Skill Sets to Expand as a New Leader
- Practice your active listening.
- Communicate the organizational goals to your team and explain how their contribution to these goals can impact the company’s overall strategy.
- Allow open communication and constructive feedback.
- Be the example—they are watching you.
- Be fair to everyone. Avoid favoritism, especially if you were promoted from within the team.
- Be clear in your expectations of each individual.