Stepping Into Management: Perception Becomes Reality
By Alex Alleyne
I became a first time sales manager officially last year. I had been coaching sellers internationally for several years but hadn’t yet taken on a full-time role as a leader. I had all of these preconceptions about what I thought it would be like making the transition; namely more guaranteed income without the headache of prospecting every day, and the chance to share my learnings with others to help maximize their potential.
When I made the transition, I quickly realized how right I was in certain regards… but how wrong I was in others.
Being a frontline sales manager is the hardest sales role out there. You still need to be heavily involved in deal cycles, especially for early stage talent. On top of that you need to deliver against leadership expectations like driving an accurate forecast and beyond.
Alongside this, you’re fighting against 100 competing priorities daily. As a sales manager, everything always feels urgent, especially when it comes from your team. Navigating the various moving parts can feel like another full-time job in itself and particularly challenging when you carry the pressure of a target combined with high performance expectations.
If you’re about to make the leap, ensure you’re doing so for the right reasons. You have to be passionate about making a difference for others. No amount of money can compensate for the daily trials and tribulations if money is your only driver.
A helpful exercise here is to sit and actually write down all of the reasons why you want to be a sales leader, who you expect to be in-role and what you plan to stand for. The more time you spend outlining your rationale and expectations, the better prepared you will be mentally when making the move.
First Impressions Last
One of the biggest lessons I learned quickly is that you have a very short and finite amount of time to make a notable impression, especially if you are inheriting a team.
You will be judged quickly based on your ability to make your team and your company better.
Tactically, one of the best approaches you can take is to very quickly start to formulate a point of view around where you can be most impactful. Then start to share that point of view with other leaders and make micro-changes that help to move the company forward.
For example, you could ask to shadow a customer call within your first week. Listen and learn, then make a suggestion or deliver some coaching to provide a ‘this person knows what they’re talking about’ moment.
In a previous newsletter, I spoke about the death of the 90-day plan — this premise feeds into that. You need to deliver early moments that convince others you were the right hire for this job. Taking 30 days to learn about the company without action will cannibalize your opportunity to leave a strong first impression, and that first impression will last.
A Harvard study states it takes eight subsequent positive encounters to change a person’s negative opinion of you. I would argue this is an even bigger climb when dealing with ambitious salespeople.
Don’t wait, get involved early, make suggestions, drive positive change and create the best perception possible around your brand.
Quick Tip: Make sure you equally dress the part. A large majority of what makes up a first impression is visual. Dress smart and you will be received accordingly. Dress scruffily and you will equally be seen accordingly.
Run Your Calendar, Don’t Let It Run You
One of the biggest reasons I see first time sales managers crumble is an inability to effectively prioritize and manage their time.
Due to their eagerness to drive an impactful start, they say yes to everything, with no semblance of what is important. When you say yes to everything, you become a master of nothing and ultimately end up doing a ton of ‘busy work’ without being truly productive.
When you’re productive, you’re spending 90%+ of your time doing intentional activities that truly move the needle. Within your first week, take a moment to write down your observations, where you feel the biggest roadblocks are and map out your priorities.
For example, in my case, I prioritize first based on my team and customers, then everything else comes after that. Meaning if I have a customer or team meeting and someone wants to book an internal update meeting, I will immediately decline or reschedule.
When you have clear prioritization, you can operate your calendar effectively and decisions become extremely easy.
Next Week: Pipeline, Operational & Deal Excellence
The next aspect of becoming a top tier SaaS Sales Leader is to follow frameworks that deliver repeatable results — a great segway for next week’s topic… Next week we’ll outline my renowned POD Excellence™ framework, and how it sets SaaS Sales leaders up for sustainable success over time.