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The First Thing a Sales Manager Must Know is Management
Blog / Sales Management / Sep 8, 2020 / Posted by Nikolaus Kimla / 266 

The First Thing a Sales Manager Must Know is Management

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It might seem to be a self-contradictory statement: “The first thing a sales manager really needs to know is management.”

But a closer look will show this to be the truth. Often a sales manager becomes a sales manager by being promoted out of the salesperson position. A salesperson was a top producer on a sales team and was then promoted to sales manager to run that sales team.

Unfortunately, though, only being good at selling will never make a person a great sales manager. A sales manager is a leader. To take an analogy from an unrelated field, it would be like taking a ship’s navigator or a ship’s steward—both of whom might be really fantastic at their jobs—and attempting to make one of them a captain. They’ve never commanded or led or motivated people. How are either of them going to fulfill that role?

Sure, being great at sales helps—in fact, salespeople may not even listen to them if they aren’t—but that is only the beginning. There are many other skills a sales manager must have, chief among them being management itself.

If you are a sales manager and are reading this, and you’re tempted to click right out of this article because you yourself were promoted because of being a great sales rep—please realize I’m not slamming anyone that has been through this. I’m simply saying that just being a great salesperson isn’t enough to be a great sales manager—and if you’re a great sales manager, then you already have a number of the management qualities I’m about to cover.

If you’re having difficulties as a sales manager, though, perhaps you might gain some insight from what I am saying. That’s certainly my objective.

Management is Management

Today there are many books out there on the subject of “Sales Management.” But the truth of the matter is, management is management. There is good management and bad management. And either way, it applies rather equally to all endeavors, including sales.

Fortunately, management is not an art, but a craft, and therefore it can be learned by anyone.  It only requires an investment of time.

Here at Pipeliner, we follow a form of management that comes out of a school of thought proven over 150 years. Its principles apply to sales, as they apply to every other form of business. Hence we have not seen the need to invent our own form of management.

The 5 Parts

The biggest misconception about management is that it simply consists of telling others what to do. According to renowned management consultant and economist Fredmund Malik, whose management approach we closely follow at Pipeliner, there are 5 basic aspects or parts to management:

1) Learn to manage yourself. If you can’t manage yourself, you can’t possibly manage others. Management of yourself includes properly organizing your job and your time. It includes self-discipline. To manage yourself you have to become aware that you are learning to work very efficiently with your own time, to accomplish what you want to deliver each day.

2) Managing Your Boss. Once you have learned to manage yourself, you need to learn the 2nd point which is managing your boss. We all have someone above us that we have to learn to manage. Managing your boss means understanding what is important to the boss, and consistently and competently delivering that. Even if you’re totally freelance, you’re still reporting to stakeholders. Everyone has a boss.

3) Others Inside and Outside. Then come the others in the company with whom you work—other people in other departments on whom you depend, and others outside the company such as customers, partners or vendors.

4) Management of your peers. This can be a tough one, as peers generally don’t report to you or aren’t above or below you in the organization. You must peacefully coexist with your peers, while also maintaining as productive a relationship as possible.

5) And Lastly…Subordinates. Only after you have learned to manage the first 4 can you manage this last one—which everyone always thinks is the first and only one—subordinates. If you have managed the first 4, this last one is easy.

The 6 Basic Management Principles

Also according to Malik, management consists of 6 primary principles, explored at much greater length in my ebook Theory Made Real: Pipeliner CRM Puts Principles Into Practice.

Interestingly, because the results in sales are so black or white (you’ve either made the sale or you haven’t), these principles are even more obvious in sales.

Briefly, they are:

  1. Focus on results. Sales are either being made or not!
  2. Contribution to the whole. A sales manager must be able to see how each rep contributes to the overall sales goal, and also how the sales team contributes to the greater company.
  3. Concentration on a few things. In order to cut through noise and distraction, any manager must decide which are the most important factors and focus strictly on them.
  4. Utilizing strengths. It is far easier and more rewarding to bolster the strengths of people, rather than trying to strengthen their weaknesses.
  5. Positive thinking. This is an important point for any manager, but a sales manager will never survive without thinking positive. The main reason is that salespeople, in order to succeed, must constantly think positive themselves. Their leader must also.
  6. Trust. Stated last, this one is actually the most important. You must trust in those you lead so that they will trust you. You must make yourself worthy of their trust so that when times are hard they will come through for you.

When you follow these principles, you already have a strong foundation to lead your team. Then the technology frees you up and gives you the insight to become what you should always be: the real mentor and coach of your team.

So as you can see, management is a profession unto itself. It absolutely needs to be learned by a sales manager, for that sales manager to be successful. The good news: It is there to be learned, and it can be learned!

About Author

A 30-year veteran of the computer industry, Nikolaus has founded and run several software companies. He and his company uptime iTechnology are the developers of World-Check, a risk intelligence platform eventually sold to Thomson Reuters for $520 million. He is currently the founder and CEO of Pipeliner Sales, Inc., developer and publisher of Pipeliner CRM, the first CRM application aimed squarely at actually empowering salespeople. Also a prolific writer, Nikolaus has authored over 100 ebooks, articles and white papers addressing the subjects of sales management, leadership and sales itself.

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