What mistakes do people make when they first get promoted into a position of sales leadership? To arrive at an answer to this question, I looked back at my own personal career. As I did so, I evaluated three mistakes that I made that really delayed the growth and the progression of those that I would lead when I made the transition from contributor to leader. I’ve identified three mistakes specific that you’re definitely going to want to avoid as you transition from individual contributor to team leader.
It’s not about you
First, you have to make a mental shift: it’s not about you anymore. Don’t make the mistake of believing it is. When you’re an individual contributor, that’s exactly what it is. You are an individual contributor. When you transition to a role of sales leadership, it’s no longer about you but it’s about the team. It’s about the region. It’s about those around you that you can impact and influence. It’s a selfless role. It’s a lot like how becoming a parent isn’t about you anymore, it’s about your children. In that same capacity, when you move into sales leadership, it’s no longer about you, your accolades, your skillset, your ability to sell, your impressive resume. All of that’s irrelevant. It’s about those around you that you can develop to the best version of themselves. Instead of focusing on yourself, you have to work on making everyone around you 10% better, 100% better. And if those around you don’t have the capabilities to be 10 or 100% better, it’s your job to recruit and build a team around you that can execute on those goals. No reason to be super sales rep. You can’t be everywhere at once. So that’s the first mistake to avoid. Don’t think that sales leadership is about you.
Seize teachable moments
The second mistake to avoid is believing that teaching is done at specific times. Here’s what I mean by that. When I was a brand-new sales leader, I would schedule one-on-ones with people. I thought I would use these one-on-ones as time to teach, coach, evaluate, forecast. But that’s backwards thinking. When you’re in sales leadership, every opportunity you interact with somebody is an opportunity to teach, to coach. No need to put it on your calendar. Instead use every interaction with your reps as an opportunity to teach or coach. If you don’t, the people you lead are no longer going to need you anymore. Teaching is sometimes about just listening and giving honest feedback. It is sometimes initiating a difficult discussion. Other times it’s just listening and being empathetic. So if you don’t take the opportunity to teach at every interaction, you’re losing multiple opportunities to influence those around you. There’s always opportunities to teach, coach, and improve. As you advance as a sales leader, you’ll have the ability to identify your sales professionals who fall in different categories. There are those who need high direction and a lot of teaching in the beginning. There are those who need high coaching on the mental approach because their skillset is pretty solid, but they need coaching on the mental aspect of being in sales. You are ,only be able to identify the need for those adaptions when you take every opportunity to teach. You learn more about your sales reps as you listen for those teachable moments in every single interaction. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can only teach or coach at specific times. Being a sales leader is always teaching. That’s what we do.
Don’t be emotional
And the third mistake to avoid when you become a new sales leader is it’s no longer okay to be emotional. I don’t mean that you can’t be passionate. There’s a confusion between emotions and passion. As an individual contributor, I was very passionate about my goals and the product or service that I was selling. I was very passionate about how I would compete in the national sales contests. I was very passionate about the commission checks I would earn. And as a sales individual contributor, it’s okay to be passionate and emotional. But when you’re a sales leader or manager, emotions are the enemy. You have to have a zen-like approach. Your team has to know that you will keep a level head about everything. If you’re the type of leader that gets equally emotional when an emotional person calls, you’re not providing any leadership, you’re becoming a gossip buddy. When you’re an emotional leader, you tend to manage off the cuff. You manage on the flavor of the month. You allow your emotions to influence your decision-making process. This is very difficult as a new leader to separate the two. There’s many times where I want to get emotional about something and I have to control my emotions, forcing myself to become methodical, influential, and to respond rather than react. There’s a difference between responding and reacting. Sales individual contributors can react, sales leaders must respond. People want to know that you never get too high when the emotions are high, you never get too low when the emotions are low. An effective sales leader takes time to evaluate and respond to a problem rather than simply react to a problem. This doesn’t mean you can’t be genuine. The only way that you can truly build a deep relationship with your people is by expressing and displaying a level of vulnerability. When you express and display a level of vulnerability, your people will do the same and that’s how you grow together.
So those are the three mistakes that I wish I would have avoid as a new sales leader. If you need help applying any of these things as you transition from a sales individual contributor to a sales leader, reach out to me today.