How Do I Get Promoted to Sales Manager?
- Help others
- Make use of coffee & lunch breaks
- Know your skill gaps
- Do something remarkable
- Always be learning
You know the feeling. You’ve been selling for a few years, you’re regularly hitting your number, and you think you’re ready for a promotion. But sales is a labor-intensive job. The day-to-day stress can be deflating, and most of the time, it takes everything you’ve got just to meet your goal.
So, how do you get to the next level without taking your foot off the revenue pedal? Not by working an extra three hours every day -- that’s only going to burn you out. Instead, do a few little things every day to flex your leadership muscles and still meet goal.
Here are five smalls tasks to incorporate into your daily workflow to build towards a promotion. And remember, it’s not about getting the position, it’s about becoming the person who deserves the position.
5 Ways to Get Promoted to Sales Manager
1) Help people
Former HubSpot Director of Sales and current Director of Product Michael Pici shares his path to leadership in a great post here.
In it, he remembers asking HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan what he needed to do to become a director. Halligan told him, “Start doing the work of a director, and when you're doing the work of a director we might make you one.”
The “work” of a sales leader is helping people -- so that’s a good place to start. You might not have the title, but by helping your coworkers you can start being a leader on your floor today. After all, a title won't make people follow you, their trust and belief in you will -- and you don't need a title to build that.
- Offer to help new reps. New reps always need help when they start. Ask if you can help them ramp up and find success. It might be as simple as telling them how to access certain software or letting a new rep listen to a few of my calls.
- Offer to do a few ride-alongs. Just make sure it's something they really want. New reps are usually a little too agreeable -- and no one wants someone hogging their sales calls when they just want to learn from failing a few times.
- Ask coworkers how they are. When you have small talk with coworkers, ask them how they’re doing and really listen to their response. If the rep sitting across from you says their month isn’t going well, ask "Is there anything I can do to help?"
- Ask your manager for suggestions. If you don't know of anyone on your team who needs help, ask your manager if they have a rep in mind.
- Find people outside your sales organization. If your company is rolling out a new commission plan or training procedure, find out if leadership needs someone to provide feedback or help with implementation.
A few months ago, I noticed a recently promoted colleague struggling to perform. I asked him how he was doing and he told me he was working hard to get better but needed help.
We decided to review a few call recordings and see if we could identify gaps. Turns out, an hour of my time was enough to kick his performance into high gear.
We had one call review and it was enough for him to see his own gaps and actively fix them. I didn't do much at all -- and within two months, he was competing with me for a spot in the top 10 reps!
A side effect of helping others is it helps you. If I’m teaching someone not to proceed to the next stage of a deal before talking to a decision maker, the next time I’m in that situation I’ll remember to hold myself to the same standard.
2) Stop eating and drinking alone
If you’re like me, you're glued to your computer and phone most of the day, spilling lunch on your keyboard and slurping down quick mugs of coffee on your way back from the kitchen. I get it -- but I also fight it.
Instead of staring at your screen for 10 straight hours, use lunch or coffee breaks to network.
If you sell for a company with multiple sales teams, meet with reps and leadership in other teams to learn what their segments are experiencing. And be honest about your interest in becoming a leader. This can feel awkward, but here are two strategies for breaking the ice:
- Get their story: Learn how they made it to where they are today. What was their first job? Did they attend any special trainings or classes? What was their big break, and what did they do once they got there? Ask them to tell their story, and learn as much as you can from it.
- Pepper the conversation with your goals: Pick someone who’s career you’d like to emulate and ask them what steps you should take to achieve the same type of growth. I always thought people climbed the chain gradually, but most leaders do something phenomenal and skyrocket in rank. Learn how they did it and how you can too.
People like people who like them, so ask “What was your path? I want to be a leader like you.” This establishes a relationship with leaders in or outside your company, and it throws your hat in the ring when advancement opportunities arise. If you’re lucky, you might even foster a mentorship with one of these people.
3) Understand the skills you need …
… and find out how to get them. Know the leadership skills you’re lacking, and find out how to get them. Be honest with yourself. You'll need to know how to do more than hit an individual quota when it comes to managing a team.
If you’re a great salesperson but don’t know how to interview people, ask your boss, “If I hit 115% of goal, can I sit in on your next interview call?”
Have hiring down but need to be better at running efficient meetings? Ask for the opportunity to run your team’s weekly call review if you exceed next month’s goal. Need to work on one-on-one coaching? Ask if you can mentor someone on the Sales team.
Sales managers are usually trying to find a carrot to push us above 100% next month, right? I usually find my managers are very receptive to these requests.
It might be hard in the beginning, but telling your boss you’d rather receive these opportunities than a $100 gift card will show how serious you are about making it to the next level.
4) Do something remarkable
Many leaders have done something remarkable to get where they are. This one will take more than a few minutes a day -- but has the possibility of a much bigger payout.
To find remarkable growth opportunities, look for company or team gaps and fill them. Is there a communication gap between Sales and Marketing? Find out how to fix it.
Does your company have a major initiative coming up? Get ahead by solving for potential pain paints. Identify where the need is and fill it before anyone else does.
Mike Pici knew HubSpot would need inbound sales, so he built a website, created a marketing plan, and attracted a few hundred leads before presenting it Brian Halligan.
I knew someone who kept getting crushed by competitors when he was a sales rep. He was selling software that was difficult to install, and his competitors beat him every time because they had partnerships with software implementation specialists.
Instead of taking this problem to his boss and complaining, he made his own deal with an implementation company and started winning business -- a lot of business.
His company took notice of the increased volume and asked for his secret. When he told them what he’d been doing, they decided to scale his partnership framework and put him in charge.
I met him a few years later when he was VP of sales and services and overseeing a team of 300 people.
When you’re grabbing lunch or coffee with organization leaders, ask what they see as team or company gaps. If you identify the right gap, it can be like taking the elevator instead of the stairs to the top of your career.
5) Always be learning
Leadership requires a broad skillset, and reading gives you the alternative strategies you need to excel in your daily work. If you’re not reading sales books and blogs, you should be.
Think you don’t have time? Bullshit. Load up on sales and leadership podcasts or audiobooks on your commute. Listen to them at the gym or while you’re cooking dinner.
Start your day by reading five industry articles before your first call, or end it by reading 25 pages of a book before bed.
The best reps I've known are always the best learners. Even when they've been at the top of the monthly stack rank for six months, they're still learning new ways to be better.
Reading is good for your brain, your concentration, and your career. Learn things now for marketable skills in the future.
And if your company offers class reimbursement, take advantage and enroll in local or online seminars to fill gaps in your resume.
Lastly, regularly attend meetups or other networking events in your city. You can learn as much from other people facing similar challenges as you can from the pages of a book.
It’s one thing to want a promotion and another thing to work for one. Start by incorporating these five strategies into your workflow, and see your manager and coworkers take notice.