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Mistakes New Managers Make

by David Brock on June 2nd, 2011

Transitioning from the role of individual contributor to a freshly minted New Manager is fraught with opportunities to make mistakes. In this article, I just want to focus just three things, I’ve seen happen to new managers too often:

  1. Failure to recognize their job has changed!
  2. The urge to change everything at once.
  3. Getting stuck behind a desk!

Failure to recognize their job has changed—this is usually the single biggest mistake I see new managers making. Typically, they’ve been very successful as individual contributors, possibly top performers. Too often, in moving to the manager role, they try to do the same things they did as an individual contributor—only more so. They may sweep their people to the side, trying to do the deals themselves. They step into what they may perceive as a “sales void,” trying to drive every deal. It just doesn’t work! First, the numbers are against them–as individual contributors, presumably they were totally consumed in managing their own territory. Now they have responsibility for managing a much larger number of territories–it simply doesn’t add up. But more importantly, it’s demoralizing to their new team. If the new manager steps in, trying to manage the deals, taking the responsibility away from the people–they will check out. They’ll be, rightfully, frustrated and upset.

It’s important that new sales managers recognize their job is to get things done through people. They will be much more effective if they work with and through their people, coaching them, supporting them—never dictating.

The urge to change everything at once—to often new managers feel they have to take action immediately. They feel they have to make their mark on the team and organization. In their urgency, they start to change things without first understanding what needs to be changed. After all, isn’t that what managers do? Aren’t they supposed to change things? The best thing the new manager can do is to avoid that urge to rush into changing things. They are better served by first trying to understand what’s happening, to get an assessment of the organization, the people, the strategies, processes and so forth. They should look at what’s working—if they are replacing a very effective manager, maybe nothing needs to be changed. They should look at what does need to change and slowly develop a plan, assuring they have the support of their management team and the organization. Without this, they’ll be so far ahead of their interference, they are likely to fail.

Getting stuck behind a desk. The administrative side of sales management can be overwhelming. The constant need for forecasts, budget reports, other reports, meetings with other managers, more reports, the list can go on. Before the new manager knows it, they are spending all their time in administrative hell! The highest priorities of the new manager are to get to know their people, their customers, to learn how things work. To spend time wandering around, rolling up their sleeves and working with their teams. Yes, the administrative work needs to get done, but new managers need to figure out how to do it, without compromising the time the spend with their organization, people, and customers.

I could go on, but I’ll stop for the time being. Moving into the role of new Sales Manager is difficult. Get first things first, focus on these three areas and you will be much more successful in your transition and make your boss, team and customers more comfortable.

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3 Comments
  1. Malcolm Mersham permalink

    Perfectly put Dave. As a sales manager myself, I’ve realised that the 3 points you mentioned are crucial to success.

    You need to drive your team from the back, not take charge from the front, often leaving sales people feeling put aside. You need to let them take charge of the accounts and customers, and simply help them refine their approach.

    Understanding the sales process within the organisation itself is also a pertinent point. Often we assume each sales person works the same way, using the same processes. I have found this not to be true.

    • Malcolm, thanks for taking the time to comment. You make a great point—it’s really critical for the manager to understand how each person on their team works–we all have our differences. Effective managers adapt their coaching style to each person.

      You may want to take a look at my First 90 Days post. It covers the process and more.

      Thanks for commenting, I hop to see you here frequently.

  2. Arguably one of the biggest changes is the fact that they are no longer just responsible for their own workload. As a new manager, your main task is to motivate the employees under you. Teamwork is crucial in the workplace, and it’s important to praise your team for meeting goals or successfully delivering on a tight deadline.New or young managers may feel insecure in their newly acquired position. When this is the case, it’s easy to become defensive or feel threatened when feedback comes your way.

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