Check out the Next 50 GTM Startups List here!


Here’s how to be a sales manager in 2021-2022

So, you want to be a manager?

I spend a lot of time with salespeople, most of whom are eager to succeed and working hard to excel at their current role. In the midst of that, they almost always also want to understand how to get that next role.

We talk about prospecting and booking meetings. We talk about how to build business acumen and develop executive presence. We talk about running more effective discovery calls and asking layering questions. I field questions from young women that are looking for advice on how to succeed in a primarily male dominated industry. The topics feel endless at times, but one questions that comes up over and over again is “how to do I get into management?”

While I’ll be the first to admit that there isn’t any one linear path from individual contributor to manager, there are definitely some tactical things that you can start doing, learning about, and thinking about as an individual contributor that will help you cross that chasm from seller to leader.

Let’s talk about a few of them.

Do the job before you get the job.

If you only take away one thing from this article make it this – for any job you want, whether it is now or later, the best advice I can give you is to start doing that job before you actually get it.

Some of you reading this have climbed the ranks from a Business Development Rep (BDR) to Account Executive (AE). Think about that journey. Most likely you started thinking like an AE before anyone actually gave you a shot at closing your own deals. You listened to recordings and shadowed calls of other AEs that were crushing the game. You probably asked your peers to BCC you on emails and you started building your own templates of follow up emails and value props you would one day deliver. You may have volunteered to help with pre-call research, spent time digging through websites, reading 10Ks and news outlets to better understand what was important to the buyer, all in an effort to start thinking like the AE you wanted to become.

Your first move into management is no different.

No matter how many times you’ve been at the top of the charts as an AE, the skills it takes to be a great manager are very different than the skills it takes to be a great seller, and to get the job and then to succeed at it you’re going to have to learn an entirely different playbook.

Pay attention to your manager and to others that are leading teams around you. How do they spend their time? What types of questions are they asking? What channels do they use to communicate? What are they most challenged with, even more relevant since most of us have made a very recent pivot into an entirely remote environment.

Then, identify ways that you can help. Are there things you can volunteer for within your team? Maybe it’s something your boss is struggling to find the time to do that you’re uniquely equipped to tackle. Maybe there’s a junior seller on the team that could use some additional coaching or there are other mentorship opportunities in the team you could step up to the plate and take on.

Every team is different, and every company has their own nuances around specific roles and responsibilities, but if you want to take on a management role in the future then find small ways to start doing pieces of that job today.

Build a network of other people that are doing the job you want.

A critical requirement for building the skillset you will need to succeed as a leader is getting exposure to other people that are leading teams today. If you want to become a sales manager, then go find 5-10 other sales managers and look for opportunities to learn from them.

They may or may not be willing to give you 1:1 time, so try to think beyond just “hey I’d love the opportunity to pick your brain for half an hour” requests. Follow them on LinkedIn. Ask them for book recommendations or for a podcast or two that they typically consume. Ask someone on their team to share a nugget or two of what they do uniquely well.

Communities like RevGenius are a brilliant place to make those types of connections happen. Get involved in conversations that are happening or just ask for recommendations of stellar managers to follow or connect with.

Invest in your own personal development.

If you want to truly up level your skillset and fast track your way to your next role, then take ownership for your own personal development. Be proactive. Don’t wait for information to simply come your way. Identify the areas that you need to learn about and go make it happen. Whether it’s books or a subscription to Masterclass or the myriad of podcasts and blogs available to us all, the opportunities are literally endless.

In 2020 there is no excuse for not investing in your own personal development. Commit to getting just one percent smarter about a specific topic every month and you’ll be amazed at how quickly opportunities will present themselves, not to mention the by-product of getting better and better at the job you have today.

Start thinking like a coach

We’ve already talked about “doing the job before you get the job”, but let’s take that one step further. Leading people is about more than just “doing”. It’s about thinking like a leader, and for sales leaders that all starts with thinking like a coach.

Take a look at your current sales team. Even if you are all remote, pay attention to who’s doing what. Who’s speaking up in team meetings and who isn’t? Who’s closing deals and who is struggling? Who’s excelling in specific areas that others might be able to learn from. As you start to notice these things, think about specific things you can do to make an impact.

For the person you notice that has been sitting back on the sidelines, how can you encourage him or her to participate more? How can you help infuse them with some much-needed confidence?

For the person that’s closing the deals, how can you be a more vocal cheerleader or help the rest of the team learn from what he or she is doing so well.

For the person that is struggling, what can you do to support or encourage or partner with them to help them break through?

Moving into management is exciting. You have an opportunity make an impact in a whole new way and scale results that are so much bigger than what you could deliver on your own. But moving into management is also challenging. You will face obstacles and roadblocks that you’ve never even thought about and become deponent on those around you to deliver results. There will be uncertainty and so many elements that will feel outside of your control, but one thing you can be absolutely confident in – the time and energy you invest into developing your skills as a sales manager today will be an investment that will pay dividends for years to come.

So, get out there and start making it happen.