Are You Managing Your Sales Manager?

This is the most important relationship that you are going to have in your career!  Don’t flinch because of the title, managing this relationship is the key to your success.  Invest the time to make it work for you while making sure that you take the time to “guide” it correctly!


I am a believer in this topic.  Managing your manager is the way to success.  I was a sales rep, and a sales manager, a vice president of Marketing (that managed sales managers), and know this topic from a variety of angles!

There should be no negative implications for a topic like this.  We attempt to manage time, territories, expenses, production, and performance outcomes as a natural course in our jobs.  I would hope that understanding how to “manage” your sales manager would be just as important.

“Managing” your sales manager involves important issues such as training, performance evaluations, potential merit increases, territory allocations, participation in sales calls, and the allocation of valuable resources such as prospect distribution, house accounts, and major accounts.

This is not anything nefarious, yet is respectfully making sure that you get the attention and resources that you need, and in some cases the space you need to do your job to the fullest.  It also would be designed to give you resources you need in a competitive atmosphere to be the premier sales professional in your unit.

As a Black sales professional, you are quite visible.  You need to be calculated in your performance, and how you frame that performance.  Your manager should be active with you as well as an observer in your performance and work activities.

Relationships Count

The most important relationship you have at your job is the one you have with your manager.  Your ability to ask questions, seek assistance, and suggest improvements should be natural.  Likewise, your ability to get feedback, accept criticism, and be generally evaluated should be a given.

This relationship is a give and take.  He or she is still the boss, and you have expectations of each other.  You need to work at this relationship if you are not the premier performer.  The premier performer has his/her results to support the relationship.  Until you get to that status, you need the manager a little more.

‘Fair Game’ Tactics

Here are some ways to effectively manage your sales manager:

Communicate Upward – Keep your sales manager knowledgeable of your activities, and the status of major clients and prospects.  Your managers should always be kept abreast.  Sales managers communicate upward to their managers regarding major prospects and clients, sales projections, and goal attainment.  The last things they want are surprises.  By communicating these things frequently, it will keep them from making projections and claims that cannot be met.

Request Assistance and Sales Manager Presence – Request your sales manager’s help for profile and difficult prospect/clients.  Remember, you will be in the boat by yourself to get the attention or negative attention depending on the results.  Sharing the attention when you win is better than ending up with the sole negative attention “spotlight” if you blow it.  You can more easily manage your sales manager if you make him or her look good.  Have the sales manager attend calls that you need help on, but also calls that put you in a good light.   You can choose calls that display the strength of your relationships, showcase your strong technical abilities, and calls that reveal your technical sales ability.

Be The Expert on You – Your manager can have as many as 12 direct reports, and the responsibility for getting results from them, and a particular territory.  He cannot possibly know you, your accomplishments, and your strengths, the way you want.  It is easier for the focus to be on your weaknesses.  You must be the expert on you!  Know the following:

Know Your Sales Manager – Knowing as much as you can know about your manager without being invasive is good business.  It will help you understand the motivations and better be able to answer questions and complete tasks.  Know where your manager went to school and the composition of his/her family.  Know his/her previous jobs, and what motivations are present.  A sales manager who was formerly a financial person may have a focus on the numbers and metrics, and you should know this.  The more you know, the better off you are.  Know the background and feel comfortable discussing it with him/her.  You will notice that the manager will be flattered.  Information from Linked-In, or your company’s website can help you here.  You may even use Google for this purpose.

Volunteer with a Purpose – Every manager needs some help, and you should be prepared to give some assistance and learn in the process when it benefits you.  I certainly am not suggesting that you be ‘oily’ and kiss “you know what”, yet when you can add something you should step-up.  Those that don’t step-up will probably get the items they would not have chosen.

Always be Prepared – Repeat after me “I will never go into a meeting with my sales manager and be unprepared!”  This is important.  When you go in to any meeting with this most important relationship you have at that company, you should go in with a solid agenda.  No rambling and no scrambling but a meeting with a purpose that you requested and are in control of. Have your questions written down, and stick to your appointment time.  Your manager will realize your efficiency and effectiveness.

Always Perform

Here is where you start to make the distinction between you and your counterparts.  To be most effective at this, you need to consistently produce sales results.  It is a given that you need to be in good standing, yet it always helps to be exceeding goals and be a sales leader.

If you do this, you will be “shining” the light on yourself.  This type of self-promotion is totally ‘legal’.  Make sure your managers sees what is necessary and knows your value.  This is something that you can do without seeming like a “weasel”.

‘Manage” this relationship wisely.  It can make a difference in your compensation and your future.

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Wanted: Sales Manager! Are You Ready?

It is a great job, and someone has got to do it!  Sales management is one of the best and most important jobs in any organization.  How do you land this important position?  What tools is your employer looking for?  What do you have to do to stand out?

This job, which is the logical ‘next step’ is sought after by those that realize that there is more to a career than money, although the job pays well.  This job is an important ‘gateway’ to the management ranks in your organization.  Knowing the customer as well as you do gives a leg up to sales managers when other jobs open up in an organization if they perform well.


The role of sales manager was one of the most rewarding positions I ever worked.  To be able to bring fresh new sales talent into an organization was always exciting.  To make the moves to mold an existing sales unit into a conglomeration of individuals who reached and exceed sales goals with regularity was exciting as well.

The patience and determination that job required was amazing, while at the same time, it required one to quickly see thought the mud while pressing for accountability from sales the professionals.

It is a fact that sales managers, if they are solid in all aspects of management, make good managers in total.  They understand the customer better that others as well as the process of business development.

Even more important is the reality that the Black sales professional, even when moderately successful in sales, should consider a pitch for that important sales management job.  We will touch on that in this post.

Being prepared, and having the tools is important.  Let’s discuss some of the ways that you can be prepared for the opportunity.

The Most Important Tools for Sales Management

There are requisite skills for every job out there, and that is true for the job of sales manager as well.  Most sales managers are given a first assignment in a field unit, then increasing responsibility as District Sales Managers, Regional Sales Managers, and Vice Presidents of Sales.

Someone with responsibility for an operation, such as a General Manager, will want in their employ someone who does not resort to excuses or finger pointing at other units.  They need someone who understands the sales process.  I listed some of the skills and attributes that individuals responsible for operations look for when they seek a leader for a sales unit:

  • Leadership
  • Coach and Trainer
  • Visionary
  • Team Builder
  • Motivator

Now, couple these with the fact that you also want these attributes in the leader of your sales unit:

  • Intelligence
  • Responsibility and Integrity
  • Mental Toughness
  • Accountability

If you can get these items, in various amounts, even with need for improvement, you can be an effective manager.

Do you have these skills?  If you have them, have you been able to demonstrate them? These are important questions as this is where you can make a difference.

Let’s Take A Closer Look

Leadership - This most important attribute can be demonstrated by your accepting responsibility in meetings, projects, breakout groups, and other assignments.  Don’t be in the “everyone else took a step back” situation.  Step to the front and claim the role as a leader.

Coach and Trainer – This is an important role for a sales manager, so to the degree that you can demonstrate it, you will show initiative and skill.  Best suggestion; mentor other sales professionals in your organization.  Nothing works better than another professional saying that you helped with his or her career.  You also learn in the process.

Visionary – This is an attribute more than a skill, yet totally necessary in the sales management realm.  I speak of it in Black Sales Journal, March 7, 2010, Be The Consummate Professional. It is what happens when you know what you are doing well as a professional, and knowing your organization, and are able to determine ways processes or products can be done better.  It is foreseeing the change before it is necessary.

Team Builder – This one you can do, and are probably doing already.  Now, remember why it is important … Sales professionals are used to being mavericks.  They are used to a “zero sum” game, “I win, or you win, we both don’t win.”  The ranks of sales is not stocked with team builders, you can stand out from those that are faking it.

Motivator – It might be hard to prove your level of skill on this one.  You can show energy, enthusiasm, as well as drive in interacting with your manager and others.  They must see you as being able to provide an atmosphere of motivation that will benefit others.

Intelligence – This one is one that cannot be faked.  You need to have the basic intelligence to run the business of distributing the company’s product.  They will not give you an aptitude test, yet they will look at everything you have done lately, and how you handled it.  Do you understand business functions, and can you think “on the fly?”

Responsibility and Integrity – I put these two together for a reason. These, as is intelligence, are reasons that professionals don’t get into sales management.  If you are whiney, and complaining, even when you are correct, you will not get there.  If you “fudge” on expense reports, and the only reason that actions are not taken are that they cannot prove you did, you will not get there.  Show responsibility and always exude integrity, and you will be looked on favorably.

Mental Toughness and Balance – You cannot be a sales manager if you don’t exude mental toughness.  You cannot be down one day and up the next.  It does not work that way when you are responsible for others.  Know that the “sun will come up tomorrow” in everything you do.  Know the law of large numbers and be able to teach it to others.

Accountability – Be accountable, and be able to expect it from others.  Avoid excuses, and always know your role, your goals, and everyone else’s.  Accountability is the rule in management, and even more in sales management.

How You Can Get Prepared?

If you are Black, you recognize that Blacks are underrepresented in sales.   It suffices to say that they are well underrepresented in sales management.  We, frankly have woeful numbers in the sales management ranks.

The way to have more Black sales managers is to perform well and formulate and implement strategies that make you successful.  Black Sales Journal can help you in that regard.   Perform well as sales professional, and strategize as to the best time to make the move to management.  The positions come up when managers retire, get promotions, or are terminated.

That means you need to draw up ‘your own’ succession plan for your organization.  How long does your managers, or his or her peers have to work before promotion, retirement, or termination?  Who is your competition, and what do they have as their attributes as compared you?  Show your motivation, always increase your knowledge, and above all, do everything you do with integrity.

You will get your chance to show your  preparation and you qualifications.  Don’t waste it.  Always be prepared!

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