From AE to Sales Manager: It’s Not What I Thought It’d Be, But Online Sales Training Is Saving Me

This is an exciting post to write for me. I recently transitioned from an individual contributor role as an Account Executive to now managing a team of reps. And wow, I have learned a lot. 

But it made sense, it was the next step in my career, right? That’s what many of us think, and throughout my career, it was always the perceived right-next-step to take. Crush in sales, be the best, lead by example, and then take on that managerial role to replicate for a group of reps what you’ve already done. How do you lead a sales team to success? Simply hustle as a sales rep, and you’ll eventually know how to lead a whole team to do the same. False.

I can officially report back, friends, that becoming a manager is not necessarily the right next step for every top performer. It’s actually been a fairly difficult transition in many ways. And while I’m enjoying it and learning a ton, today I’m going to lay out what I’ve learned throughout my first nine months as a sales manager to highlight what’s proven to work in leading a sales team to success. I’ll walk through these three topics below:

  • Leading vs. managing
  • If it works for you, why not for me?
  • Let go of the leash

Leading vs. managing

Let me start by sharing that these are two very different things. Many of us spend the first portion of our careers striving to be the best. For sales folks, that means exceeding quotas by 200%+ quarter after quarter, never missing a Presidents Club, being a mentor to new reps who join the team, leading by example, being a team player, and so much more. What took me a very long time to understand, and what I’m still working on it, is that everything I stated above is the definition of being a leader. 

What I’ve learned from managing is that you cannot do it on your own. I am so grateful for the support of a sales enablement team that’s built out a best-in-class sales training curriculum with sales training topics that seriously help me and my team. (Huge thanks to them and the folks on our Product team who build our online sales training software.) Above and beyond that, here a few more fun takeaways I’ve learned now that I’m blending leadership with management. While some of these can become frustrating, most are so much fun and worth it all ten times over, including:

  • “My Calendar” is actually THEIR calendar now.
  • There’s always room for coaching, and reps want it more than anything.
  • When developing my team, I focus on one thing at a time.
  • My free time always disappears at work, but reps are coming to me because they respect my opinion.

This list could go on, but for me, these few realizations I’ve had help me realign on why I’m here and what’s important for moving my sales team forward to becoming successful. Not to mention it helps inform how we move forward and think about our software sales training in Lessonly.

Works for you, why not me?

I jumped into the sales manager role with minimal virtual sales training, and the quickest and easiest step in my eyes was to replicate what others before me have done because it has to work for me, right? Wrong. What works for others may not work for me, and I learned this quickly. How much time different managers spend in reports, how they structure their weeks, the amount of time they spend with their reps individually and as a team, and lastly, they approach deal support, will all vary. And that’s a good thing.

How about an example? During my first month as a sales manager, I focused so much on the data and perfecting the sales training techniques that I was given. In doing this, I spent all of my time watching the KPIs we leverage to measure success using our amazing partner, Gong, to provide offline coaching. While this was new and got the job done from a coaching/managing perspective, IT CRUSHED MY SOUL. 

I wasn’t live with my reps as much as I wanted to be, and I was no longer in front of the customer. Let’s just say, after a month of that, I quickly realized that I’m much more of a player coach than solely a coach. All that to say, I now know that my own personal sales skills training is far from over. As a manager, I recommend that you make sure you’re putting your best self forward for your team and leaning into the parts of your job that feel life-giving to you.

Let go of the leash

Have you ever felt like this poor pup before? But, what I’m trying to get at here is that leading a sales team to success cannot be driven by keeping your reps on a short leash. To be clear, I’m not referring to micromanaging, but more so when you’re on a customer call with your rep, and you have to bite your tongue: allowing them to craft their own answers, selling with stories, and ultimately letting them potentially fail so that you can align to sales training methods that drive success and improve through examples. This can be extremely tough, especially when coming from always owning and leading the sales conversations. 

Final thoughts

In the end, leading a sales team to success is unique for all of us, but understanding the differences between leading vs. managing, developing your own types of sales training programs, and providing your reps the room to make mistakes and grow are some great ways to see success.

 

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