Other than the obvious advice to be sure and hit your numbers consistently, what can a salesperson do to increase their chances of being promoted into sales management leadership? Basically, my advice boils down to this: Do everything you can to prepare yourself to succeed in the position. To prove that you are serious about wanting to move up into a leadership position, you should take steps now that demonstrate you’re starting to think more like a manager than a rep. Here are 5 steps you can take:

1. Stop believing your own press clippings 

I hate to say this since I was once a sales rep myself, but most salespeople overestimate their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. This is human nature; it’s how we go through life feeling positive about ourselves.

The problem is that when a successful salesperson – someone like you — thinks they are better than they really are, they stop improving. Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, writes, “Given human nature, we tend to become complacent, self-protective, and less innovative as we become successful. It is often more difficult to overcome success than adversity.”

One of the skills you will need as a sales manager is the ability to convince a sales rep who already thinks he (or she) is great that really they’re just “good” and need improvement. Can you start by convincing yourself that you can get a lot better?

2. Critically examine what it takes to sell effectively

Just because you are good at selling doesn’t mean that you can teach others how to sell. To do the latter, you have to understand and be able to simply explain all the components of effective selling. So starting today, take time after every customer meeting to ask yourself some questions: Was I fully prepared? What one or two questions should I have asked that I didn’t? Did I make a real connection to the prospect? How would I explain what I did well, and what I did not so well, to someone else?

3. Pay more attention to other reps’ strengths

Every salesperson has unique strengths. Some succeed because of a higher activity level; others because they’re more consultative sellers and so have higher win-rates; still others are great at social media and networking. Suppose that Ann is another rep in your company who is very successful. Ask yourself, “What unique things does Ann do really well, better than others, that contributes to her success?”

A common mistake many sales managers make is to hire reps in their own image, someone who reminds them of themselves. If you have a greater appreciation for other success attributes besides those possessed by you, you will be positioned to make better hiring decisions and build a stronger team.

4. Become more of an informal team leader 

Influence – the ability to affect your fellow team members, always comes before a bigger title. To illustrate what I mean check out the movie Moneyball. There’s a scene where the Oakland A’s general manager, Billy Beane, approaches David Justice, an experienced player practicing alone in the batting cage. Up to this point, Justice had been more of a lone wolf, perhaps bordering on what I’d call a Prima Donna. Beane says, “David, I need you to step up and become more of a leader of this team. Make an example for the younger players. Check in with them, see how they’re doing and help them more.” Justice proceeded to become the informal team leader that Beane was asking him to become, and in doing so helped propel the team on a record-setting winning streak.

5. Get ahead of the curve: Study how to become a great sales manager

Learning from the school of hard knocks sucks. It takes way too long to learn and it’s far too stressful along the way. If you think you want to be a sales manager, better to learn now what the job actually entails. I have a new book out that you may find helpful The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top, but there are other titles.

Once you’ve had time to work on these 5 steps, make sure your boss’s boss knows about your long-term goal to become a Sales Manager. Identifying which sales reps are capable of moving into a sales management role is the responsibility of your boss’ boss. He or she must be able to look beyond “the numbers” to determine which salesperson is willing and able to step up to leadership: to lead, communicate, motivate others, assess rep performance, and all the other aspects of sales management that are different than selling. If there is a special team- or project-leadership assignment that has visibility with your boss’s boss, you want to jump at it. Without being too obvious, you need to get to know your boss’s boss, so that he or she knows who you are and comes to appreciate the things you’re doing to get better.

And that is how to get promoted to sales manager!

Kevin F. Davis is the author of “The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top” Kevin is the president of TopLine Leadership, Inc. a company which specializes in sales manager development and customized sales training.

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