The Sales Manager First 90 Days - Tips for a Fast Start

Here are some jump-start ideas to help any new sales manager get started in their new sales role when first joining the organization. It's unlikely, there is a sales specific new hire training program. Therefore, these tips and tricks fall into personal effectiveness and "take care of yourself" bucket. This practical advice is designed to ensure sales managers have the right mindset, focus, and activities to accelerate their success and hit the ground running.


1. Be "Like" Before Being Different

  • Whenever sales managers join an organization, it's easy to pick out what's wrong, and how things could be different. As new sales managers identify areas of improvement, they should (quite frankly) keep those great ideas to themselves at first. Especially for the first 90-120 days. Why? Because they shouldn't focus on finding problems. Instead, they should focus on solutions that will positively impact their personal quota attainment or goals. Basically, they need to be seen as having the right activity, not complaining about what's broken.

  • Help salespeople think outside the box, but not be disruptive. Help them take a solution-oriented approach. Help salespeople focus on the outcomes they drive, and the role the company plays in solving customer problems that stand in the way.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should meet with their manager to ask, "Am I adding the right kind of value?" as well as have an objective conversation on their perceived cultural fit. That way, they can make adjustments as needed.


2. Show the Value!

  • New sales managers to an organization could benefit from a personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses. Especially when first joining, they can share with their manager where they think they are in reference to what's expected. What can they do well, and what will they struggle with? It's good to work with senior management to regularly review progress and take an inventory of what the company can do to help. What does the company do very well? What is the value of your company's product/service? (Value from your customer's perspective). Does this product/ service increase revenue or decrease costs for the customer? Or does it increase efficiency or reduce risk (a subset of reduced cost)? Again, for your customer, not your company.

  • Help salespeople sell the value. The value proposition must NOT be based on the feature/benefit(s) of products/services. A company value proposition should be based on how the salesperson, their company, and their product/service can either increase revenue or decrease cost, or both.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should develop and deliver a value proposition presentation to their manager and conduct a role-play. Or, better, they should have held their first sales coaching meeting with their leader present. The goal is to deliver a concise discussion (not a "presentation") that communicates how they, the company, are the right partners to either increase revenue or decrease cost, or both, to deliver business impact. Ideally, they would do that without mentioning specific products or solutions.


3. Develop The Talk Track / Talking Points

  • Once sales managers have delivered an overall value proposition, they will now need to develop their solution-oriented talking points aligned to the customer's problems.

  • Talking Points aren’t scripts, per se, However, once completed they will detail the critical points of the solution's value by the position they are communicating with (CEO, COO, CSO, VP Technology, VP HR, etc.).

  • They will need to deliver their talking points by position because not everyone in the target organization has the same perspective and priority list. Talking points detail the value at the individual buyer level and what is important to that person.

  • What problems does the solution(s) solve? What unique capabilities and approaches does the company offer to ensure success? How are solutions differentiated from competitors? What market/industry expertise and point of view aligns? Is there a specific application of your product/service that salespeople can use to expand your current market and enter new markets?

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should identify a specific niche they can serve – and take active steps to establish their credibility in that niche -- with the intent to dominate it. Managers can help salespeople focus on what they, the company, and the products and services accomplish in the customer's organization. Preferably backed up with active customer references.

4. Get the Activity Going!

  • Ideally, sales managers will start helping their teams with their prospecting activity with their top ten former customers --if applicable. Salespeople should "practice" on previous customers they trust and like in to build confidence. Additionally, calling on prior relationships will allow some "wiggle room" when communicating value -- as previous friendly customers may be more forgiving.

  • If salespeople don't have the prospects to call on, then they should go ahead and engage the customer, or a trusted internal subject matter expert who can serve as a proxy. Salespeople should learn by doing. Anything will help, so help them engage in getting relationships going.

  • Salespeople should also establish their point of view. They can write blogs and posts if their company allows it. If not, they should be allowed to create internal "thought leadership" content they can use when prospecting. Customers want to buy from those they trust.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should produce a list of specific sites and sources, as well as validated proof from actual customers, that outlines where customers and buyers likely get their information. By doing this, salespeople can understand the inputs their customer probably receives as well as understand the source of trends and insights they can use in the sales process.


5. Get Salespeople the Help They Need

  • Sales managers may need to ask for help to adhere to the sales team and business requirements or policies. They will also need to understand sales forecasting and expense processes and ensure they know the actual steps and conditions for each. And they may need help to embrace the CRM for record-keeping and collaboration.

  • Sales managers also need to understand and leverage reporting systems. They will likely need to understand reporting parameters early and make sure to report regularly. If the sales management team does not require opportunity-level reporting, salespeople should be encouraged to do it anyway. The process sales managers go through in preparing opportunity level reports requires that they fully qualify each opportunity and your probability of closure. This type of reporting will also assist them in setting priorities, which, in turn, saves them valuable time to focus on those opportunities that have the highest probability of closing.

  • New hire training should include specific examples and instructions on "where to get help." Take the mystery out of it.

  • Differentiation is the key to winning. So, help sales managers understand what the company does better than anyone else. Also, help them figure out what they need to know what to offer that is different (and better) than competitors. Help them work with delivery and operations team members to add value to customers and prospects.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers can work to understand relevant reports with their leader, and explain those reports and the value of them. Sales managers can ask about the details and ensure a complete understanding of what's reported by opportunity, portfolio of accounts, and/or customer.


6. Leverage Strengths

  • There are usually two types of sales "hats" salespeople can wear: the hunter hat and farmer hat. Sales managers need to ensure salespeople are filling the right role.

  • When salespeople wear the hunter hat, the pursuit of the deal exhilarates them. When they are wearing this hat, it's easy for them to close the deal and move on to the next. The main weakness when wearing the hunter hat is that salespeople can miss out on nurturing accounts – and as soon as a deal closes, they may lose interest in the people within the account.

  • When salespeople wear the farmer hat, they are focused on nurturing accounts. When wearing this hat, they typically don’t penetrate new accounts. When they wear the farming hat, they close each opportunity and work on the next until selling all that they can sell into that account. The weakness of wearing the farmer hat is that the company they work for must continue to evolve, adding new products and services, or the value of the farmer may drop.

  • Sales managers should focus most of their energy on helping salespeople leverage the right capabilities their company does well. Especially capabilities aligned with products/services that add the most value to the customer and helps salespeople wear the right "hat." Some solutions align to ongoing relationships with an account, and others align to bringing in new relationships. Sales managers need to make sure salespeople know which is which.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should know and act on what they were hired to achieve. They should understand which hat they were brought into wear (one hat, or both hats). It's critical that they know the two sales styles and what the best salespeople do to be successful. New hires can work with their management team to find a partner that has complementary strengths so they can help each other out.


7. Gain Commitment from New Hires

  • As new sales managers get started in their position, they can leverage existing win/loss reviews, or conduct them with tenured salespeople. It's an excellent time for them to use their "new person status" to interview successful sellers who have had wins and others who have lost the sale. Win/loss reviews are probably the most valuable sales tool to use at all times, and not just in tough times.

  • New sales managers can also learn a lot from people who recently lost a deal and understand their point of view on what they weren't able to position solutions.

  • Salespeople can commit themselves, their manager, and their customers. New sales managers who take accountability for results, seek to add value in everything they do, especially within the first 90 days.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers can use a win/loss review is an in-depth analysis of all aspects of the sales process for a particular deal. They can look at each win and loss, and ask tough questions sometimes. Ask salespeople to ask the five W’s and one H questions to successful salespeople and share the results with management (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).


8. Help Reps Sell to What Customers WILL Want

  • Sales managers will need help their salespeople understand and close what customers want right now to gain some momentum. However, great managers balance short term expectations with the long-term. For reps to be successful beyond 90 days, they will need to figure out what their customers and prospects will need in the future, and help paint a picture of how to get there. Many times, new sales managers are so excited to sell now, they don't realize although it's what customers want, but not what they truly need to succeed. This disregard often leads to leaving money on the table.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers will need help to focus on their customer’s business FIRST and products SECOND. Not the other way around. Help salespeople stay committed and use this process to create a springboard for long and profitable relationships with people in their accounts.


9. Watch Your Time Spent on Non-Customer Meetings

  • Unless internal meetings are necessary, new sales managers should spend more time coaching, and less time "selling" If new sales managers must attend meetings, then make sure they understand the expected outcome or result of the meeting. In other words, help them recognize what to expect to receive from each meeting -- in terms of something tangible (like meeting notes, recordings of elevator pitches, new contacts, or product overviews)

  • Remember every minute that new sales managers spend in an internal meeting, the less time they are in front of, on the phone with, or supporting the needs of a their reps as their reps work with prospects.

  • In the first 90 days, help new sales managers understand that the sales team's position concerning "time is money." For example, if new hires are not adding value, they will likely affect their paycheck. Each hour they spend in a meeting is a sunk cost of 100.00 (USD) or more depending on how they translate their salary and bonus into their hourly rate.

10. New Hire Training is Critical - If It Focuses on the Buyer

  • Buyers call their challenges “problems” – salespeople like to call them “opportunities.” And this difference matters. Sales managers can help reps understand how buyer problems are inter-related. New reps need to know whom to navigate to as well as the business challenges and aspirations of their clients.

  • Sales managers can help reps understand who’s involved in solving the problem, and what alternatives customers have to address the issue.

  • If sales managers are actively working with salespeople to hit revenue targets and sales goals, the sales tactics and approaches of yesterday won’t work as well today. Most of today’s selling techniques are rooted in the 1900s thinking that focuses on bringing products to market and capturing more market share. However, today’s selling reality requires creating value out of the customer’s problem-solving experiences and the evolving flow of information. When salespeople can do that, they transform their existing client relationships to create different opportunities and capture more wallet share.

  • In the first 90 days, sales managers should be confident to go to training and make sure reps get skill-based sales training that moves beyond teaching products/services features into focused sales conversations.

BONUS: 11. Help Reps Learn on the Job, Every Day

  • Many salespeople learn through trial by fire and mentoring. It's important that sales managers realize that each moment of each day can be a new lesson for reps to improve. However, they have to stay positive, and they have to be able to translate what is taught into action. Help them improve their sales skills to help strengthen the relationship managers and reps. Help them conduct a series of informational interviews if they need to. They may be surprised by where the best ideas come.

About Growth Matters

Growth Matters is an international business founded in 2011. This consulting and services organization focuses on the development and practice of sales management and sales enablement. Our team of world-renowned experts spans the globe enabling businesses to improve sales conversations through services and solutions aligned to sales strategy. Charlotte, NC (USA) is the headquarter of our Americas operation. With dedicated offices in South Africa (EMEA), and Sydney (APAC), we regularly facilitate senior-level workshops in 17+ cities and countries. For more information on equipping sales managers, and aligning to sales leadership, contact the Growth Matters team at http://www.growthmatters.today


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