leadership · leadership development · management training · sales · succession planning

How to Master Your First Quarter in Sales Leadership

There is a plethora of (mediocre) advice about how to get your first sales leadership role. What to do to stand out, what to say in the interview, how to “act as if.”

What never seems to get mentioned is that what gets you the new sales leadership position has very little to do with how well you will do at that role.

What gets you there won’t make you successful there.

And because how to master your first quarter in sales leadership doesn’t get mentioned, its also not taught. Tips and advice are great, but they aren’t sales leadership development. I believe that how we set successful salespeople up to fail as leaders because of a lack of training is one of the worst kept secrets in the sales world.

Harvard Business Review says that the average age someone gets their first leadership promotion is age 30. Their first leadership training isn’t until age 42.

That’s on par with responses from a Leaderboard to Leadership™ survey I conducted earlier this year with over 150 sales leaders. 80% of them said they received ZERO training once getting the promotion into sales leadership. Because of that, 73% said they looked outside of their organization for development.

The average VP of Sales tenure is 19 months.  Three of those months are spent learning and creating a first impression to the team and management that they can be successful. Because many sales leaders don’t have an action plan for their first quarter, that foundation is usually set up for failure. Hubspot says no executive fails more than the VP of Sales.

Its our mission at Rise Up Consulting to stop the status quo around sales leadership development and train up new sales leaders. We believe that how new leaders start will set the pace to determine how successful they are in the short and long term. Frontline leaders directly impact turnover rates and how many salespeople achieve quota. We do this through corporate programs so that all the sales leaders are on the same page, and with our group coaching cohorts.

What becomes extra tricky for many sales leaders is that they aren’t doing a completely new job.  They might still manage a book of business.  Some find themselves at a completely new company in a new sales leadership role.  Whatever the situation, a new job is a great time to go back to the basics, and create a 13 week plan to set the right foundation.  Being careful to pay attention to that new sales leadership transition. What should they keep doing that will make them successful in a new role? What should they cease that will hurt them in this new capacity?

“The actions you take during your first three months in a new job will largely determine whether you succeed or fail.” Michael Watkins in Your First 90 Days. 

Here are some “tips” that we go into detailed training with our clients that help them find wins early and often:

  • Be open to learning and teaching.  Many leaders try to prove how much they know and deserve the new role that they go into “fix it” mode.  Listen and learn more than you talk and teach.
  • What are your new standards and timelines for your new priorities as a leader?  Take the time to figure this out.
  • Have at least one team meeting a week and one 1-on-1 meeting with each team member each week. Track all those conversations because it’s almost impossible to remember what you covered, and with whom.
  • After meetings, follow up.
  • Show up on time. This might seem simple, but the #1 struggle for new sales leaders is time management, and it’s not uncommon for meetings to run over, emergencies to pop up, and sales leaders to be late for meetings. This breaks trust with the team, though.
  • Don’t make any changes right away.  Don’t implement any great ideas you have or fire anyone without setting the proper foundation with your team.  They need to trust you and ask them for their input.  They will buy into something they helped create.  Many leaders try to walk into a new role and make a ton of changes to prove that they are the right person for the job.  You can make a ton of changes as an individual contributor, but it affects more than just you as the leader. 
  • Get feedback early and often from your team about what they see.
  • Talk vision all the time and how each person contributes to that vision.
  • Consistency is everything. 

We will be sharing our proprietary and comprehensive 13-week plan for new sales leaders that breaks these tips and other action items down during our masterclass on September 16th. New Role, New Rules: Strategies for New Sales Leaders. We will also dive into the crucial mindset shifts that need to happen between selling and leading in sales. All registrants will receive the Zoom link and a handout to organize notes.

Executives are attending this 90-minute class with the perspective as to how to make sales leadership development at their organization more effective.

Aspiring and emerging sales leaders are attending to sharpen their saw.

To learn more about the details and to register for the masterclass, click here.

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