How to Transition from Sales Rep to Sales Manager in 2023
It won’t shock you to learn that apples and oranges are both fruits. (Close: bringing you deep revelations for nearly a decade.)
Yet as similar as they are – sweet, juicy, growing on trees, getting WAY too expensive at the grocery store – they’re frequently used to demonstrate differences. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges” is as common a phrase as they come.
Well, the same is true with sales reps and managers. While a sales manager depends on many of the same skills a salesperson does, and they may look like unique iterations of the same job on paper, the two really are apples and oranges. Why? Because it’s a truth universally acknowledged that salespeople, even high performers, don’t always make for good sales management.
The reasons vary: lack of experience, different skill sets, anxiety about managing former colleagues. The good news is, each of these issues is treatable if you take the right transitional approach. Yes, making the shift from sales rep to manager can be more troublesome than originally anticipated, but it’s far from impossible.
Today we’re here to talk about how to smooth that transition for future sales managers. The following practical tips will help you ease into the sales manager role proactively, so you can take the next step in your career without adding a Pepto habit to your list of monthly bills.
Ready to make that transition ulcer-free? Let’s get started.
6 Strategies to Transition from Salesperson to Sales Manager
So we’ve answered the question “can you go from sales to management?” and it’s a resounding “heck yes!”
And there’s more opportunity than ever before: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of sales managers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.” Much like death and taxes and hopefully chocolate, sales will always be here for you.
Great career path: check. Opportunity: check. Now you’re wondering how to move from sales to management. You already know it will mean more responsibility, greater challenges, and possibly some office awkwardness–at least at first. What you likely don't know is what steps to take.
Allow us to share six solid strategies that can lead any motivated sales rep into a managerial role.
Ready to become a pro? Explore the ins and outs of sales manager training in my article.
1. Enroll in Management Courses
Step Numero Uno in how to transition from sales to management is to get that education. Many people choose to take continuing education courses to do this. They’re affordable, they’re usually offered remotely or at least on a flexible schedule, and you can tailor your curriculum to your needs.
Management courses can help you understand exactly what the role of the manager is, how you fit into an organization, and what you can do to develop management techniques that continuously deliver results. Effective, trusted Sales Management courses are one of the best ways to advance your leadership objectives.
2. Consider Earning an Applicable Degree
Many people can land sales jobs without a bachelor’s or associate’s degree because the main component needed to do the job well is a willingness and ability to sell. That is a skill that, while it benefits mightily from scripts and enrichment, often comes from innate ability. Add in some online training, and you’re much more likely to climb the ladder.
However, getting a degree can significantly increase your chances of landing a sales manager position – and succeeding once you have it. Plus, there’s a decent chance your company will pay for it. Many organizations will fund your higher education endeavors in exchange for you signing a contract to work for them for a period of time after finishing.
3. Build Relationships
Step Three is to build inter-team relationships that demonstrate your ability to build bridges as well as give and receive mentorship. To showcase the traits you’ll need, it’s helpful to:
- Have an open-door policy, even if you don’t have an office… or a door
- Invite others on sales calls to share the skills you have, and generally share your knowledge with generosity
- Ask for honest feedback from superiors and don’t shy away from criticism
- Be willing to hear opinions and make changes, even if it’s your subordinates asking
- Follow procedures and pay attention to numbers
- Always prepare for meetings ahead of time and be punctual
The last is a great example of mundane advice that not enough salespeople follow. Make sure you do.
4. Take Initiative
Another step in the journey of how to transition from sales to management is to take the initiative, shouldering a task that moves the needle without being asked. For instance, let’s say your company doesn’t have a functional modern sales tracking tool. Enter the CRM.
A customer relationship management system or CRM is a digital tool that helps you manage every part of your sales process–from planning initial sales outreach to building quarterly reports–all in one place. They usually offer a dashboard to help you stay on top of daily tasks or metrics, and they integrate all your pipeline management tools in one place.
Helping your company implement a new CRM will give your business profits a bump, and it’s also a great way to show you’d make an excellent new sales manager. If you’re the one to notice gaps in the existing process and fix them, you’ll go a long way toward landing that manager role.
5. Ask for the Promotion
One of the most obvious and simultaneously the most difficult steps in how to transition from sales to management is actually asking for the job.
True, in the sales industry, it is not uncommon for individual contributors to ask for a promotion. But it is less common for them to nail the ask with solid preparation and reasons for why they deserve the advancement. Here’s how to do that:
- Prepare your numbers ahead of time to put your best foot forward
- Rehearse your short presentation – no more than a few minutes for your initial request – so you’re not reading from your sheets
- Practice for your interview with other people and the mirror until you can deliver your script seamlessly – no different than using a sales script
- Wait. It often takes time for top brass to make big decisions, so just keep swimming in the meantime
6. Demonstrate Your Ability to Lead
In a manager role, getting your sales team members to follow the procedure is one of the hardest duties. Acting like a sales leader now will not only demonstrate you can lead, but help you practice the skills you’ll need in a new role, like time management, expectation, and boundary setting, and providing clear procedural guidance.
Even if you are not yet active in a leadership role, you can still demonstrate your ability to be a sales leader by:
- Following effective processes
- Helping coworkers get it right
- Creating your own new processes to effectively solve problems
- Bringing helpful materials to sales meetings
- Upping your number of sales calls
- Contributing to the onboarding process for new hires
- Acting as a sales coach to junior members during one-on-ones
- Invigorating your LinkedIn profile to do the company proud
Doing the above will show decision-makers beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are ready to move from a regular sales job to a manager role.
Always Pursue New Career Challenges
Even once you’re past figuring out how to transition from sales to management, it’s a good idea to keep a learning mindset. Whether you want to advance your career or are looking to embrace a new career path, you must continue exceeding expectations. Otherwise, your work will stagnate - and your interest in your job will likely will, too.
Accordingly, you should never stop pursuing new titles, new challenges, and new responsibilities, right up until retirement. Actively learning in your field is the best way to gain insight and keep yourself engaged in the sales career for which you’ve worked so hard. That is the one thing the above strategies have in common: constant self-betterment. If you can master this approach, you’ll win at life.
One of the best ways to become a successful sales manager is to use cutting-edge sales tools like Close. It can assist sales reps and sales leadership alike in automating their tasks and becoming more productive in their professions. Close is a trusted partner in sales training, technology, and performance, and we’d love to give you a demo showing how it can help you as well.
Trust us, we’ve worked with thousands and thousands of sales reps and managers over the years, and our system works. Compared to your current approach, you’ll be surprised how much more effective you are after implementing these tools.
Your processes before using Close and after are almost like … well, apples and oranges.