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Becoming the new sales boss

New leaders have a steep learning curve. This is especially true for newly promoted sales managers.

5 min read


Becoming the new sales boss

JJ Ying/Unsplash

This post is by Naphtali Hoff with contributions from Phil Gerbyshak

New sales leaders face a unique challenge. They rise from the ranks of top salespeople — the ones making the sales — to then be the one who must coach others to close more sales. They also pivot from being part of a group — often having five to 50 peers — to a more rarified air with fewer peers and no same-level colleagues to lean on.

Often, this shift occurs with little-to-no formal training, with the only insight on proper protocol being that which the previous leader did or failed to do. From metrics to staffing to accountability, the upwards move to sales leader is unlike anything these sales professionals have ever done.

Compounding the problems is that too many new sales leaders approach their work with the wrong mindset. They think of this new leadership post as the next step in their ascent, representing an increase in responsibility, authority and prestige. But they do not necessarily see it as one that demands fundamental changes to their core thinking and behaviors. That is a mistake, for to assume a leadership post is to accept a whole new type of position than what they’ve held.

Before accepting this new job, attainment was all about them and their performance. They worked hard to achieve success and hoped that it would get them noticed and promoted. They invested time and effort in showcasing their contributions, with the understanding that their accomplishments would translate into them being able to take that next professional step.

Once we become leaders, however, achievement is measured mainly by our ability to grow others, to make those around us more capable, more confident and more efficacious. The game is no longer about us winning as individuals. It’s our team that must win for your term as a leader to be deemed a success.

No doubt, this paradigm shift can be much easier said than done. Since our youth, we have been encouraged to succeed as individuals. Sure, we were taught to be respectful of others and include them in social activities and school projects, but at the end of the day, it was about us. As we move into the workplace, we bring that me first” attitude with us.

As a leader, that decades-old mindset needs to change, and in a hurry. In the words of the great industrialist Andrew Carnegie, “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.”

What can new sales leaders do to adjust their thinking and become more we-oriented? One primary consideration is to remember how your success will be measured. Another strategy to keep you focused on “we” over “me” is to reflect upon the gift of leading. Leadership offers leaders an opportunity to make a broad and deep impact on others and the organization.

Leaders who remember this blessing and come to work each day with the goal of helping their team will find that they don’t have the time or the interest to think much about themselves. They are simply too engrossed in the broader success of their endeavors to worry about personal gains.

Another strategy to help new sales leaders succeed is to focus squarely on measuring what matters most. Focus on the leading indicators of success, like activity, opportunities and qualified leads.

Once you know what you want, set goals to help you get there. Make them positive and actionable; goals that drive action are stated in the positive (what you will do as opposed to stop doing) and “SMART.”

SMART is a goal-setting system that helps people set goals that produce results. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The most important part of the goal is that it is “specific.” This represents the who, what, why and how of the SMART model — who will do the work; what you (or they) will do, why that is important. how you will achieve the goal and how the goal will make you feel.

While you’re already likely focused on those quarterly and yearly goals, as a new leader, focus instead on the weekly and daily goals that can lead to success. Then, have your team do the behaviors that help them win every sales day, and they’ll help you win your days and months and quarters, too. This helps you get in front of things that may challenge your team before they miss their number for a full quarter.  


Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new productivity blueprint and take his productivity assessment. Read his free e-books, “Core Essentials of Leadership,” “An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing” and “How to Boost Your Leadership Impact.”

Hoff and Gerbyshak will be hosting a free webinar, “Practical Strategies to Help New Sales Leaders Effectively Succeed”, on March 3 at 11 a.m. EDT. Register now.