17 Jan

I was a new sales manager. I was rubbish!

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What were you doing for work in 2007?  Cosy job? Knocking it out of the park? Learning a lot about yourself?

I know where I was. I was just starting as a brand new sales manager in media sales.

In the lead up to this point, I had been a safe pair of hands. Regularly hitting targets, not causing any problems for my manager, always putting the client first and generally being good at my craft.

The job advert was circulated internally and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be a manager. Who cares what I think, I am applying anyway! What can possibly go wrong? I get interview experience. I get feedback on my application. Even if I don’t get the job, I can only win. There is nothing to lose.

So my hat goes in the ring. The interview process lasts a few weeks with a couple of other candidates also trying their best. I come out the other side of the process as the new sales manager! What had just happened? I needed to let this sink in a bit. I had taken a chance, prepared over and above what was expected of me and I smashed it out of the park. I was going to be amazing!!!

WRONG!! I was a bloody disaster!!

I’m not talking ‘David Brent’ disaster. I knew how to conduct myself. But I simply didn’t know how to transition from a leading sales performer to a people manager.

I had a sudden rush of power and started becoming a dictator. I had tried to emulate my best managers, but whatever I tried I couldn’t deliver it the way that they did. Why wasn’t I good at this? I am a good salesperson, right? This should be an easy ride.

In the months that followed, I went through what I can only describe as one of the steepest, sharpest and brutal learning curves I have ever been on. I wasn’t business savvy. I had very little support. I was in a sink or swim situation.

I managed to upset people so my response was to change my style and I went too far the other way and became too lenient. My former team members were now my line reports, but I could still be their friend, right? That is a tricky line to walk I can assure you.

Upon reflection, this was the pivotal moment that I became a completely different business creature.

I started observing how the best people did it. I didn’t try to copy their actions, I tried to understand their behaviours and adapt it to my own personality style.

I read, I attended courses, I failed, refined and improved. I was on a mission of self-discovery and learning. I was refusing point blank to fail.

It probably took me about of year of dodging bullets before I was competent. Not good, just competent. That is a really hard thing for me to write as I am somewhat of a perfectionist. But it is being aware of that fact that drove me forwards.

I had changed. I was someone totally different from that sales guy 18 months ago. I was hungry for knowledge and success but I was still quite a way off.

I applied for a sales manager role at a large media house who were a lot more experienced in what they did and they also offered a lot of support for people at all levels and this is exactly what I needed.

It was a new challenge and I could apply all my new knowledge.

Supported, learning and surrounded by a great team of sales people that were self-sustainable and needed some guidance and encouragement. It was a great few years and I (and the team) went on a great journey together. Highs and lows as there always are in sales but it was a solid unit and I was a ‘real’ sales manager now. I never looked back.

Understanding a career path is vital. That means understanding all possible routes for your team members, but it also means knowing where you can go within in a business to progress your own career.

I assumed (incorrectly) that the only way up was into management. I didn’t have all the facts, or the support from the business in order to be successful. If it hadn’t been for my own stubbornness and desire to succeed, things could have turned out very differently.

Using that real-life experience, and having worked with many businesses that do this incredibly well, I can now offer advice on how to give your employees vision for their own success, while giving them the power and the tools to take control of their own development.

If you want to know your next move or feel your employees are frustrated with a lack of development or progression, email us at hello@brightshade.co.uk to set up a call and we can have a no obligation chat about what your options are.

As always, we are here and happy to help so that others don’t need to go through the same drama that I did.

Written by Ben Bennett

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