Management Skills

New sales managers: Steer clear of these 5 mistakes

11 min read

You've earned your spot as a sales manager. Start off on the right foot by avoiding these 5 common mistakes that new sales managers make.

It’s Monday morning and you’re getting ready for work. But this isn’t an ordinary Monday. It’s your first day as a sales manager!

Instead of prepping for your weekly sales team meeting, you’re getting ready for your first leadership meeting in your newfound role. Emotions are all over the place and you’re not sure how to feel. The imposter syndrome is REAL. 

You know that the relationship dynamics have changed between you and your peers because you’ve moved into a management role, but that doesn’t mean you have to change how you approach interacting with them. If anything, it’s an amazing opportunity to show off your leadership skills while still being a good friend.

In this article, we’ll walk through five mistakes to steer clear of as a new sales manager:

  1. Acting superior towards coworkers who were peers and are now direct reports 
  2. Not setting expectations or boundaries right away
  3. Not setting up recurring 1:1 meetings to check in with employees 
  4. Disallowing your reports to think – and act – for themselves 
  5. Not determining your own growth goals 

5 mistakes to avoid if you want to be a great sales manager 

Let’s discuss some common mistakes new sales managers often run into when starting this new step in their career so you don’t make the same ones.

1. Acting superior towards coworkers who were peers and are now direct reports 

Remember how last week you were at the same level as your coworkers, but this week you’re not? They remember, too. To avoid problematic situations from the get-go, be sure to:

  • Call out new power dynamics
  • Open up when asked about how your role has changed and how that will affect others
  • Let every person on your team know you’re in their corner

 I addressed any issues head-on. I created a space where my direct reports and I could all feel safe and open to share concerns, challenges, successes, you name it. I made it a point to let every individual know that I was in their corner. That means that any feedback or coaching that I provided would be with their best interests at heart. I let them know that at the end of the day, I care about their success and growth; I want to see them win. Because we were friends, the trust was already there and that made the transition that much easier. 

-Nick White, Sales manager, top hat

If you were in contention for this role by means of a promotion and got it over someone else – who you might now be managing – you need to sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation that lays everything out on the table. Don’t let things fester.

Instead, practice being a vulnerable, empathetic leader from your first interaction as manager. Show concern for everyone’s feelings, be transparent when asked job-related questions, and reassure your new direct reports that you’re still the same person and still want to be friendly in a professional capacity; your title has changed – not your personality. 

2. Not setting expectations or boundaries right away

This is the case with any manager-report relationship, but even more so if the people you’re now managing were previously your peers or underneath a different manager. People might not expect you to “lay down the law” or set expectations right away because you have a friendly rapport, but you need to assert yourself in a way that is respectful but also leaves no room for questioning who needs to do what when. 

Within the first couple week as a manager, set up a time to meet with every individual on your team to discuss:

  • How each of you likes to work, communicate, and receive feedback
  • How often they’d like to meet one-on-one with you
  • Your expectations for work output
  • Checkpoints for progress

If you’re too hands-off, your direct reports might think that you’re playing the part of friend rather than manager, which can be a grey area you don’t want to be stuck in. 

Instead, make sure your expectations are verbally expressed and written down in your meeting notes as a reference point to come back to later. If you’re onboarding new reps to your team, introduce the expectations during the interview process so candidates are clear on what the role entails. That way you don’t have to worry about missed information or miscommunication – everything will be out in the open for anyone to read and know about from day one. 

3. Not setting up recurring 1:1 meetings to check in with employees 

There’s a lot of debate on the proper frequency of 1:1 meetings, but as a new manager – especially to a sales team – it’s absolutely essential for you to meet with your employees on a weekly basis. In fact, 55% of sales leaders have one-on-one meetings weekly. With such challenging goals and quotas, you want ample opportunities to “correct the ship” if needed; weekly one-on-ones give you 52 chances to do just that.

One-on-one meeting frequency broken down by department
Soapbox State of One-on-ones Report

One-on-one meetings offer leaders the opportunity to show their team that they’re invested in their success, which will help boost employee morale. If you go too long without meeting, you could miss vital updates to an employee’s work progress or emotional state of being.

Beyond general well-being checks, it’s important to see if your reports are staying on track with their monthly or quarterly sales goals. You don’t want to be overbearing or micromanage anyone, but you do need to make sure everyone is inching toward success at a respectable pace. 

If your employees are struggling, you can identify the areas where they’re having issues and address them proactively during your one-on-one meetings. On the other hand, if they’re doing exceptionally well, let them know.

If you want to be a good manager, focus on making sure your direct reports are happy, developing their skills, and succeeding. And if they aren’t, it’s in your hands to make sure to address any shortcomings and coach them to be better. After all, if an employee doesn’t succeed, it’s just as much the manager’s fault as it is the employee’s.

3 Sales one-on-one meeting templates

If you’re not sure how to structure your one-on-one meetings, here are a few templates that seasoned sales leaders use with their team:

1. Sales Leader <> SDR 1:1 Template

This is a one-hour monthly meeting that’s aimed at zeroing in on things an SDR can improve. Created by Mark Roberge, Former CRO of HubSpot.

Agenda: 

  • Qualitative reflection – how do you think you did this month?
  • Quantitative reflection – review your sales dashboard
  • Based on your reflections, what’s the one area you want to work on together this month?
  • Specifically, how do you want me to help you work on this one area?
  • Schedule coaching sessions for the month

👉🏽 Try this template in Soapbox


2. Bi-Weekly Sales One-on-one Template

This bi-weekly sales standup ensures that there is ample opportunity to discuss blockers and coach reps. Created by Ashley Reyes-Chung, Inside Sales Manager at Hubba.

Agenda: 

  • What were the deliverables from last week and did you achieve them? 👍👎
  • If yes, what were the best practices that you used? 💪🏽
  • If no, what were your biggest blockers and what solutions have you thought about? 🤔
  • Pipeline and metrics discussion 📈
  • Important updates (managerial + company and how they affect you) ✏️
  • What can I unblock for you? 🌈
  • Are you happy/unhappy? Any feedback for me? 😄
  • What are the deliverables for next week + what check-ins do we need to schedule before our next 1:1? 🎯

👉🏽 Try this template in Soapbox


3. SaaS High Growth Sales One-on-one Meeting Template

This is a weekly one-hour meeting aimed at helping leaders uncover roadblocks, identify areas of improvement, and help facilitate two-way feedback that helps build trust between leaders and individuals on their team. Created by Brennan McEachran, CEO and Co-Founder at Soapbox.

Agenda: 

  • ⛸ Icebreaker 
  • 👨‍🎓 Learning of the week – both positive and negative, what did we learn about our skills or customers/product/market?
  • 📈 Stats – How’s pipe looking? How do you feel about conversion rates?
  • 🎓 Improve – Based on your reflection, what do you think we should focus on this week to improve?
  • 🔁 2-way Candid Feedback – What’s one thing each of us should either stop doing, start doing, or keep doing?

👉🏽 Try this template in Soapbox

4. Disallowing your reports to think—and act— for themselves 

Seasoned managers know that the one curse of being in charge is that everyone always expects you to have the right answer or final say on something. You’ll find that’s true with your situation as well. The minute you go from coworker to manager, you’ll ensue a barrage of questions that ultimately put the “final say” in your lap. While this can be flattering at first—having total control over final decisions—it can also be stressful and block your direct reports from learning and making valuable mistakes that can help them grow. 

To be blunt, you don’t have all of the answers and that’s okay. In fact, letting yourself know that you don’t have all of the answers will provide you with an incredible opportunity to continue to learn and grow as well. So, instead of acting as the walking sales encyclopedia when a rep comes to you for advice, flip the question around and ask them how they would solve the problem.

Whether you’re walking them through your call scripts and why certain language is used or advising them on how to have a difficult conversation with a colleague, be helpful without giving away all of the answers. Leave room for critical thinking and problem-solving. On top of that, let your reps know that you trust their judgment and believe in them; build up their confidence.

At the end of the day, the goal of managing is making sure that in your absence, your team doesn’t crumble to pieces. You want to act as a leader, not behave as a crutch toward employees’ professional growth. 

5. Not determining your own growth goals 

Normal sales metrics for a BDR or AE usually include:

  • Number of cold calls made per day, week, month, or quarter
  • Number of demos booked
  • Amount of closed-won deals

But, as a sales manager, it’s likely your individual metrics have changed. Sure, you might still be cold calling and emailing every now and then, but the brunt of that work goes to your direct reports. So what are your personal responsibilities now?

  • Hiring and scaling your team
  • Coaching direct reports
  • Managing performance
  • Strategizing and supporting the team to hit goals
  • Removing roadblocks
  • Being available

Despite all of this, while it’s still incredibly important, remember that you also still have a senior manager who checks in with you and makes sure you’re staying on track. But your individual metrics probably look a lot different than that of your employees. 

A possible breakdown of your managerial metrics and priorities might look something like this: 

  • Assist direct reports with acquiring 200 new leads per month 
  • Conduct 70 calls with prospects weekly 
  • Review 2 calls with each sales rep on your team every month
  • Hire and onboard 10 new reps per quarter
  • Increase sales by 55% percent over the course of the first half of the year
  • Organize 2 bimonthly team-building activities to maintain high morale

Whatever your company’s overall sales goals are, those should be your priority – and then, you should build on them. If your sales team is looking to hit a certain number, try to go above and beyond (within reason of your capacity and mental health as a factor). 

Takeaways  

You earned your spot as a sales manager. Even though the transition from individual contributor to leader can feel daunting, the effort you’ve put into achieving this goal hasn’t gone unnoticed. Now, it’s your turn to give that same vote of confidence to your direct reports, whether that’s young business development reps early in their career or seasoned account executives. Just like the sales cycle, the manager-employee/leader-worker dynamic is a never-ending cycle.

Great leadership doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure to lift up your team members in the same way you were to help them achieve their goals too. That’s what true leadership looks like. 

Rebecca Reynoso G2

Rebecca Reynoso is the Content Editor on the marketing team at G2. She often writes about artificial intelligence, chatbots, and other high tech and marketing content.


Juggle your sales team activities while coaching good management habits with Soapbox! 👇🏽