For sales reps who hope to advance into management one day, the biggest mistake they make is assuming that if they focus on their sales performance and consistently exceed their quotas, a promotion will be all but guaranteed in the future. What the junior sales reps fail to understand is that selling and managing are two very distinct skill sets, and that success in one does not indicate competence in the other.
In addition to being a rockstar with their sales responsibilities, junior reps need to demonstrate to the leadership team that they will be able to transition into management smoothly if they hope to move up the ladder.
Luckily, there are numerous opportunities to prove this capacity in the course of an average sales rep’s day-to-day work.
1. Request cross-training opportunities with the finance team
If you’re interested in moving up to a sales manager and director position one day, you’ll need to become familiar with the overall financial workings of the company, including how revenue collected from sales activities affects the organization’s margins and cash flows.
Managers and executives use this information to help them make high-level strategic decisions about the direction of their unit. And there’s no better way to get a crash course than by shadowing members of the finance and accounting team.
You’ll have the opportunity to see how collecting receivables, paying invoices, payroll management, forecasting, and budget control all work in concert to affect every function of the organization.
2. Take advantage of all possible professional development opportunities
If you’re lucky enough to work for a company that offers employees the opportunity to attend professional development training courses, whether they are online or in-person, attending them whenever possible will help you build the skill sets you need to advance your career.
While many companies will mandate courses related to your core duties, they also frequently provide optional access to content that teaches skills outside your normal function, including management training. If your company doesn’t offer ongoing development opportunities, let your supervisors know that it’s something that you feel is important to your future with the organization and take the time to seek out resources on your own.
3. Study the relationship between the sales and marketing functions
As the realities for B2B buyers continue to evolve, the necessity of harmony between the sales and marketing units crystallizes. The average B2B buying cycle is now fraught with complexity, yet many organizations are still lacking in the level of alignment they expect between the two departments: upwards of 80% of marketing leads can go unused by sales reps, and only 27% of leads sent down the pipeline are sales qualified.
While many reps are content to take what marketing gives them and make up the gap on their own, sales professionals who work to understand the role of marketing on a deeper level and strengthen the bond between the two departments could help the company significantly increase revenue and productivity.
4. Commit to a leadership role within your team
What many sales reps don’t understand is that you don’t have to wait for someone to offer you a promotion to demonstrate your capacity for leadership. Every employee in the company, regardless of their job function or place on the organizational chart, has opportunities every day to act like a leader without being asked.
For sales reps, this can mean becoming a knowledge hub for some program that the sales team relies on or some skill that is useful in the company’s sales process. Your colleagues can then come to you for help or additional training, lessening the burden on the management staff and positioning you as someone who can coach your fellow reps to success.
5. Research various selling styles
Most reps learn early on what selling style works for them personally and many are uninterested in deviating from their process. If it works for them, the clients, and the company, they don’t need to spend time learning about how other reps sell, but sales managers and directors don’t have that luxury.
They have to manage, mentor and coach a variety of different personalities and employees with vastly divergent methods for selling, and they have to understand how best to motivate each one.
6. Demonstrate your dedication to the company culture
Most forward-thinking leaders inherently understand that building a strong company culture throughout the organization is a key factor in sustained success.
A well-defined and positive culture leads to more satisfied employees and increased profits over the long term. As a sales rep who is eager to advance, you have to show your leadership team that you are committed to strengthening and fostering the organizational culture no matter where you fit in the hierarchy.
Attend optional events, encourage your team members to participate in activities, and always embody the principles that your company culture values.