Learn the ropes


Talking to your boss can be intimidating, even as a sales manager. But as a sales manager, keep in mind, when talking to your boss that how you communicate may depend on who you report to. For example, some sales managers may report to a senior manager in the company and some may report to an owner.  But, regardless of who your boss is, or what you manage, the base line for communication is still the same.

However, this communication with the boss can be a slippery slope.  Most likely, you have downward pressure from executives, upward pressure from your sales reps, and you are trying to manage from the middle.  In other words, it is important that you protect your team. Because while you count on them to perform for you, you still have to answer to your boss.

Earn trust.

If you are a new manager in this situation, be aware that will not necessarily mean that you will have the authority to change things right away and do whatever you want.  Of course, you will have a vision for the team but you will need to build your credibility first. You will need to earn your boss’s trust before you will get full control of your team.  Work hard, communicate, and work with your team to achieve high-performance levels.  Once you have proven that you can do that you will have a little more leeway to examine your own managing style.


Get to know your boss.

During this process, it is also important that you understand your boss in the same way you understand your reps. In other words, their likes, dislikes, and style of communication.  Additionally, because so much of communication is nonverbal try to meet in person whenever possible and then mirror their communication style.

Overall, your goal is to understand who your boss is and work toward building credibility. With that being said, never go over your boss’s head if you are not getting what you want. Trust is key here.

What to do


1.Be a problem solver. 

When talking to your boss about any problems you may be having, do not expect them to give you all the answers. As a sales manager, it is your job to have possible solutions at the ready. In the same way that you are not a problem solver for your team members, your boss is not your problem solver.  Go in with some ideas and be ready to collaborate to reach a solution.


2. Do your homework.

Another way to be an effective problem solver is to make sure you do your homework before a meeting with your boss. This way, you are not wasting their time.  Have all of your information and make sure your facts are correct and then have an idea of possible questions you may be asked so that you can respond appropriately.  Remember that you are asking for guidance, not a solution.


3. Keep it short

Coming up with solutions means you have to focus on the task at hand. Keep your meetings concise, and outlined, with a common goal. If you have set up a meeting to talk about something specific that is not the time to bring up other issues.  Stick to the topic of the meeting and if you have other unrelated issues, set up a separate meeting for the future.


4. Be cognizant of time

Time is precious. If you have asked your boss for half an hour of time it is not the time to bring up every little thing you feel you want to discuss.  If you have asked for thirty minutes of time, make sure you are aware of the time, and keep it to that.  Your boss will appreciate that you are cognizant of their schedule since you are probably not their only meeting of the day.



What not to do


1.Don’t data dump.

This is not the time to bring up every idea or issue that you have.  You do not want to do a data dump and give your boss ten issues to deal with instead of one.  If this is what you do then your boss will start to avoid you and not have time for your concerns.


2. Don’t ask your boss for all the answers.

Do not look to your boss to provide an answer.  Make sure that you go in with some solutions in mind and then ask for his opinion or if he has alternate ideas to those that you presented.  You will learn best by solving the problem on your own rather than having someone tell you what to do.  In a similar situation down the road, you will be more confident in solving the issue without the input of your boss and you will have the credibility to do so.


3. Don’t make others look bad.

You should never meet with your boss and use it as an opportunity to make others look bad.  It is rude and unethical and will make you look bad.  This will destroy your credibility and you may or may not be able to earn that back.


4. Give credit where credit is due.

Make sure to give credit where it is due.  If another manager or one of your team members has come up with an idea or done something great, make sure that they are acknowledged and don’t take credit for something you did not do.  That being said you need to take credit where credit is due and appreciate when your boss acknowledges something that you have done to create success for the team.


5. Assertive, not aggressive

So the bottom line – be assertive but not aggressive and be open to the fact that you may not always get everything that you want from your boss. This means, keep any of your conversations private and don’t share information that is not meant to be shared.

Remember to stay positive and upbeat and recognize your boss for the contribution they have made.  If they helped you come to a solution that worked, go back and tell them.  Thank them for their input and keep the lines of communication open.  It is also a good idea to talk to your boss on a fairly regular basis so that it is not an uncomfortable experience.  That way if there is a larger or more difficult issue, it will be a conversation that is open and honest where hopefully an amicable solution can be reached together.



Keep Filling The Funnel

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think about this episode. Please feel free to reach out to us if there is a specific sales topic you would like me to cover.  You can find me on Twitter at @Sheajohnr or email me at jshea@alignment-group.com.  And if you get a chance, please feel free to review us on iTunes.


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