Basics of How to be a Sales Manager: Say No and Delegate

By Butch Bellah

There are two words you must use in order to become a successful sales manager. They’re both small words, but they have to be a part of your vocabulary on a daily basis. The words are no and delegate. Nowhere in sales training do you learn to use these words, but as a sales manager they can save you time, frustration, and heartache.

As a new manager you will have not only salespeople try to dump their problems and issues on you but other departments trying to do the same. It’s almost as if they smell fresh blood. Everyone knows you’re eager to please and be a part of the management team. But, never let someone else hand you their problem — and many people are just waiting for you to get your desk unpacked so they can.

Some people trying to foist their problems on you act as if it’s natural and insist that the previous sales manager did the same thing. Before you accept their burdens, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Who is the best person to handle this? Just as you aren’t a secretary for the salespeople, you’re also not a data entry clerk for another department. Don’t accept handoffs without asking yourself, “Am I the best person to handle this?” If you aren’t, don’t be afraid to tell that person no. Don’t agonize over letting others down — you haven’t. Instead of letting them down, you’ve let them know your time is valuable.

    One of the biggest problems many people see in young sales managers is that they take on tasks and projects in order to keep from putting others out and end up put themselves out. Sales managers may bring on so much unnecessary stress and worry over things they had nothing to do with because they let others hand them their problem. Don’t be like this.

  • Does this task directly lead to sales growth? Every project, task, and program you take on should be with the express intention of moving sales forward and growing your team. Now, there will be projects you work on as part of a team that don’t fit these criteria, but that’s not what this is talking about.

    You can certainly sit on a company committee working on the annual employee appreciation day, but be sure to spend your sales hours on projects or tasks related to sales.

No is a perfectly acceptable answer. You don’t have to qualify it or explain yourself, but if you’d like to, try this: “I’d like to help, but I’m really not the best person to do that. I need to focus on the sales department right now. Thanks for asking, though.” That’s the best way in the world to not accept that handoff.

Very close behind no is delegate. Think about this: You didn’t get your position so you could do everything yourself. You’re the sales manager — notice the word manager. Your job is to lead and manage — not do everything by yourself. As you develop your task list, ask yourself the two questions in the preceding list. But, this time, ask whether someone in your department should be doing the task.

If you have an assistant, you may experience a bit of uneasiness in asking her to do things for you. But that’s her job. Some managers believe success comes down to three little words: del e gate.

There will be times where upper management may hand you tasks that take away from your job of managing the sales department. Once again, clarify what is most important. Simply ask, “Just so I’m understanding and prioritizing correctly, I am going to put aside working on the new account development program (or whatever you were working on) and get this done for you.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes for them to suddenly think of someone else who would be better suited for the job. This is not in any way suggesting you don’t let your superiors hand you projects — that means they have confidence in you — but it can be a juggling act. Just make sure your time is being used properly and they are aware of what you are not doing while you’re handling their new project.

Industry associations have some sort of sixth sense when it comes to new managers. You will be invited to be a part of every board, committee, meeting and association possible. Choose wisely. Some of these can turn into full time jobs will little or no direct benefit other than being seen as a mover and a shaker in your industry.

Don’t bog yourself down with menial tasks — spend your time on the big picture and pass off the rest.