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The Importance of Knowing Your W.H.Y as a Sales Manager

I have been contemplating what would be my first story for the “Tales From the Passenger Seat” blog as there could be so many topics to start with. Would it be one of my many crazy ride alongs, a great turnaround story, or team success win?  But recently, I have been thinking a lot about my “why” as a manager and how that keeps me going week after week, with the same passion, maybe even more than even when I first started.  Now, when I mean my “why”, there would have to be meaningful purpose and reason that would cause me to leave my husband most every week now for years to be on the road, be in constant pain with the travel, especially as I am getting older with all the injuries that I had in my younger days caused from being an athlete, and if you add the travel time combined with the hours of work, well it is way more than a full time job. 

Being a manager, especially a travelling manager, becomes a major part of one’s life if you choose this profession. I can never comprehend when people say,” it’s just a job” when it is where most humans spend so much of our time and is representative of who we are in many ways.  Well, as I write this, I have been gone a week from home and leave again in four days and pretty much the same schedule after that. So, I better know “why” in my heart and soul I continue to do this, because if not, then this is not a job that can be faked.  I challenge every manager or manager to be to think of their “why” because it will keep you motivated during the hard times and inspired throughout your career.

When I think of my why, I think of the following acronym:

W-who you are as a person and knowing what makes you happy will translate to your contentment as a manager.  I am a supporter; I get great satisfaction out of helping others.  When I leave on a Monday night or Tuesday morning and come back to Miami airport late on Thursday night, not only have I usually had a very meaningful experience with sales representatives, managers, and customers, but I feel that I have had growth within myself every time that I exit that airport. I get so much more from the people I work with then I give to them in all actuality.  I was with a sales representative this past week talking to him at a dinner program and his energy and enthusiasm was contagious. As he was talking, I was thinking to myself, you are representative of my “why”. Him and the rest of the sales and management team members that I am so lucky to go to work for each day.

H-appiness as a manager is critical. Too many sales representatives are set up for failure because their companies promote them just because they are good in sales. If you are in sales and want to be in management, understand first why you want to do this job as there are many different departments in a company. Management is not the only path.  If not, what will happen is you will be miserable, because being in sales management is a selfless job. Yes, selfless, not selfish.  You must manage up, so meeting the expectations of your boss (depending on your boss, this can be a full-time job in itself) and then you have a team of multiple people that need you as their leader every single day.  Throw on some interpersonal, performance, or HR issues within the team that can pop up (and they will) then you really start having some fun. 

What I am getting at here is that I had no idea as a sales representative all that a good sales manager does behind the scenes.  Now I know, and it really is all about others and their needs first. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an individual contributor role. It is better to understand this about yourself than to get into management because it is sometimes seeming this is the only route a company shows for promotion. My advice to anyone who is in sales that wants to do more is to explore all different types of roles in an organization and spend time with people in different departments.  A sales team knows immediately if their leader is about “them” or about “themselves”.  It usually does not end well if they think and know the manager is in it for “themselves”, so it is important to understand what type of role makes us happy sooner rather than later.

Y-es, to putting yourself out there, whether it is moving to get the opportunity to get into management, volunteering for stretch projects, training and taking courses on your own.  If you want to get into management or are in management, it is a constant undertaking of improving upon skills. I am very aware of my strengths and equally of areas where I need to improve.  I invest a significant amount of money on myself and continual development, as I believe there is no greater investment. 

Say YES to yourself!  Do that course that you always wanted to do and put yourself out there in your company.  If you want to be a manager, let it be known that you want that opportunity. Upper management or HR can’t read minds. There was no formal training at the company I was at when I wanted to get into management. I did a tremendous amount of work and stretch projects with my manager. Thanks to the mentorship of him and the Area Vice President I had at the time, it helped me to gain valuable experience and a glimpse of what it may be like to be a manager. 

Again, put yourself out there, if not, you can’t blame anyone else for not giving you a chance. I call it the comfort in being uncomfortable. If you are truly learning and growing, it usually is not by staying in a safe place. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who else will?  Never say “No” to an opportunity, even if it scares you. Say “YES” to yourself and trust that you are exactly where you need to be to grow.

So, whether you want to get into sales management or are in sales management knowing your “why” will either save the pain of making a wrong career move or propel you if you have made the right move to management to keep going. If you like leading and supporting others to accomplish great things, it will be the source of motivation that you will rely on, like it is for me when I feel like I can’t take one more flight or stay in one more hotel.

As soon as I sit in that passenger seat, whether it is a sales representative’s or manager’s car, I feel and know that all is right in my world.  My “why” fuels me on and yet another meaningful journey is ahead, whether it is filled with bumps or smooth, I always come back feeling that I have done what I was meant to do. Does it get any better than that?

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