Earning a promotion to district manager

Pharmaceutical Representative

Five ways to tip the scales in your favor.

You've been a sales representative with your company for a few years now. You enjoy your job and have done well, but you're looking to conquer that next challenge, do something different or make more money. So, you decide you want to become a district manager. Be advised, however, that the skills needed for sales, and the skills needed for management can be very different. Becoming a manager means being noticed by upper management and, at the same time, developing the various skills needed to be a competent leader. There are five ways you can help propel yourself towards a management position.

Be excellent at your current job. This may seem obvious, but it's probably the most important step. You need to demonstrate to your boss and others that you are extremely competent at the job you are doing now before you will be considered for a promotion. This is where exposure comes in. The more your name shows up as a sales award winner or the originator of a creative idea that helps your company, the more upper management is going to know who you are.

In the long-term, there is another important reason to demonstrate excellence in your current position. Once you are a manager, you need to have credibility with the people who report to you. Your job, day in and day out, is to coach and counsel your representatives to perform to their maximum potential. If they don't view you as someone who was an outstanding sales representative or look to you as a resource to help improve their skills, you will be ineffective. If you have credibility, you can become a leader, not just a manager

Be a team player. Start establishing yourself now as a leader within your peer group. Always make yourself available to help other representatives. When you find competitive information, pass it on to your colleagues. If you find a great way to handle an objection with your physicians, pass it on. If you know that a peer is struggling in a certain area, volunteer to help him or her. Doing this not only develops the skills you're going to need as a manager, but also makes you a more valuable employee.

Be a resource to your boss. You always want to be considered the "go to" person in your area. If your boss needs something, you should be the representative who they know will get the job done. Remember, your manager has a difficult job. Anything you can do to help your manager will go a long way in motivating him or her to lobby for you when a promotional opportunity arises.

Make sure your administrative work is organized, specific and on time. Selling product is the most important job function you have, but if you are interested in management you need to demonstrate an ability to handle the administrative aspect of your job. The expectation of timely, informational paperwork becomes greater when you become a manager. Also, if your administrative work is anything less than excellent, you're making your manager's job more difficult.

Make yourself a regular contributor of competitive field information. Because of meetings and administrative work, your boss cannot be in the field nearly as much as he or she would like. You can be a great resource for management by keeping them in the loop on information coming from your territory.

Develop a big picture perspective. One of the most important characteristics of a good leader is the ability to think about the big picture. Many times decisions made by upper management are made with much more information than what sales representative or even, for that matter, the district manager, knows. Recognize that decisions that impact your job are sometimes made for valid reasons that aren't readily apparent to you.

Commit to personal development. Everyone has skills that can be developed and improved upon. Continue to read, listen to audio tapes and attend seminars that are pertinent to selling and leadership. Some of the key competencies for management are: planning, organization and execution, analysis, teamwork and team leadership, judgement and decision-making, business expertise, impact and influence, interpersonal understanding, development of others and flexibility. Be aware of the areas where you need improvement and take action to develop them. Ask your manager to start you on a developmental plan, but remember that development is ultimately your responsibility. Your commitment to personal development will not only help you reach your goal of management faster, but you will be a more effective leader when you achieve the position.

Ask to get involved in as many management-type activities as possible. You can help as a district skills trainer, sales data coordinator and by interviewing new sales representative candidates. Make sure you're a team leader on various projects with your selling counterparts. All of these things will help you develop the skills necessary to be an effective leader and demonstrate those competencies when interviewing for that district manager position.

The most important thing to remember is that sales and management require different sets of skills. Don't assume that because you have had great sales success, that you automatically have all the necessary skills to become an effective manager. Start on a development plan today. The sooner you start acting and thinking like a leader, the sooner you will reach your goal. Most importantly, once your goal is reached, you will have an opportunity to help others reach theirs. PR