The Coaching Effect Blog

Sales Manager Training: 4 Critical Elements to Performance

Posted by Kerstin Olson

October 31, 2013

Think for a moment about the amount of training and development that your organization provides sales people.  Now think about how much is provided to the sales leadership team.  My guess is you will find about a 10:1 ratio of time in favor of sales people—a sad reflection of how organizations treat their sales leadership. 

Sales people are not more critical than sales leaders and they certainly don’t have greater developmental needs.  Actually, I could argue, with supporting research that there is a bigger performance gap to close teaching sales managers how to coach versus teaching sales people how to sell. 

If a senior sales leader or training and development department commit to helping grow the skills of a sales leadership team, think about programming that covers the following areas.

  • how to build a talented sales team
  • how to develop a talented sales team
  • how to motivate a talented sales team
  • how to lead a talented sales team

 If the above makes sense, below are the four primary areas where training and development resources should be dedicated.  There are also many sub-categories within each, so much so that training and development could spend years and not depart from what is listed below. 

1. Talent Identification and Acquisition:  If sales managers are accountable for hiring and firing, this is critical.  If they are not accountable for hiring/firing—make them accountable. It is ridiculous to think a manager would be accountable for a number, but not accountable for the talent to get that number.  Challenge is that most sales teams don’t have a recruiting culture so they count on an HR partner to bring them qualified candidates.  Ask yourself if HR or any other internal recruiting entity has skin in the game to make sure you have the best sales talent. Below is a link to an EcSell article on identifying and acquiring talent.

2. Professional Development:  EcSell research shows that sales reps’ #2 motivator is the need to feel like they are progressing towards their career goals.  Our research also shows that most sales managers don’t know the career goals of those on their team.  They don’t know for they have not asked.  They haven’t asked for they don’t know how this pertains to a sales rep hitting a number.  Sales people are no different than any other associate in the sense they need to feel like they are “making progress”, not becoming stagnant.  Document the goals of everyone on your team and develop an IDP-individual development plan-for all as well.  Below is a link to a sample IDP.

    3. Sales Skills Feedback: The #1 activity within a manager’s control that has the biggest impact on sales rep motivation is coaching feedback regarding their selling skills.  This is not just oral feedback following a sales call, nor does it count when a manager takes over a sales call.  While both of the above may be necessary at times, what is most critical is objectively grading and offering solutions for skills improvement. If managers want to become more effective coaches, at a minimum they need to utilize this form and learn how to provide effective feedback.

    4. Leadership:  Not in the sense of being charismatic or visionary, but a collaborative leader in the sense that you know how to connect with and develop a team of leaders.  EcSell research is showing that effective collaborative leadership traits are most impactful for your top 25% sales reps, it is what this upper echelon needs and wants even more than sales skills development.  Think about it… While even top producers desire and need to always develop skills, their need to be wanted, recognized and connected with their coach are behaviors most important through their eyes.  Here is a piece about what it means to lead in today’s world of sales.

    If you are now wondering why I don’t have coaching specifically listed as a developmental need, it is because all the above are components of coaching.  Great coaches always have a recruiting pipeline and are highly effective at identifying and acquiring talent.  Great coaches know that those on their team need to grow not only their selling skills, but other skills that can help them progress in a career.  And finally, great coaches know what it means to lead a team, specifically how to connect and develop all those on their teams to become leaders.

    There certainly are other areas that will need training and development that are specific to your company and products.  But, the four areas listed cannot be ignored if you wish to develop a team of high performing coaches that know how to consistently hit and exceed goal.


    William Eckstrom



    Topics: Best Practice, Sales manager training, executive sales management, sales manager coaching, coaching, talent identification & acquisition, top performing sales organizations

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