Many of you have heard this stat by now, and it should bother our profession: The average tenure of a sales leader in 2013 is 19 months, down from 24 months the year prior. This is horrible. This is embarrassing.
Perhaps cliché`, but times have changed. Our world, our customers and specifically our workforce has evolved significantly, evolved in a way that makes a leader’s perceived skills, obsolete. What else has changed?
- Time demands
- The demographic and psychographic of the work force
- The way customers buy
- Our understanding of what motivates sales people to sell more
- The way teams want to be led, managed and coached
It is clear that most sales leaders have not kept pace with the above evolution. There is still a strong tendency to “manage” with the primary focus being numbers as opposed to focusing on those that produce the number. Though our team at EcSell is subjectively witnessing an increase and greater focus on developing better coaching skills (as opposed to manager skills) this only involves training, and we all know that without training the right skills and then making sure they are being implemented and tracked for effectiveness—training has little affect.
Get ready. Today’s sales leaders either have an existing team or will evolve into a team that places more value on engaging with their boss than ever before, and what our research shows is that organizations are not equipped to handle this transition. Not equipped, meaning the skills needed to maximize the performance of an evolving sales team have not been learned. We know that over 90% of sales departments have no objective information on what a manager should do to increase rep motivation to sell more, how often they should do it, or if they are effective in their management/coaching role.
Given the above, the opening turnover statistic begins to make sense. So, I’ll say it again—sales performance is not about the sales person, it is about the manager!
Sales departments have to quit trying to fix the symptoms (sales people) and focus on the real issue—sales leadership. Estimates are that in 2013, $20 billion was spent on SALES REP effectiveness, while the amount spent on SALES COACHING effectiveness was too insignificant to measure. To be effective, a sales leader needs to be given the responsibility and accountability for the performance of a team, but to do this without helping them understand how they impact performance is beyond remiss, it is negligent. Failure is an average tenure of 19 months.
Want to change the downward tenure spiral? Shift the focus. Sales ops, training and development, HR, all sales leaders—make a fundamental, disruptive move (done correctly will make it very disruptive). Make the focus of your growth centered on the front line managers and move up the hierarchical structure from there. It won’t be comfortable, nor will it be easy. Doing this will bring performance visibility to roles that have only been measured by whether or not a team hit a number. Now you will know why numbers are going up, down or side-ways, and knowing “why” provides ammo to impact the “how”.
The best part of shifting focus to training and tracking managerial/leadership/coaching effectiveness is simple—increased sales.