When you accept a role in sales management, your most important clients are no longer your clients – they are the individuals on your team. Read that previous sentence one more time and let it sink in. Somehow this simple fact has been overlooked, if not completely neglected by so many sales departments. The sales world has done a pretty tremendous job of providing the proper resources, methodologies, metrics, and support for sales producers in order to help them understand how to most effectively hit their sales number. However, when you go up one layer to the sales management level, the sales world has done a pretty awful job of providing sales leaders with the same clarity, discipline, and structure that will help them understand how to effectively coach their teams so that they can hit their number on a consistent basis. There is very little attention paid to the behaviors and activities that need to consistently occur between manager and rep the way there is between rep and customer.
In my last post Sales Management: Oversight # 1 I talked about how sales departments keep promoting top performing sales reps into sales management roles, which in most cases is a hiring mistake for the producer, the company, and the bottom line. Oversight # 1 gets compounded when organizations do not support new or existing sales managers with the right resources and tools that help them understand how their day-to-day behaviors are impacting how much gets sold or does not get sold by those on their teams. Generally speaking, most of the time when somebody accepts a sales management role they are handed a credit card, a team, and a lofty sales number and told to go get it. If they are lucky, they might get some front-end leadership training that will soon be all but forgotten. Not supplying sales managers with the right on-going training, tools, resources, and support must come to an end and below are three tips that sales departments will find helpful to begin making the necessary change:
- Support your sales managers – make a strategic commitment to understanding how you can best develop and support your sales management team. Start with the end in mind; what would you like to see your sales management team look like at the beginning of 2016. How is that different from what you see today? What behaviors do you need them to exhibit more consistently and what skills would you like them to be able to execute more effectively.
- Pay attention to the research – Defining key performance indicators for sales managers can be tricky and ambiguous. What you want to pay close attention to is from a coaching perspective, what activities and behaviors motivate sales reps to sell more. The EcSell Institute has answered this riddle and your can read the motivation white paper here.
- Commit to execution – Every single sales department is smart enough to understand that the way sales managers coach and lead their teams has a profound impact on sales team results. This is not the challenge. The challenge is putting the strategy of developing and supporting sales managers into execution. In my experience, this comes down to a matter of emotional readiness by the senior sales leader. Put another way, is the senior sales leader talented enough and confident enough in their role to execute against what they know to be true – great coaching matters.
Years ago I heard the following line from one of the smartest Senior Executives you will ever meet; he said “when you invest in your leadership team you get twice the results for half the cost”. He was right, and the sales world is slowly starting to wake up to what he realized so innately – which is great news for sales managers, sales producers, and sales growth alike.