Sales managers have arguably the most difficult job in any sales organization, due to the wide variety of responsibilities they have. Indeed, the typical sales manager needs to balance tasks related to customers, tasks related to people within the organization, and tasks related to the business itself.
Perhaps the single most important task is assisting with the development of their sales team and its individual members. However, adequate sales management training or sales management courses are needed to teach these skills and ensure they can carry out these tasks effectively.
In this article, we look at the importance of sales managers and outline why sales managers need training. We will also explore the how and when of sales training, so that they can adequately develop their teams.
The Importance of Training Sales Managers
On a very basic level, the most important step for organizations is to ensure that their sales managers actually receive training themselves. While this may seem like an obvious point, it is not always the case. Many managers are promoted, given some basic initial training and then largely left to their own devices.
In the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report, it was revealed that 18.6 percent of organizations made no annual investment in training for sales managers. An additional 18.6 percent spend less than $500 on each manager. This means that, in total, 37.2 percent of companies are making little or no investment in this area.
This is significant, because the same study found that, on average, sales managers lead six or seven people. This means they can have a significant impact on the productivity, execution and overall sales performance of those people. And yet they may be unequipped to get the most from them, because they are underdeveloped.
“Poorly developed frontline sales managers drive top performers out of the organization and promote mediocre performance from those who remain,” says Tamara Schenk, Research Director of CSO Insights. “This is an untenable situation for any sales leader with ambitious performance goals.”
How and When to Have Coaching Conversations
Once equipped with the right skills through sales management training, a second problem exists. While most sales managers have excellent sales skills and possess the knowledge to have individual training or coaching conversations with salespeople, they are less clear on how to actually do it, and when they should be doing it.
“What sales managers require is sales management skills,” says Michelle Vazzana, writing for Training Industry. “They may know how to sell, but most don’t know how to manage. There is plenty of training on ‘how’ to coach, but because there is insufficient training on when, why, and where these conversations should take place.”
For example, should they be having coaching conversations with all sales staff, every week? If so, how long should they be spending on those conversations? If not, what is an appropriate time period between conversations? Are there any specific things that should automatically trigger the need for a coaching or training session?
Research from CSO Insights suggests that many sales managers are not spending enough time on sales training and coaching conversations. In fact, 47.1 percent of sales managers spend less than half an hour per week coaching the skills and behaviors of their team.
Formalizing Your Staff Development Strategy
The key to success here is to formalize the entire staff development strategy, so that sales managers know how, when and why to coach. This will help introduce a level of consistency to the entire process. It will also help your sales managers know how much time they should be investing in employee development activities.
In order to achieve this, organizations need to design and implement a coaching and training framework, which defines all of the development areas, based on the sales system, processes and methodologies in place. Organizations also need to commit to giving sales managers time to carry out these coaching and training activities.
Again, research carried out by CSO Insights supports the use of a formalized process. Neither informal or discretionary approaches produce a major impact on average win rates for forecast deals. However, the existence of a formal coaching process increases this average from 46 percent up to 54 percent.
For sales managers to implement a formal strategy, it may be necessary for them to undertake further sales management courses. They will also need access to key performance metrics for their staff, as well as high-quality employee development content. They need to use this content on the sales floor, or in one-on-one meetings.
Providing sales training and coaching is one of the key responsibilities for sales managers. While most will possess the basic sales knowledge to allow for this, many are less aware of exactly how and when to do it. This is because sales managers are often underdeveloped, receiving little in the way of training themselves.
To get around this problem, it is important for sales organizations to invest in sales management training. They also need to implement a formal training and coaching strategy for the wider sales team. Through this formal process, they can achieve greater consistency. At the same time, sales managers will be better equipped to help develop their team.
The topics of both sales rep and sales manager development are covered extensively during Miller Heiman Group events, including the annual ELEVATE Summit.
To find out more about these events, click here.