When businesses review their sales numbers and start developing strategies to improve those numbers, the first place companies look is sales enablement. "What tool or additional support can we give sales people so that they can go out and close more deals?" Having that as the initial thought makes perfect sense. But, you also need to remember that sales managers have the greatest leverage over the day to day activities of the salespeople that report to them. They influence what they sell, where they sell, how they sell and to whom the sell. Sales managers are responsible for both implementing the current sales strategy and ensuring performance and productivity. They are the conduit between senior leadership and the sales force and because of this they are the agents of change for long term sales transformations. In the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report, it was found that nearly 20% of companies did not make any training investments in their sales managers as compared to the only 5% of companies that did not invest in training salespeople. And for the companies that did make limited investments, those investments were in management and leadership courses, not specific role based training.
But how do we transition from where we are now, simply informing the sales manager, to actually enabling sales managers to do their jobs well?
1. Get the role expectations and competencies for managers right.
As a sales program grows and develops, it is easy for senior leadership to take advantage of the "additional duties as assigned" statement found in all job descriptions and delegate additional tasks to sales managers. Senior leadership needs to regularly review and redefine sales manager roles ensuring that the primary focus includes hiring, field training and coaching, pipeline management, forecast management, client issue resolution, team leadership, and performance management.
In addition to refining the role of your sales manager you also need to establish defined competencies for them. What skills do they need and what are the behavioral indicators that illustrate their proficiency of the specific competence?
Once you have established realistic role expectations and key competencies you need to assess your sales managers against these standards and provide your manager with an individual development plan.
2. Understand how your managers are spending their time.
According to research by CSO Insights, 75% of sales managers say they spend less than 60 minutes per week coaching their sales team on skills and behaviors. 67% say they spend less than 60 minutes coaching their sales team on leads and opportunities. If they aren't spending their time impacting the success of their sales team, what do you have them doing?
Ensure your sales managers have adequate opportunity to coach and develop their salespeople by reducing the number of meetings they are required to attend and offload as many of their administrative tasks as possible.
Helping your managers develop a weekly cadence or management operating rhythm will also help them manage their time more effectively.
3. Expect ownership of deals AND the market.
Sales managers are in a unique position that allows them to gain incredible insight into the current market dynamics. What are prospects saying? Which way is the market trending? When sales managers report their sales forecasts, have them also communicate what is happening in the market. Work with your sales managers to analyze trends in salesperson activity and customer interactions to identify changes in the market. This ability will turn an adequate sales manager into a great one.
When you enable your frontline sales managers, you will have a greater ability to impact the success of your sales people and will get far better results because of it.