According to the Harvard Business Review, It’s a mistake to underinvest in training your sales management team. “By building a winning sales management team, you can capitalize on a high-impact, tangible opportunity to drive sales effectiveness and top and bottom line results.”
Yet many would argue having a strong sales force with a mediocre manager is better than having a strong manager and soft sales skills. It isn’t a question of which is better. That leads to a question similar to “Is it the chicken or the egg that comes first?” The real question is how do you develop, train, and maintain BOTH?
“Of the $20+ billion that U.S. companies spend training their sales forces every year, very little gets directed towards sales managers. The result is inconsistent competency across most management teams.” Zoltners says. The additional result is inconsistent sales. The sales manager drives the goals, quotas, motivation, and resources to get the job done. Maverick sales people may be able to push their way to success, but it will take far more energy than a team of greatness would exert for the same results.
Thus, three things need to happen:
Hire Sales Leaders and Stop Promoting the Star Sales People Into these Roles
In a recent blog post I mentioned the downside to promoting your top performers. This bears repeating. Top performers don’t remember what got them to the top and are usually operating off of natural talent and internal motivation. They don’t know how to teach that to others, get frustrated when others just don’t have it, and become miserable at their pay cut, results loss, and lack of ego stroke when the team result aren’t all about them.
Provide the Sales Manager with the Know How to Train and Motivate Sales People
Great sales people in general are those who get it done and live for the appreciation. They make relationships in line at the grocery store and often marry their job. Give them the skills to understand and break down what motivates others like them and others who can sell just as well but might be different. The CORE Profile tool is one such device that will give them this knowledge AND show them how to apply it to all team members and customers when coaching, selling, closing, and motivating. Invest more time in developing them than disciplining them and you’ll have more time to count the money they’ll make for your organization.
Keep Both Parties Accountable
Sales managers, particularly those who once were sales people, often struggle with attention span. Keep them focused on the goal and the paths for success. Reign them in when you have to and teach them to keep those they lead accountable to not only the # of calls, appointments, or leads, but the follow ups, correspondence, and communication often needed to keep a deal going. Give them accountability tools, but more important, give them accountability PEOPLE. Those in sales are often extroverts and they need someone to talk to or vent with when the chips are down. They will respond better to a person telling them “hey, have you done this” than they will an email.
It’s not a matter of which is better, strong manager or strong salesperson, but a question of how do you create, develop, train, and maintain both for successful sales and long term growth.