By Steven A. Rosen
For most B2B companies the largest promotional investment is the sales force, yet most companies fail to utilize this resource to its full potential. As corporations continue to struggle in these challenging economic times, sales executives will need to focus on reinforcing the foundation of their sales organizations to survive. What do we know? We know that high-performance sales organization have two common characteristics: 1. Great processes and 2. Top notch people. Because sales executives are bombarded with suppliers promoting CRM, sales enablement and sales training solutions, we think all the elements are present to move forward successfully within these organizations. As each one of these solutions claims to have a positive impact on top and bottom line performance you must ask yourself what is the optimal impact? I don’t fundamentally disagree with any of these performance enhancement solutions, but I also don’t believe that they treat the true cause of poor sales performance.
What should be the foundation of a high-performance organization?
I firmly believe that the key to success has the right people in place to start building a high-performance sales organization. With that being said smart sales executives might conclude that they need to focus on hiring and developing top sales reps. But who hires and develops your top talent? The front line sales managers are the ones’ that are responsible for hiring, developing and retaining the top talent in your organization and strangely enough, these are the people that get the least development and focus regarding investment dollars.
Front Line Sales Managers
The Front Line Sales managers are the unsung heroes of the sales team and the foundation of any high performing sales organization. These people are the drivers of sales performance and the key to unlocking the potential of your sales organization. What are you doing to develop your front line sales management team? What do you have planned next year to help elevate their performance? Perhaps you have thought about it or maybe are expecting something or think it is a great idea to do something, but are unsure how to move forward. The fact is you are likely doing very little to help these great drivers’ performances grow to the next level. Why spend another penny on more sales training without great sales managers to reinforce the training? Are you wasting your precious budget dollars on new CRM or sales enablement solutions? Can your front line sales managers effectively implement the solutions?
Are you on board yet?
Assuming I got you thinking or maybe you are excited about developing your front line sales management team, where do you start? The no. 1 sales management activity that drives sales performance is coaching. Most sales managers do not know how to effectively coach. They have not been trained or coached on how to coach. They tend to tell their sales reps what do as opposed to asking and facilitating reps to come up with their solutions to challenges they face. Coaching is a difficult skill set to perfect. It takes practice and patience, but most of all it takes effort and training. Coaching requires a shift in “Coaching Mindset.” The coaching mindset is different from a management mindset which tends to be more directive in orientation. To be a great coach, the sales managers need to be able to take off their management hat and don a Coaching Mindset. The ability to shift into a coaching mindset allows sales managers to be more effective at a slew of other skills. Being better at asking questions will enable managers to be better at interviewing and selecting top candidates. Effective questioning allows managers to conduct better business reviews with sales representatives. The same holds true when coaching reps on developing their business plans.
What’s in it for you?
You have many different opportunities or challenges to address with your financial resources. Given the case I have laid out why wouldn’t you invest in developing your sales managers coaching skills? Outside all the incredible benefits of having a team of front-line sales managers who can coach sales reps to be better, you will have less turnover and better sales rep engagement. Also, you will see a better return on sales training and lead change as well.
What you get by transforming your sales managers into great sales coaches is a 19% increase in sales. This is no joke or empty sales pitch. By developing great coaches, you will have a dramatic impact. I can’t think of another initiative that will give you a bigger bang for your buck. So if you want to thrive in difficult economic times, start by focusing your resources on building a strong foundation for your sales organization. The first step is developing your sales managers; they are the key to driving sales performance. Next, by transforming your sales managers into great sales coaches, you will have the building blocks for developing a high-performance sales organization.
Want to find out more about 52 Sales Management Tips – The Sales Manager’s Success Guide?