Sales Leaders Are Losing, only 50% are Setup to Crush Their Sales Numbers!
Sales leaders are responsible for delivering company revenue targets. With companies investing a significant portion of their marketing mix in their sales force, sales leaders are under pressure to produce results.
So many sales leaders are struggling to figure out how to improve performance and productivity of their sales force. Improvements in performance are related to three key areas people, process, and technology.
There is much noise in the marketplace about sales enablement technology that claims to improve productivity and effectiveness. The message is, that if you don’t arm your sales force with the latest and greatest sales enablement technology, then you are not on the leading edge.
Sales enablement technology has become the go-to solution to improve sales force performance. Many companies continue to struggle to meet their sales objectives. In fact, despite significant investment in technology, companies are still failing to hit their sales numbers.
I am all for having the technology and have seen the positive impact it has on productivity. However, technology itself is not the silver bullet.
What we have found is that when it comes to people, half the sales leaders are losing.
Based on 25 years of experience in sales and sales leadership I have learned that frontline sales managers (FLMs) are the key to unlocking the potential of their team. FLM’s are the key driver of sales performance in organizations.
The research supports my experience:
- The #1 performance factor for salespeople is the quality of their sales manager
- Highly effective coaching increases sales by as much as 20%
- Sales coaching is the number one activity that drives sales rep performance
The 2nd annual STAR Sales Management Training Survey sought to understand the state of sales management development around the world. In the 2016 survey, we also wanted to understand the state of key sales management processes. Respondents surveyed were from different industries, sales force sizes, and locations around the world.
Click here to get a copy of the report
The five core areas the survey focused on were:
- Performance management
- Business planning
THE FINDINGS ARE SHOCKING!
- Only 50% of sales managers are receiving ongoing sales management training
- Only 50% of companies have highly effective and well-understood sales management processes
- Only 32% of companies have formal training to support new sales managers
These findings shed light on the fact that half the sales leaders are hurting their team because they are not investing in training and provide insights into the question “Why Sales Leaders Are Losing?”
Companies spend millions of dollars in salary, travel and entertainment and bonuses to support their sales force. In many cases, the sales force is the most expensive promotional resource the company has.
This is why I find it so ironic that when it comes to having the best front line sales managers in place, only 50% of companies are providing ongoing skill development to their sales managers.
How many countries send troops into battle without well-trained commanders? The unit heads are key to battle readiness when making important life or death decisions on the ground.
I strongly urge all VP of sales to provide ongoing development for their sales managers. The ROI on investing in the development of your sales managers is far greater than that of your sales reps. There is a multiplier effect when you improve the skills of your frontline sales managers.
5 Steps to Improving Sales Management Skills
The first step is understanding that you have a problem/opportunity.
That being said, if you expect that your sales managers should know what they are doing because they’re managers, then you are going to be very disappointed.
Considering that your sales managers are the foundation for sales performance, it is essential that when building your sales organization, you need to ensure that it is built on a solid foundation.
We have outlined what we think are the five core sales management skills.
- Define your core sales management skills and behaviors
- Assess each of your sales managers against your key skills and behaviors
- Prioritize the areas that will provide the biggest impact on performance
- Develop programs in the priority areas
- Begin to look at development as a process, not an event. Skills mastery requires ongoing reinforcement, coaching, training and mentoring
The Just Do It Approach!
Sales managers who are not receiving ongoing development need to invest in themselves. Firstly, if your company is not supporting your development, you need to invest in yourself. Those of you who are not sharpening their skills may find it difficult to find another job, thereby making them obsolete.
Based on research over the last two years and the results from the STAR Sales Management Survey, I have developed a program targeted to sales managers who want to take control of their development. The first on-demand learning module for The Sales Manager Development Program is Focused Coaching, which helps sales managers master coaching skills. There are additional modules that are planned to improve all core sales management skills.
At least half the sales leaders we surveyed are losing when it comes to sales management processes.
Ensuring that your sales organization has highly effective and well-understood sales management processes, is the responsibility of the head of sales. Improving processes doesn’t have to be an arduous undertaking. Applying simple yet well thought out tweaks will have a positive impact on sales performance.
Studies have shown that:
- Having a coaching methodology will outperform those that don’t
- Following a systematic hiring process will do a far better job selecting top performing salespeople than those that don’t
- Organizations, where all levels of the sales organization are aligned with goals, will execute far better than those that don’t
- Companies with standardized business planning and review process will get far better results than those that leave it up to the region or individual
These areas represent the easiest fix in having an incremental impact on crushing your sales numbers! We always talk about low hanging fruit in sales; this is the low hanging fruit from a process improvement perspective.
I am sure you would agree that at a minimum, process improvement in any of these five critical sales management processes would have at a minimum a 1% increase in sales.
This is a significant impact on your sales when you can put effort and energy into improving!
3 Simple Steps to Improving Your Sales Management Processes
- The first step is to understand where you are at:
- Ask yourself if each of your sales management processes are highly effective and well understood
- Survey your front line sales managers
- Prioritize the processes that need improvement
- Bring the sales management team together:
- Have them lay out the current process
- Get them to develop an improved process and document it
- This will help you get buy-in and ownership of the process
- Bring in a sales management expert to help develop your processes:
- If your team does not have the time or the expertise, then you can hire a consultant to develop, map and train your sales management team in the process
Remember, the best processes are the ones that everyone understands and uses. Drawing on the experience of the team or that of a consultant will surely result in positive changes in these processes.
I blame senior sales management for the fact that so many companies don’t have effective and well-understood sales management processes. As I said earlier, these are probably the easiest fixes in your sales organization. So if you are struggling to find ways to “crush” your sales numbers here is a great place to start.
New Sales Manager Training
I feel bad for new sales managers who are expected to assume a leadership position without any formal training or support. In fact, according to the survey, only a third of companies have a formal training process for new sales managers.
When it comes to formally evaluate how that transition is going, only 25% of companies have a formal process in place. Studies show that between 40%-60% of new sales managers fail. The impact on the company and the region can be devastating.
How many of you have children who have tons of potential? Whether it is dance, gymnastics or baseball/football just to name a few, what would you do to help your child be competitive? If you are like most parents you sign them up for extra practice, get them the best coaches and provide them with all the support they need to succeed.
I find it ironic that companies don’t look at their new sales manager in the same vein. Companies need to ask themselves “what can we do to make this new leader successful?” In fact, 71% of new sales managers are coming from the sales team, so the impact of failure is high. I have laid out some actionable solutions for The #1 Reason Why New Sales Managers Fail.
The company stands to lose twice. Firstly, by promoting your top sales rep to a sales manager position, you lose your top salesperson. If they fail, there is little chance of moving them back into a sales rep job.
Placing an unprepared sales manager into a top performing region can have all kinds of negative impact on the performance of the region. I have seen many mutinies in my days. This occurs when several reps get together and do whatever they can to have the manager removed.
This causes the head of sales many headaches in deciphering what to do. This results in poor engagement, drop in performance and increase in turnover.
With the risks so high on the success of the new sales manager, companies need to look at innovative ways to help their sales manager successfully transition. Leaving this to chance can negatively impact performance.
My heartfelt belief is that your sales managers are the key to driving sales performance. These people are the foundational piece of high-performance sales organizations.
The STAR Sales Manager Report provides insight into the levels in which companies support their sales manager development and have highly effective sales management processes. Stop losing the battle and start winning by looking at key areas for improvement.
The reality is who cares what other organizations are doing. If you want to consistently crush your sales numbers, you need to ask yourself:
- Do we provide the proper ongoing skill development for our sales managers?
- Are our sales management processes effective and understood?
- How well do we support the transition from sales rep to sales leader?
The answer to these questions will give you an indication of the areas you need to focus on that will help improve the sales performance of your team. I have shared some top-line thoughts on how to go about improving in these three areas.