Training Sales Managers to Foster World-Class Sales Teams

If training Sales Managers is key to building a world-class sales organization, why do so few companies train Sales Managers to effectively coach winning sales teams? 

I recently had a meeting with a dynamic VP of Sales, Lisa, who just took on a new role with a high growth technology company. She came from a mature industry and is now competing at a much quicker pace. Lisa shared her vision of building a world-class sales organization and asked me where she should start.

A Solid Foundation:

Just like a well-built house, a sales organization requires a solid foundation. The foundation of a world-class, high-performance sales organization is the front line sales management team.

Whether your goal is to:

  1. Be excellent at execution
  2. Rapidly adopt new technology
  3. Hire and develop top performers or
  4. Have a highly engaged sales team,

The strength of your front line sales management team will make the difference between exceeding your goals and mediocre performance.

Lisa has been progressive in her investment in sales training and development. In her last role, she outperformed her competitors over the last three years. She believes that training and development have been one of the key factors for success.

Lisa was intent on developing her sales management team. She asked me where to begin. I shared recent research that found highly effective sales coaches produce 19% more sales in comparison to their less proficient counterparts. And the number one sales management activity that impacts performance is coaching.

We talked about how she might go about building the foundation for a world-class sales organization. She was eager to see what programs were available for training her sales manager. I told her, “it isn’t that easy”. Most programs used in training sales managers are ineffective.

Where Leadership Development Fails:

I shared the link to an interesting article titled “The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails”. In this insightful article, Mike Myatt clearly details why training is the #1 reason that leadership development fails.

Many of the solutions available for developing strong sales coaches are ineffective.

The Pitfalls of Traditional Sales Management Training:

  1. It ‘s hard to assess sales managers coaching skills.
  2. The success of any skills training is limited by the “if you don’t use it, you lose it” effect. Without ongoing reinforcement, 90% of the learning’s are lost within 30 days.
  3. The next level of sales management lacks the skills and the time to support ongoing reinforcement.
  4. There is no management accountability post training.
  5. There is a lack of pull through tools to help the sales manager apply their new skills in the field.

How to Overcome These Pitfalls when Training Sales Managers:

As a progressive sales executive, you are probably determined to develop your sales managers and overcome these pitfalls. Here is an overview of the process we use when training sales managers to become great coaches:

Begin by Assessing Sales Manager Coaching Skills

These days organizations are measuring everything, but assessing sales management coaching skills remains a daunting task for most sales executives.

If you want to set up a world-class training and development program, it is important to have a benchmark before beginning along with a follow-up assessment at the end of the program.

To overcome the measurement pitfall, we have developed a Coaching Effectiveness Snapshot™  that helps assess your sales managers in six dimensions of effective coaching.

Establish Reinforcement/Coaching Support

The best way to develop sales leaders is by coaching and mentoring them.

When your sales reps take a training course, the responsibility for reinforcement lies with their district sales managers, but what happens when a district sales manager is trained? Who is responsible for reinforcing their training? Will the VP of Sales do it? If no one assumes this responsibility, you can kiss your training dollars goodbye.

The key to success is the post-training reinforcement of skills and behaviors. One of the most effective ways to do this is with short and focused coaching sessions. These sessions allow your sales manager – who might have a particular issue – to contact a coach for reinforcement and problem-solving.

Enforce Accountability

For the sales managers, we have created a couple of areas of accountability.

First of all, each sales manager is responsible for developing coaching plans with each of their reps post training.

In addition, six months post-training, we reassess using the Coaching Effectiveness Snapshot™ to see how they have progressed as coaches.

Finally, we engage the VP of Sales in the process. VPs must commit to spending at least 1 hour with every sales manager to share best practices. Sales managers love this form of learning because they can share their successes and present case studies while getting valuable feedback and insights from their colleagues.

Coaching the VP of Sales to effectively role model – and providing support after the training – completes the reinforcement process. Coaching reinforces training, leading to the establishment of permanent skills and behavioral changes.

Pull Through Tools

We have developed simple, yet effective coaching tools to help sales managers become more effective coaches.

Coaching without a plan or goal is ineffective coaching. We provide sales managers with a planning document that enables guided development of coaching goals and an action plan.

We help sales managers build an annual coaching plan that includes time in the field with reps.

Conclusion:

Achieve your vision of building a world-class sales organization by investing in the development of sales managers, while choosing a training program designed to support their transformation into highly effective coaches.

Traditional methods of training sales managers have little impact on creating sales leaders who can genuinely foster a world-class sales team. A more comprehensive approach – including assessing, training, coaching and coaching tools – will have the greatest impact for years to come.

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