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I’m always on the lookout for trends to address in my sales training programs. So in my latest LinkedIn poll, I asked my community to identify the greatest challenge facing sales managers right now. The top answers: sales managers are weighed down with too many non-leadership tasks (44%), with hiring challenges a close second (36%).

 

poll - what is the biggest challenge facing sales managers

 

 

Sales Growth Obstacles Facing Sales Managers Today

Sales managers, and especially first line sales managers, have one of the most challenging roles in the sales organization. Most sales managers and sales leaders stay in role for less than two years. Let’s look at several reasons why and what this can mean to the organization overall:

  • Sales manager turnover means less continuity for sales professionals. Continual turnover at the sales manager level means less continuity for the team and can disrupt the team dynamic in a way that impacts performance and sales growth.

 

  • Successful sales professionals are often turned into sales managers and without the right sales training, leadership training, or guidance. Additionally, the process of hiring a sales manager from the outside is often not conducted in a way that creates success.

 

  • Many sales managers find themselves in the role of both player and sales coach. While this may have some positives, my viewpoint is that this can have much more a negative consequence for the overall sales team’s success.

 

  • Sales managers are typically taking on significantly more tasks that the role of leading their teams. While a strong sales manager can certainly flex to take on those tasks temporarily, more often that not it’s permanent, leading to burnout.

 

  • Sales managers are often running teams they have inherited from a previous leader. At least 30% of those team members will not be suited for their role and are underperforming, which means the new sales manager has the task of remediating and possibly replacing those team members.

 

 

What Sales Training Strategies Do You Need to Develop Elite Sales Managers?

Sales Training Strategy #1. Implement effective hiring and sales onboarding practices.

Your sales team is the revenue and profit engine of the organization. Your hiring and sales onboarding practices will either have that engine firing on all cylinders or stalling in first gear. I include this as a sales training strategy because these structural elements ultimately determine how well your sales team can be effectively skilled up and coached by your sales managers. Effective practices include:

  • Role design and assessment data to ensure you’ve identified the skills you need and the ideal candidates for the role.
  • A hiring strategy that includes how to market sales positions, assess and interview candidates, and alignment of your compensation plans to strategic goals.
  • Your overall onboarding and skill development approach for ensuring that new sales professionals have a path for their first 6-12 months.

 

Sales Training Strategy #2. Provide ongoing leadership development for your sales managers.

Many sales organizations make two critical mistakes with sales managers. The first is to assume that sales skills and leadership skills are the same. You’ll see this evidenced when a successful individual seller is promoted into a management role and fail. The second mistake is not investing in ongoing leadership development for sales managers.

Whether you enlist the help of an outside expert or you create a program in-house, sales leadership development isn’t optional. The ideal development program focuses on both leadership and management competencies for a one-to-two-year period. Themes often include:

  • Self-leadership and people leadership
  • Becoming an effective coach
  • Running effective team and individual meetings
  • Communication across a variety of levels internally and externally, with clients, and with your ecosystem of business partners
  • Executive presence
  • Designing effective team structures and culture
  • Various practices such as territory strategy, hiring, forecasting, and pipeline management

 

Sales Training Strategy #3. Remove the “Player / Coach” role from your sales organization.

Many sales teams keep a team member as both an individual contributor and a sales manager. There are many reasons why an organization might use this strategy: maintaining client relationships, organizational size, company politics. In the long run, the person is standing between two distinct worlds. It’s challenging to be effective at both; it can lead to burnout on the part of the professional, team morale challenges, and stifling of growth for the long term.

When there is clear delineation between the roles of executive sales leadership, sales management, and the sales team you can create clear sales training objectives, metrics, and programs. If you’re an organization in those “in-between stages” of team structure you may temporarily find yourself with the Player / Coach role as a temporary strategy. Just be sure that there is a clear path and timeframe to phasing out that strategy.

 

Sales Training Strategy #4. Invest in and monitor sales infrastructures.

Sales infrastructures are the underlying items that provide support to the overall sales organization. If they aren’t fueling your growth, you may have too little structure or in some cases, too much structure. One example of too much structure is data (there is such a thing as too much data) and getting so bogged down in your data that it takes the focus away from customer-related activities. Your sales infrastructure can “age” over time; executive leadership and management need to continually monitor what’s effective and what may need to be fine tuned or remodeled as the company evolves.

Sales infrastructures can include:

  • Strategy
  • Technology stack
  • Processes
  • Methodologies
  • Metrics
  • Compensation plans
  • Territory plans
  • Sales organizational design
  • Alignment to other areas of the organization

 

Sales Training Strategy #5. Implement a consistent sales process and sales methodology.

In my work with CEOs and sales organizations, I’ve found that sales process and sales methodology are two areas you can impact within a quarter. Process and methodology support one another, and your sales training initiatives can be selected or developed to complement them.

  • Sales process is like a staircase; they are the specific, linear steps a sales professional takes in helping a client navigate their buying process. It’s ideal to determine a simple, singular high-level process that encompasses 80% of your sales opportunities. There will always be outliers, but it’s important to not allow those to overtake your process elements.
  • Sales methodology is the combination of strategies, skills, and tools you can use in a variety of scenarios like new business acquisition, moving clients through their decisions, or expansion within your existing clients. Methodology gives you the flexibility to select what’s needed to progress a specific opportunity, while still maintaining the overall process.

 

Would you like to improve your Sales Training Program? We can help.

Don’t let your competition get an advantage. We can help. If you’d like more sales strategies to improve your sales training process, let’s talk. Contact us to schedule a conversation with Amy.

 

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