Why Invest in Sales Leadership?

The Job of the Sales Manager is a tricky one

As a result of an ever complex business environment, sales managers are being given more and more responsibilities. With aggressive sales goals, new technology adoption, territory management, forecasting, and all the other day to day activities, it’s all too easy for Sales Managers to focus on these important ‘tactical’ duties – but at what expense?

We are lucky to have worked with a number of leading sales directors and SVPs over the last few years, in different continents, and it’s clear that their expectations of the sales managers reporting to them are much more than ‘bringing in the numbers’.  From our experience, even first-line sales managers are increasingly judged on their broader leadership capabilities, whether this is ensuring the adoption of new processes and standards or motivating and retaining a millennial sales team…

Are they Skilled up for the Job?

In many companies, it is still the case that the best performing sales execs get promoted to a management role. Which can be a great decision; but it’s what happens (or doesn't happen) after their promotion that make the real difference.

In many ways the skills that made somebody a great salesperson (eg results focus, personal drive) are not enough to make them great sales leaders – and in fact can even get in the way.   So what’s the best way to prepare them for their crucial leadership tasks -  eg running motivating team meetings, conducting pipeline reviews, allocating resources, recruiting, coaching, developing their team’s skills and driving high performance?  

Top organisations recognise the tangible benefits of developing sales leaders, but we still find that some training budgets are often only focussed on front line sales professionals…

From our experience, there are 3 myths that cause this oversight….

Myth 1
Believing that sales training is going to automatically stick
No matter how good the sales training is unfortunately, most training efforts fail to reach their objectives, in large part due to a lack of reinforcement or coaching after the training.

There is a whole host of studies backing this up, with an often quoted example being Neil Rackham of SPIN Selling fame who demonstrated that if there was no coaching or reinforcement activity, there was a drop-off of 87% of the knowledge acquired – or looking at it another way, a waste of 87 cents on every dollar spent on sales training.

First line sales managers are vital here in driving this change – yet this is one of the very skills that many managers simply don’t have in their kit bag.  

As regular readers will know, we ourselves have written quite a lot about this over the years and if you want some immediate top tips here, see our previous blog article on sustaining sales change.

Only when Sales Managers are great coaches and are making sure front line seller training is embedded and sustained will your training budget be a real investment for you, your people and the business.

Myth 2
Assuming that top sales people will make great sales managers
Perhaps this approach is one familiar to you and your organisation?...

Step 1: Invest heavily to develop your frontline sellers

Step 2: Promote the best salespeople to the role of Sales Manager

Step 3: Leave them to blossom…..

Step 3: They then struggle to adapt to the new role

Step 4: Revert to Step 1 and start again….

This pattern of investing in training for front line sellers – rather than Sales Managers - and then turning star salespeople into mediocre managers is a major issue. But we and other practitioners have often been faced with a rather resigned "That's how it’s always been. I guess that's just the way it is."

Sadly, that is the way it is—or at least that's how it has been. But more and more companies are coming to recognise the real source of the problem: Sales Managers have been neglected and generally overlooked from a training and development perspective.

Myth 3
Relying on generic management development programmes
Historically, there has also been an absence of high quality training focused specifically for sales leaders.   Instead, sales managers are often included in regular/generic management training programmes which are not focussed on the world of sales – and the specific skills needed to manage sales teams.   However, we firmly believe this does not work…

Example 1:   There are many generic coaching models but they all seem to fall flat in the selling environment because they aren’t immediately transferable to real-life sales situations – eg 1-1 customer sales calls, opportunity reviews and pipeline reviews

Example 2:  Maximising sales team performance can be very technical – allocating account resources, understanding margins and discounting, setting targets and creating commission schemes.  None of this is typically included in an off-the-shelf management development programmes

Example 3:  Sales people are often motivated quite differently from their non-sales colleagues and therefore need a different approach from their leaders whether that is in terms of reward and recognition, handling poor performance or fast tracking talent, motivating highly-driven teams and managing difficult egos….

Greenbank and Sales Leadership

Greenbank are a global Performance Consultancy focussed on Sales and Leadership Development. We run motivational, highly interactive Sales Leadership programmes specifically for sales managers, directors and partners that are completely tailor-made for each client.  Importantly, we take time to understand your Sales Strategy and Sales Processes and ensure they are fully reinforced during the programme – therefore embedding these processes and maximising your current investment.

We have also developed Sales Leadership Prism© - a 360 degree tool specifically designed to assess sales leadership competences and help individuals and organisations identify the gaps….

If you would like to take a look at our approach to Sales Leadership training, then please email ian@greenbankltd.com and we will send you a short overview of our approach and curriculum.

Alternatively, we are exhibiting at Sales Innovation Expo 2017. Please come along to see us on our stand (S194) or attend our workshop on creating the perfect pitch. It’s on Tuesday 28th March in Theatre 10 at 12.30pm.