Why on Earth Do Companies Overwhelm and Underdevelop Their Sales Managers?

Does your company?

In our modern sales environment, sales managers and their teams encounter more informed buyers with access to more sophisticated information. More buying influences rule the buy cycle (up to 5.8 per deal in complex B2B). And buyers expect more outright value creation in each deal.

On top of this, the ability of salespeople to make quota─a key sales manager metric─ is on a steady decline. I don’t want to alarm you. But I do want you to pay close attention.

According to CSO Insights, only 55.8 percent of salespeople make their annual quota goals, down from 63.0 percent in 2012.

What accounts for this decline?

To answer this question, companies frantically search for solutions through sales transformation initiatives like new tools, technologies, processes and systems.

As I work with companies on this journey, I watch and wonder why they overlook the sales management function.

How can you hope to build a high-performing sales team with an underdeveloped sales leader?

Most companies will take a top salesperson and promote him or her to head of sales as a reward for performance. Who better to take the reins than the one who has done it and knows the ropes, they reason.

However, research proves more than three-quarters of all reps promoted to sales manager will not last two years in the role and will return to a sales position.

Often, sales managers head to another organization because they don’t want to sell under and report to a new leader on their old team. This way, they save face having failed in their role as leader.

The role of sales leader is vastly different than that of a sales rep. Many reps do not have the experience of managing and coaching people; it is simply not part of their DNA.

The most successful salespeople I know thrive in a ride-the-bullet train work style; they lack the patience to coach and mentor people on their way up.

Well-suited sales leaders find managing sales teams an all-consuming passion. What’s more, the naturals blend the inspiration of a John Wooden, the patience of a Warren Buffet. and the creativity of a Richard Branson.

And even with those superhuman skills, natural-born leaders can fall under the weight of change happening in their world.

Are you contributing to your sales managers’ peak performance to offset a tough buying climate and sluggish economy?

Sales leaders loom large in an organization. They strategically sit among customers, the sales team and the business. Each entity brings unique and unrelenting pressures. Which is why sales leaders hold the hardest job in sales.

And yet, they also hold leverage that no other role does.
If you improve a single sales manager, you will gain exponentially on your manager’s number of direct reports (usually 6-10), the number of clients they serve, and the number of business units they touch. Now that’s impact.

Sales leaders are your biggest catalyst and your biggest fail point.

Do you have a clear plan to support them the way you should support them?

If not, I urge you to read the CSO Insights’ 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report for valuable insight. Click on the title and download now.

We’re observing a worrisome trend. Although sales leader hold one of the most important roles in the organization, we see many companies setting their sales leaders up for failure.

Surprisingly, organizations invest heavily in sales training and development for reps, but not for the sales managers.

Is this only a case of doing what has always been done? Or, does an unconscious bias exist that assumes  sales managers either do know or should know how best to deliver results?

Are sales leaders who manage sales managers so pleased with the status quo as not to change it?

Arguments for sales manager investment far outweigh the organizational inertia:

Revenue attainment─the key management metric─was 23 percent higher for those firms investing more than $5,000 compared to firms not training their sales managers, cites CSO Insights.

Would you invest $5,000 + in your sales leader if you knew you’d gain a 23% higher revenue attainment?

To break from status quo, the CSO Insights’ study suggests that organizations begin with a candid assessment at the organizational level and consider:

  • role definitions
  • career paths
  • compensation
  • job development
  • coaching processes
  • key performance measures

Now move to individuals. What skills and abilities do your sales managers possess?

Do they have the leadership skills needed to work through others? Or are they still salespeople?

Use assessment results to build a business case for change: Why this? And why now?

How will this work in our business? Who will champion it? How will we measure? Have you looked at this in the past 18 months?

Rather than only train new managers to the position, organizations must use their assessment to prioritize all organizational and individual needs including content, training, coaching and underlying technologies. Think more holistically.

For an organization to be truly sales-enabled, sales leaders must be supported to drive the entire customer journey, not merely a narrow slice of the sales process.

Leaders must plan for cross-functional collaboration. Organizations must consider the full range of enablement when building out a sales manager program. And the more formalized your approach, the more likely sales enablement outcomes will meet your goals.

“If you do nothing else, get sales coaching right. It’s worth it.”

Of course, coaching is not the only focus needed in your sales leader’s enablement program. Yet, it is certainly one of the most critical.

CSO Insights’ results show time and again that organizations “bemoan the lack of consistent, high-quality coaching.”  But look at these numbers:

  • 47.1 percent of sales managers spend less than 30 minutes per week per salesperson coaching skills and behaviors.
  • 67% spend less than 60 minutes per week per salesperson coaching leads and opportunities.

No wonder companies are not getting the results they want.

Importantly, more time is not always better; it’s the approach. The more formalized the coaching, the more its impact on win rates. Note the data below.

Six Steps to Better Sales Enablement

If your company falls into the more than half whose sales teams do not make quota, why wouldn’t you do handstands to solve it?  Start with these takeaways:

  1. Don’t set up your sales managers for failure
  2. Do an honest assessment of how well you develop sales managers
  3. Resolve to support and improve at least one manager today
  4. Invest as heavily in your sales managers as in their teams
  5. Spend more than 30-60 minutes a week formally coaching your sales managers
  6. Read and retain the CSO Insights’ 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report

See you on the upside,


For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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