Let’s Train Our Sales Managers

The all too common refrain in sales and sales management is:

When you promote your star salesperson into a sales management position you lose a good salesperson and gain a lousy sales manager.

But why?

Why do we have so many lousy sales managers out there?

The main reason is that our sales managers have never been trained in their roles as sales managers.

To rectify that, I offer a short primer on training sales managers.

Focus on the Fundamentals

The key to great sales management development is to remember that sales management is management. As such, the basics of management apply.

1.  Set a Goal

Sales managers need to set clear goals for their sales associates.

  1. Numerical sales targets
    1. Most sales managers set these in terms of sales numbers, be they sales or margins
    2. Other targets to consider would be:
      1. Customer satisfaction measures (if available)
      2. Customer churn
      3. New customer adds
  2. Activities
    1. What activities need to be done by the salesperson in order to hit the numerical targets?
      1. Number of customer visits
      2. Number of new customer calls
      3. Etc.
  3. Behaviors
    1. What behaviors does the salesperson need to exhibit in their daily work?
    2. A short list of behaviors might include:
      1. Prospecting and targeting
        1. Focusing on the most important customers
        2. Going where the growth is
      2. Tracking activities
      3. Call planning – Planning questions not presentations
      4. Improved performance in sales calls
        1. Asking questions
        2. Listening to the customer’s needs
        3. Avoiding the salesperson vomit (of how great their company and product are)
      5. Continuous learning and training
        1. On the company’s product and services
        2. On customer’s needs and wants
      6. Being responsive and quickly doing what has been said and promised
      7. Cooperation and collaboration with other parts of the organization or external partners

2.  Follow Up

This is the daily and weekly follow up to ensure that the sales team are exhibiting the behavior and doing the activities that will help them satisfy the customer and reach their numerical sales targets. All too often, sales managers focus attention on the targets or a hot new lead to the exclusion of tracking activities and observing behaviors – the root cause of later sales success.

  1. The follow up needs to include:
    1. Weekly follow up and review of daily sales tracking (hint: CRM systems) to ensure that the salesperson is following up and meeting with the targeted and prioritized customers.
    2. Regular ride-alongs and observations of the salesperson in action to see how they are planning their day, planning their customer visits and performing in front of the customer.
      1. These ride-alongs and customer visits are difficult for most sales managers to do well. They too often want to take the lead instead of letting the salesperson do the questioning and talking. The three keys in such visits:
        1. Before the call, review the salesperson’s plan for the call – questions, stories, (perhaps) presentation, possible objections, etc.
        2. Say absolutely NOTHING in the sales call. Just observe and listen.
        3. Review how the call went and offer coaching suggestions after the call.
    3. Regular reviews of product and other knowledge to ensure that the sales people are continuing to learn and advance their understanding of how they can best serve the customer.
      1. Diagnostic tests are very useful to both determine the level of understanding and as a learning tool.

3.  Provide Support and Feedback

To provide support and feedback for the salesperson, the sales manager will need to:

  1. Help the salesperson get the time and resources they need to do their jobs
  2. Coach the salesperson (as above) on how they can be more efficient in getting in front of the right customers and more effective when in front of those customers
  3. Give positive encouragement and recognition to help keep the salespeople eager and motivated
  4. Provide problem solving assistance.
    1. Be a sounding board and offer suggestions when there are issues
    2. Help the salesperson in figuring out a solution to a problem
    3. Where necessary, solve problems both internally and externally that (as the military would say) are “above their pay grade.”

By following these three simple management fundamentals, our sales managers can become more successful. This will help our sales managers drive the success of our sales teams which will lead inevitably to the success of our companies.

Time to get started!!


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Sales and Marketing, Team / People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Let’s Train Our Sales Managers

  1. Pingback: Coaching and Developing Great Salespeople | David M. Shedd – Move Your Company Forward

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