I have written many times that I believe that a sales manager can be an organization's greatest revenue multiplier because they can directly impact a sales organization to the positive when they are effective and conversely to the negative when they are not.
And yet this fact is often overlooked or ignored by organizations who are content to roll the dice on this most pivotal of roles.
As I wrote in Direct Marketing News a few years ago:
Most sales managers are thrust into their positions after being a successful salesperson. But as we know only too well from sports, the best players don't always make the best managers. Is this approach entirely wrong? Not at all. What is wrong is that most companies neglect to do the following essentials: properly profile competency, nurture talent, and train the best prospects among their sales ranks for a role that's very different than what they're used to doing. Instead, many newly appointed sales managers are given some cursory “training” and perhaps some “mentoring” from an established sales manager or leader (both of who, in reality, are too busy to ever really do it effectively). So, in essence, this pivotal and critical role within an organization is left to sink or swim, and attrition rates, as a result, are quite staggering. In fact, research has consistently shown that the average tenure of B2B sales leaders is 18 months. Yes, a year and a half on average!
I personally believe that if any organization decided to make 2019 the "Year of the Sales Manager" it would be one of the smartest strategic moves they could make. Let me ask you though, how many times, when revenue targets are being missed, have you heard the cries of:
"We need better salespeople"
"Get me closers!"
"Tell those Marketing people to generate more leads"
And how little (if ever) have you heard:
"Perhaps we need to invest in our sales managers. Maybe we need to start there and make sure we have the right sales managers focused on the right activities and making the right impact on the sales team"
Again to humbly quote myself from the first chapter of my co-authored book on Managing a Social Sales Team:
Salespeople take their cues from those who lead them. Sales Managers who consistently focus on clarity, coaching, and adding value are the ones who build high-performing and motivated sales teams. Conversely, those Sales Managers who are reactionary, who parachute in at the end of sales cycles, who imperiously elbow the salesperson aside as they try to close deals — these managers are doomed to preside over under-performing teams, demotivated salespeople, and high turnover.
So take a look at these three profiles of sales managers that I have outlined below and ask yourself which ones best represent the sales managers in your organization? As with finding any solution, the first step is to recognize you have a problem so the time spent examining how your sales managers operate and then analyzing if they are operating in the most effective manner could be the most revenue-impacting exercise you do this year.
And so here are my three archetypes:
The Super Closer - all action sales manager who parachutes into deals when they get stuck late in the sales cycle. Can sometimes be successful at getting the deal over the line but often with the use of discounting and sweetners. Tends to belong to the "Watch & Learn" school of coaching and often appears more comfortable doing the selling than supporting the sale.
The Spreadsheet King - an excel wiz who can slice and dice data a hundred different ways and has not met a question that cannot be answered with "let me pull together a report for you". These sales managers tend to believe the answer always lies somewhere in the data and often overwhelms both upper management and their sales reps with so much data that any nuggets get lost in the deluge.
The Guide - this is the sales manager who understands where they can add real value and what real value actually is. You will find this sales manager focused on early stage pipeline opportunities making sure they are properly qualified and helping the sales people align properly with the buyer. You will also find that they have an unrelenting commitment to both formal and informal coaching. These sales managers will help the sales person discover the best path to take and then step back and support them as they take it.
Look forward to your thoughts on how we can get organizations to properly support, train and nurture their sales managers.