Training Sales Managers Yields Big Returns

BY Tim Londergan
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The best salespeople are often NOT the best sales managers. This is a fact that escapes many companies that try to leverage their best talent but fail to grasp exactly how to do it. It’s easy to identify high performing salespeople. For instance, their success is determined by their sales record, repeat business and their enthusiasm for the task at hand. Good salespeople often strive to become managers because it is seen as a natural progression or a career goal of an ambitious employee. But first, is that person right for the role? And second, is there significant risk to the company in moving a strong sales rep to become a mediocre sales manager? Smart companies understand that training sales managers is a development process. And new sales managers need even more training.

The case for training sales managers

Smart companies put a priority on training in general. Each department has key players whose role positively affects team members. Therefore, having an effective training program can exponentially impact the entire enterprise. Training sales managers in first-​line positions makes the entire sales force more effective. “Sales manager development often produces big effectiveness gains at relatively low cost.” This is from Why New Sales Managers Need More Training, an article from Harvard Business Review. The authors caution leaders that “the Peter Principle is alive and well in sales forces: companies promote their best salespeople to become their worst managers.” Following are some of the authors’ recommendations for training new sales managers.

Transitioning to sales management

The skills required of sales managers include recruiting, coaching, energizing, and retaining a group of individuals each with unique characteristics and qualities. Most new sales managers don’t have experience managing others. At the same time, they are required to navigate the internal organization to acquire resources. Training sales managers to succeed in this environment requires a comprehensive onboarding program.

Onboarding new sales managers

Companies large and small can benefit from a well-​conceived onboarding and development program because of the positive return on investment. Starting with the right candidate is critical, of course. Whether bringing in a person from outside the company or promoting from the ranks, there are specific criteria to look for. A transparent, trustworthy communicator with good listening skills is a good place to start. Because employee turnover is very expensive, training sales managers is a worthwhile investment.

Leadership involvement in sales manager training

First, leadership may compel new sales managers who arrive from outside the company to go through the standard sales rep onboarding process. Understanding the day-​to-​day activities, interactions and frustrations of other reps is a good way to establish peer respect and rapport. Second, weekly one-​on-​one sessions with a leadership team can solidify and clarify lines of communication. This is especially important where companies may still be operating with satellite offices or workers in remote locations. Formal mentorships and peer learning are recommended as a way to gain broad-​based knowledge of a company and its resources. Finally, leaders need to set an example and coach new sales managers in the same way they expect their sales managers to coach their team members. These discussions may cover hiring, onboarding and coaching.

Set up for success

Promoting or developing a manager from an individual contributor role to one of responsibility for a team of associates is a significant undertaking. Assuring that the candidate is right for the job and then giving them the tools needed will ensure success. Training sales managers to be independent thinkers while blending the proper learning methods can increase morale and accelerate sales performance.

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash