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Sales managers play a critical role in developing strong sales teams.
If your sales organization is performing below par, it may be because your sales managers are not providing sales reps what they need to perform at higher levels.
This article discusses why that is and what you can do to build a thriving sales organization.
Is your sales organization geared for growth or stuck?
The big issue in scaling a business is ensuring all departments grow simultaneously. Unfortunately, sales teams are often the ones that evolve the least over time.
They add more people but never review the sales processes, the roles, or their global sales strategy. The sales team ends up holding back the other departments.
A strong sales team always aims to increase its value to an organization.
Most businesses do a great job streamlining operational processes as they relate to production, supply chain, etc. However, it’s a common myth in companies that sales teams know what they’re doing, and no improvements are required in that area.
You hire sales managers because they know how to manage a sales team. Managers hire sales reps because they know how to sell. It creates the false impression that the sales department can run independently and doesn’t require investment.
Typically, sales teams scale up by adding more people. That’s not enough; companies need to review their sales compensation plan. Otherwise, they pay passive income to the sales reps and keep hiring to sell more. They end up with a bigger team that doesn’t bring more value, and it generates a considerable cost through base salaries and commissions.
The 5 reasons sales managers fail at developing stronger sales teams—with solutions
If your sales managers are not developing a strong sales team, it may be because of one—or more—of the following reasons.
Reason 1: Sales managers try to teach how to sell instead of coaching the team
Your sales manager should not be the one teaching the team what to say, how to handle objections, or what one-liner to use to close a deal. A good sales manager is a coach first, and they should spend about half of their time coaching the team.
Sales managers must understand that there is a big difference between teaching and coaching. Coaching is about asking questions; teaching is telling what to do.
Solution 1: Ask questions
Sales managers should ask many questions and have the sales reps find the solution instead of providing the answers.
They should do pre-call and post-call coaching sessions and have a coaching dashboard nearby. The dashboard helps managers see a salesperson’s specific strengths and weaknesses and guides their coaching interventions. For example, the dashboard is a key component of the powerful Objective Management Group (OMG) tool.
Sales managers can coach their reps on technical aspects, such as closing and what to say in a given situation. That’s only the tip of the iceberg. There's a deeper level of coaching that is often a blind spot: sales DNA.
Coaching has the most impact when the sales manager can address the more profound reasons a sales rep can’t close. One of the core reasons sales reps have trouble closing is because they don’t ask for the sale. Something needs to change in their sales DNA: the need for approval or difficulty talking about money.
Coaching on behaviors, not technique, is where sales managers have the greatest opportunity to develop a stronger sales team.
Reason 2: Sales managers only push salespeople on revenue targets.
The most important role of a sales manager is to hold people accountable; revenue is the end result of that accountability. What you do today determines your future results. When sales managers only look at revenue numbers, they don’t look at current behaviors and activities that predict future sales.
Solution 2: Focus on current behaviors to predict sales.
Every day, sales managers should see whether their team is adopting the behaviors that will get results at the end of the sales cycle.
Sales managers should focus on achieving activity goals: number of meetings, number of new opportunities, movements in the pipeline, number of networking events held, number of referrals, etc. They should also set SMART goals with their team so everyone knows what is expected of them.
You reap what you sow. You will get a poor fall harvest if you don’t plant seeds at the right time, till the soil, and fertilize regularly.
Reason 3: Sales managers don’t use their time effectively
Many sales managers waste their time managing sales reps’ drama and complaints. Sales managers should do pre-call strategizing and debrief meetings, and coach on DNA aspects. If they want drama, they can watch Netflix.
Solution 3: Hold scheduled activities with the team
Sales managers can hold daily stand-up meetings in the morning, weekly sales meetings, one-on-ones every two weeks, pipeline reviews, and quarterly business reviews.
They should also actually spend less time on direct selling. Often, sales managers spend too much time selling to specific customers. The time they spend selling is time they don’t spend coaching and growing their sales team.
In smaller companies, we often see sales managers having to manage a small team and still make sales. That’s fine, but they need to be very clear on how much time they wear the sales manager hat and what to expect from them in that role. Once they’ve met that management obligation, then they can sell.
Reason 4: Sales managers don’t have a recipe for success, aka a sales process
You can’t improvise a sale. Sales managers need a specific sales process with clear and objective milestones and must train sales reps to use that process as a proven recipe for success.
Solution 4: Follow a defined sales process
Everyone on the team must speak the same language—the language of the sales process. Invest in a CRM that contains everything about the sales process and coach everyone on using it correctly. That way, you know they can move through the process effectively.
A CRM is your best tool for sales enablement. Sales reps can also receive help directly from the CRM. Some CRMs can push help in real time while reps execute the sales process.
Reason 5: Sales managers are afraid to terminate players who don’t bring enough value to the team
We often see sales managers struggling with specific team members, whether it’s an attitude problem, an ego problem, or a consistency problem. Sales managers think that letting those players go will create a big hole in the team, or they will lose clients. That’s rarely the case.
Solution 5: Let people go
Never hesitate to let go of underperforming players or those who have a negative attitude. Have a tool to evaluate your team and base your decisions on scientific data.
Keeping underperforming salespeople—or salespeople with an attitude issue that can’t be fixed—negatively impacts salespeople who perform well. It sends a signal that the sales manager is not noticing and rewarding the difference in attitude and results. It sends the message that if you’re a low performer, the manager will accept it, and you will keep your job.
Hire slow, fire fast. If you’re not sure that somebody is an asset, they probably aren’t. Let them go; you can replace a salesperson who leaves. To avoid staffing issues, always reserve time for recruitment, even if the team is complete.
5 ways to build a stronger sales team
Sales managers play an important role in the success of most businesses. Their job is to keep their team motivated, accountable, and focused. If your sales managers fail at developing a stronger sales team, they can turn things around by focusing on these five activities:
- Upgrading their sales coaching game
- Focusing on current behaviors to predict sales
- Holding scheduled activities with the team
- Following a defined sales process
- Letting people go
There’s no easy way to better sales performance, but there are some faster and safer ways. Contact us to learn more about our services.