Sales managers are the most important people in the salesforce. They can drive adoption of your sales methodology or they can blow it off. Too often managers default to tribal knowledge around process, which decreases win rates and isn't scalable. World-class sales organizations focus their energy on gaining buy-in from sales managers. And when that happens, everything just ‘clicks.’
One of our clients worked with us to implement a Global Sales Manager Excellence Program. The first phase was developing the actual program. We focused on five behavioral areas: Effective Coaching, Sales Methodology & Process, Proper Pipeline Building, Prioritizing Prime Selling Activities and Finding & Developing Talent. All key areas needed to become an effective sales manager.
The next phase was harder: the global roll-out to over 3,000 managers. The activation of this program required moving the managers through three phases of learning: awareness, competency, and mastery. Our live training workshops are the ‘competency’ sessions. This is where each sales manager became ‘competent’ with the new behaviors and expectations.
I arrived at the Steigenberger Hotel in Frankfurt excited about the ‘competency’ training. In the room for 1.5 days were 73 sales managers from Germany, Russia, Switzerland and Austria. All of the participants were experienced sales managers. In a sense, they already knew what to do to be successful. The challenge was getting them to adopt and lead their teams in new model. My job was to make sure each one of the 73 managers was competent and equipped to implement.
Delivering a training session to veterans requires a great deal of thought and planning. In a way, it can feel like putting on a performance. There must be laughter, fun, seriousness, and reality in each hour. The participants must first understand the 'why' of the new program while also comparing their current behaviors to a new way of doing things. Without the realization they aren’t maximizing their performance, all is lost in changing behavior.
What happened that day at the Steigenberger Hotel was magical. Sure, I did everything I just described as a trainer to ensure competency. But what really happened was all 73 sales managers committing to not only knowing they can improve, but embracing the change. Here is what they told me they realized during the session:
“We're not really coaching right now. We are telling. We don’t take the time to coach, so we end up directing people on what they should do. But that's not the style I want. I need to spend more time coaching. That’s how we get increased performance. And right now, that is not happening.”
“I have been selling for 18 years and never followed a sales process. Yet when reviewing this one, I now realize I've been skipping steps. I'm rushing the sale and not listening to the buyer as much as I should. I need to follow the process and not get lazy on the fundamentals.”
“We have not been focused on building pipeline activity. Instead of prospecting for new business, we wait for the phone to ring. And since we don’t have enough pipeline, we focus on lousy deals because that’s all we have to work with.”
“I settle for poor performance. It’s a lot easier to keep the current team around then to hire and onboard someone new. It's clear to me know that by doing this, I'm destroying the culture of my team.”
What happened that day at the Steigenberger Hotel was commitment. Commitment from 73 Sales Managers to change the way they do things. Change the way they coach. Spend more quality time with their reps. Engage reps with good questions vs. just telling. Eliminate time-wasters and distractions (even though they can be easier than coaching). Commitment to follow a sales methodology.
For those of you who were there, you know what I mean. It was a day of reflection, learning, and change. But overall, it was a day of commitment to the fundamentals of sales management. Putting these coaching behaviors into action has already resulted in an 18% improvement in win rates.
Are your sales managers struggling with sales management fundamentals? Do they execute these basics everyday? Or are they faking it, hoping for the big sale to make the quarter? We would like to help. Connect with us here and let’s discuss where you are currently and what might you need to do. You could have your own special day soon.
Learn how many sales trainings fail, and what we do to craft a customized sales training program.
About The Author
Daniel Perry is a partner at The Brevet Group. He leverages nearly 30 years of experience leading sales teams and helping complex sales organizations become elite performers.