Developing Great Front-Line Sales Managers
By Norman Behar
Managing Partner, Sales Readiness Group, Inc.
|Do your frontline sales managers have the skills they need to manage their teams?
Managing a sales team is one of the most important positions in a company. Great sales managers have a profound impact on the productivity of their sales teams and produce better sales results.
Managing a sales team is also one of the most challenging positions in a company and it requires a unique set of skills.
Unfortunately, most front-line sales managers start their management careers ill-equipped to effectively manage a team of sales people.
Star Athlete Syndrome
To understand why, consider the “Star Athlete Syndrome”, an all too common scenario in sales organizations.
A star sales person grows tired of the daily grind of being an individual contributor and aspires to something “greater” such as management.
Meanwhile, the Vice President of Sales is under time pressure to fill a vacant sales manager position. The Vice President assumes that the “star” sales rep will know how to produce great sales results from a sales team.
So the obvious solution is for the Vice President of Sales to promote the sales person into management – the sales rep is excited about the promotion and the vacant position has been quickly filled without a time consuming recruiting and selection process.
The challenge is that sales people are frequently unable to make the transition from being an individual contributor – achieving results through their own expertise, effort and determination—to being a manager—achieving results through the performance of others.
This problem is not unique to sales. Think of all of the great athletes who never developed into great coaches.
Key Sales Management Abilities
While a sales manager needs sales experience in order to have credibility with their sales team, the key driver of their long term success as a manager is their mastery of specific sales management skills.
In order to produce exceptional sales results from their team, a sales manager must excel in the following critical sales management abilities:
- Managing sales performance by focusing on the underlying behaviors that drive sales results
- Sales coaching to help sales people develop their full potential
- Building a team of great sales professionals with the necessary skills and behaviors to be successful
- Leading and motivating their team
Return on Investment
Many companies have leadership development programs – i.e., time management, communication, conflict resolution, delegating, running effective meetings and so forth – but relatively few have dedicated training programs that help front-line sales managers become more effective at managing their sales teams.
This is unfortunate since training sales managers offers such a high return on investment – a sales manager can leverage their improved management skills over the entire sales team. For example, if a sales manager manages 10 sales people, improving their effectiveness represents a 10:1 return on investment opportunity.
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