By: Ray Makela on July 17th, 2014
How to Properly Onboard a New Sales Manager
It is often hard for the sales people to make the transition to sales manager. Part of this challenge is attributable to the inherently different job functions of a salesperson and a sales managers (individual contributor vs. manager of others).
Each job requires a unique set of skills and while many sales organizations have comprehensive sales training programs in place, few (in our experience) have similar training programs for their frontline sales managers. All too often sales organizations resort to on-the-job training for their sales managers, and that can be too slow, inconsistent and runs the risk of becoming the most expensive type of training – the type that fails to achieve the desired results.
So what should you do in order to effectively onboard and develop a new sales manager?
New Skills Required
Let’s first consider the extent of the training challenge. Here some of the skills frontline sales managers need to master in order to succeed:
- Recruiting and selecting the right team members
- Setting team goals and priorities
- Managing performance
- Coaching and developing selling skills in others
- Leading and motivating
Since the typical sales manager is promoted from the field, it is doubtful that many have had formal training in these skills. Hence the inherent challenge of making this initial career pivot.
A Comprehensive Approach to Sales Management Skill Development
Given the wide range of new skills a typical sales manager needs to master, it’s unlikely that “one and done” training programs will be effective. Consider implementing a more comprehensive sales management training program that includes ongoing reinforcement, coaching and follow-up. Sales managers need to be given the chance to try out the concepts and tools, discuss real world application to their teams as well as receive feedback from their peers.
Effective sales management training programs that produce long-term sustainable results use many of the same training concepts of Customized Sales Training.
Below are five factors to consider when developing a training program designed to help your sales managers make their first major career pivot from salesperson to sales manager:
Even though sales management skills and concepts tend to be more “industry neutral” as compared to selling skills, customization is still critical for increasing relevancy for sales managers. It is important not to “force fit” the material into the industry, or leave it up to the participant to make the connection to their particular situation. Effective customization is time intensive but worth the investment required to gain a deep understanding of the management challenges facing the sales managers.
#2 Executive sponsorship
Executive sponsorship is absolutely critical to the implementation of a successful sales management program. Not only do the executives need to be aware of the material, but they need to be engaged in the communication and kick-off of the program to ensure success. We also recommend that senior management get actively involved in post-training reinforcement and application assignments.
#3 Training workshop(s)
Given the number of skills a sales manager must master, it may not be effective or practical to schedule intensive multi-day training events for sales managers. You may want to consider delivering sales management training over a period of several months to support spaced learning and focus on each topic in more depth. For example, we have worked with numerous clients who have introduced one major sales management skill per quarter. This approach allows sufficient time for reinforcement and coaching sessions to ensure that each new skill is being mastered and consistently applied on the job.
At the end of a training program it is common for sales managers to ask “Now what?” Unless you have a structured follow-up program in place, your program will run the risk of not achieving any long-term behavior change. We recommend requiring participants in a sales management training program to create an individual action plan to outline how they will apply the concepts and tools over the next 30/60/90 days and share these plans with their supervisors. Participants should also be given in-the-field “assignments” to apply new skills and tools, which should then be reviewed in the subsequent reinforcement and coaching sessions.
Post-training reinforcement and coaching session are a great opportunity for sales managers to discuss real world management challenges with their peers in a “safe” environment. Reinforcement sessions provide a great opportunity to present materials, obtain feedback.
Making the career pivot to Sales Management is not an easy one and is often attempted little guidance or training. With the appropriate training, this pivot can be the first step on the journey to a successful sales management career.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.