Ascending to the position of sales manager is a big step for your reps. But there’s a difference between knowing how to sell and knowing how to manage. Too many sales organizations fail to recognize this distinction. As a result, many new sales managers struggle. They might have the ability to be great managers—but no one has ever taught them how to do it.
Sales organizations succeed when managers have the right tools. To help the entire team reach its full potential, sales organizations must actively coach sales managers. Here are eight best practices to follow:
1. Offer managers comprehensive training before they start and ongoing training afterwards.
Even if a manager has been with your company for a long time, they can still benefit from managerial training. Don’t just throw managers into a new role. Make sure they have the foundation they need before Day 1. In fact, based on a research study by the Sales Readiness Group, top performing sales organizations invest more to develop their managers.
Approach manager training the same way you handle sales representative training. While an immersive training program is a good start, you shouldn’t expect managers to retain everything they learn in a two or three-day period. There is always more to learn about effective management.
2. Provide managers with opportunities to learn from the best.
During training programs for new managers, bring in experienced managers to share the method behind their success. Don’t just stick to a Powerpoint presentation. Give new managers a chance to ask questions and talk frankly with experienced managers.
You might even consider implementing a shadow program where new managers follow experienced managers around for a day, or even just a few hours. Observing a great manager conduct a morning meeting can be illuminating for new recruits.
If shadowing isn’t possible, ask new managers to read case studies as part of their training. Dissect the case studies with trainees. What specifically do the best managers do that works? You might also ask new managers to reflect on their own experiences with sales managers. They’ve probably learned a lot from observation, but may need some prompting to think about it consciously.
3. Role-play the tough situations.
There are certain situations that test the mettle of any sales manager, such as talking with an under-performing sales representative or comforting a sales representative who just saw a deal fall through. Prepare new managers for these scenarios through role-playing.
In evaluating trainees’ performances, be constructive but honest. If they’re not performing well in a role-play, they need to know before they do it for real. Repeat the exercises multiple times so that trainees have a chance to get their verbal muscles used to these situations.
4. Teach managers how to effectively debrief after a sales call.
Many managers listen into sales calls in order to coach their representatives. However, this exercise is pointless unless the manager is able to provide helpful feedback and communicate it effectively to the rep. Don’t just assume that your manager will be able to figure this out—teach managers how to debrief.
Again, role-playing is a useful tool. Try to provide as much realism as possibly by playing recordings of actual sales calls. Then, managers can practice debriefing. Give them opportunities to practice on a diverse range of calls: excellent calls, average calls, and poor calls.
5. Provide mentorship for managers.
Managers don’t stop benefitting from mentorship just because they’re managers now. Consider implementing a formal or semi-formal mentorship program that pairs new managers up with more experienced ones. Set basic guidelines, but allow mentee/mentor pairs to set the terms of their relationship.
It’s also important to support managers in seeking mentorship outside of your organization. This means they need to attend networking events, sales conferences, etc. Make it clear to your managers that it’s okay for them to seek outside mentorship, which can oftentimes provide a different and important perspective.
6. Train managers to better interpret KPIs.
Tracking KPIs has become an essential job function for sales managers, but many of them are poorly equipped for it. Most managers don’t have degrees in Statistics or quantitative backgrounds. Although they’ve gained some familiarity with KPIs as sales representatives, it’s important to teach them how to interpret KPIs from the manager’s perspective.
Sales representatives oftentimes think about KPIs in terms of individual performance, but managers must think more holistically. It isn’t just about revenue numbers, but behaviors that generate sales. Teach managers how to effectively interpret those numbers in accordance to your department’s values and methodologies—and ask them to practice the skill during training.
7. Create opportunities for managers to learn from each other.
Your managers have a lot to teach one another. Enable them to tap into that resource. Instead of just going over business items during your meetings, give managers opportunities to talk shop. Give everyone the chance to discuss something they did that was successful and why they think it worked.
Managers should also be able to come to meetings with questions of their own. Let them discuss what they’re doing honestly. Other managers just might be able to brainstorm the perfect solution to a difficult problem.
8. Make sure managers have enough time to level up.
Sales management is a tough job, and it’s not uncommon for managers to be so consumed with putting out fires that their own professional development gets left on the back-burner. To avert this, actively check in with your managers to see if they have time for learning skills. Are they receiving opportunities for outside professional development, such as conferences?
Some sales managers carry their own personal quotas, but that can interfere with them achieving their full potential as managers. If they’re consistently pressed for time, consider lowering or eliminating the quota.
Great sales managers become great with time. To help coach your sales managers to become stellar, make sure you are supporting them from Day 1 onwards.
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