For the past 20-plus years, I’ve made it a habit to ask sales managers, “What is the biggest challenge you face in becoming the best you can be?” The answer is always the same: not enough time.
Sales managers can learn to treat every interaction with a sales rep as an opportunity to provide better coaching and understand where the gaps are in their understanding or skill set.
According to the Sales Management Association’s March 2016 Research Report titled “Sales Manager Training,” 41% of companies participating in the survey had allocated zero budget for sales manager training. And of the 59% who did have a budget, half of those companies were delivering only generic management training—nothing specific to leading a sales team.
A sales director contacted me to talk about an issue he’d noticed with his sales managers. “I was sorting my emails one morning and I saw that all the ones about problems with our accounts were originating from the sales managers not the reps. It was the managers who were taking action to resolve account problems. It’s like they owned the account, not the reps. That seemed backwards to me.”
Many salespeople miss the mark in their proposals and presentations. They’ve been taught that they want to position their company as a “solution provider” … but their actual proposal or presentation doesn’t describe the problem or business need that the prospect wants solved!
New sales reps are usually excited about their new job and enthusiastic about learning what they need to do in order to succeed. However, they are also prone to think they know more than they really do! Your coaching challenge is to help develop their expertise to a point where it justifies their confidence.
The executive sales team at a start-up company recently challenged my contention that sales managers should be spending as much (if not more) time on developmental coaching as they do on account management. But the critical piece of information missing from this logic is that developmental coaching is the best way to drive revenue growth.
Every time I ask a group of sales managers what their single biggest challenge is, at least half say “time management.” But the truth is that mastering the art of multitasking isn’t necessarily something to be proud of.
There aren’t many companies today that sell a commodity, where price is the sole basis for a purchasing decision, or that have such a unique offering that they can name their own price. That means most of us fall into the arena where the way we sell and how closely we connect with a customer will play a big role in whether that customer decides to purchase from us.
I’ve discovered in recent years that it’s not enough for me to ask sales managers if they are coaching their team. Everyone answers “yes”— though most admit they’d like to have time to do more! But then when I probe further, I find that their understanding of “coaching” and my understanding are vastly different.