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Are sales managers on your company ready to lead the charge on performance this decade?

Happy new year, and welcome to a new decade. This is exciting yet for many B2B sales teams there is a problem.

Too many sales managers are hiding in the bureaucracy of emails, conference calls and ‘management’ meetings. As a result, they are not coaching their team. Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group found that only 15% of sales managers are spending 25% or more of their time coaching their team. This is a scary fact, and it’s a recipe for failure.

If your front line sales managers are not holding their team accountable for performance improvement, then prepare for a miserable year of missed targets and under-performance.

New Decade – new approach

In the twenty-twenties we’ll see B2B selling continue to evolve.

Industry winners will stand out from the rest and find a better way of selling. They will shift their focus of differentiation to value rather than traditional [commoditised] issues such as price, delivery and product features.

To be one of the winners, sales teams must change their conversations with a new type of buyer. The intent must be how to use their company’s solutions to enable customer success.

Sales managers who work directly with sales teams have more influence on how salespeople sell than anyone else. They are pivotal to a company’s success or failure.

Are you confident that they’re ready to lead the required changes in your team?


Align to the middle performers for greatest impact

I often see sales managers aligning to the glow of success from the top 20% of performers. These reps are already self-driven enough to invest in their own development and work hard to be the best. Managers don’t influence significant improvement here so spend a little time to support and encourage them and invest the bulk of time elsewhere.

Poor performers [bottom 20%] are desperately hanging on – hoping not to be caught out. They are poor performers for a reason yet some managers invest a lot of effort here in an attempt to save them. Maybe there is a fixable reason for poor performance but for many situations managers need to take more decisive action.  This effort is unlikely to drive the success of the team so spend time to find better replacements.

The greatest opportunity and risk for a manager sits firmly with the middle 60% of performers. The performance of this group is inconsistent, some will be close to quota and they are desperately seeking support and help to get over the line. As many studies have shown (this article explains why a five percent gain in the middle 60 percent of your sales performers can deliver over 91 percent greater sales than a five percent shift in your top 20 percent.), coaching mid-performers delivers the greatest overall return.


Where should a sales manager focus?

The best sales managers directly influence [through coaching] their team’s behaviour on core activities such as account management, prospecting and opportunity management. They spend time to ensure that their team is doing the right things, at the right time, in the right way.

Average and low performing managers invest too much energy trying to manage outcome measures such as closed order value, revenue and customer satisfaction. Managers cannot manage an outcome!

The most overlooked opportunity for regular coaching interventions is the pre-call planning and post-call review. These are the most critical moments in the selling process for advancement. Managers with detailed focus here, with a regular cadence of discussion will see their team performance improve.

Managers must re-balance their effort so they spend less time in internal meetings and reviewing spreadsheets. They should coach more regularly; setting expectations, holding reps accountable and creating value for customers. This shift in sales management can be the catalyst for change and lead the team towards success.


Health check questions for your company

How much time are sales managers investing in coaching mid performers?

Do sales managers regularly coach pre-call meeting plans and review advancement after the meeting?

Have you defined good performance so managers can use this to assess their team?  


Related resources : Sales Force Evaluations – Answer the key questions, “do you have the right sales people and are your sales managers having a positive effect on your sales team”

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