Sales leadership training is essential to sales success and revenue growth for any organization. Why, then, are sales reps often promoted to the role of sales manager without additional training focused on sales management and sales team leadership? Why has Sales Xceleration research found that only one in five organizations budget for this type of training despite its being desperately coveted by sales managers and leaders? And what should a sales leadership training program include once the need is recognized?
Why Does the Sales Leadership Training Gap Exist?
High-performing sales reps are often promoted to sales manager from within an organization based on a solid track record of sales results — which is a good baseline requirement for a sales manager. Unfortunately, many organizations stop there and ignore other key skills necessary for success in the role. This short-sightedness typically results from incorrect assumptions.
For example, organizations often assume that sales skills are directly relatable — and scalable — to sales management and sales leadership skills. In other words, they believe that a sales rep who succeeded in selling will necessarily succeed in managing and leading. False! Being skilled as a sales manager requires additional skills that aren’t necessary to be a successful salesperson.
Another assumption is that the interpersonal skills salespeople use when dealing with prospects and clients are the same interpersonal skills required for dealing with subordinates at both the individual and team levels. False! Managing and leading a team of sales professionals requires a more advanced skill set than establishing rapport and relating with prospects and clients.
Finally, organizations often assume that promoting from within will not affect the status quo of the sales team’s culture. False again! Changing a peer relationship into a superior/subordinate status can easily upset the delicate dynamics of a sales team’s culture.
What Are the Benefits of Sales Leadership Training?
With false assumptions debunked, what benefits of focused sales management and leadership training might an organization receive? Here are a few:
- Well-trained sales managers to deliver on your company’s revenue targets.
- Sales managers with the interpersonal skills, tools and processes to manage their sales team and ensure they meet goals and objectives.
- Sales managers who have the skills, tools, documents and confidence to effectively lead their team to drive results into the future.
- Leaders who create a vision, communicate clearly, measure results and help their team deliver revenue to the organization.
- Leaders who collaborate and work in partnership across the organization.
What Should Sales Leadership Training Include?
Sales leadership training should prepare sales managers and leaders to help their team optimize performance and maximize results. It should equip them to effectively manage not only key sales functions but also manage and motivate sales team members to reach greater levels of personal, team and organizational success. While sales strategy and process components might vary by industry, market or organization, the team management aspects of sales leadership training should always include the following training components:
1. Creating an Environment for Sales Success
Sales managers need to learn how to create a sales team culture where success is facilitated and expected. They need training on how to hold others accountable, foster open communication, follow solid hiring processes, and invest in personal and team training. They also need to learn how to emphasize that clarity in expectations, measurement and consequences is vital to accountability and trust-building.
2. Encouraging the Best From the Sales Team
Sales managers must optimize sales team performance by emphasizing the use of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals. They must learn to identify which activities yield top results given their time investment. Training content should also enable managers to clarify expectations, set appropriate measurement criteria, establish clear consequences and manage the documentation necessary for superior sales efforts.
3. Coaching Culture/Mindset
Training should help managers establish a personalized coaching approach instead of one that is authoritarian or dictatorial. It should provide managers with the skills they need to empower employees to come up with meaningful solutions on their own.
4. Improving Poor Performance
The program should train managers on how to support salespeople with low performance by providing additional resources or training, altering job responsibilities, or reassigning them to a new role. Sales managers must also learn how to address poor performance immediately and understand how to implement and manage a performance improvement plan (PIP).
5. One-on-one Meetings
Training is vital to help managers learn how to conduct one-on-one meetings in order to overcome obstacles, coach for success and drive superior performance in all parts of the sales cycle. It should emphasize preparation, focusing on sales rep development, allowing the salesperson to drive the agenda, and maintaining a collaborative and coaching-based tone.
It is also important for sales managers to learn how to conduct ride-alongs and to understand the boundaries of who does what during a supervised sales call. This training will also help the managers — and, ultimately, the reps — determine best practices for pre-call planning, call execution, post-call debriefing and client follow-up. It should emphasize that the manager’s objective in a ride-along is to support their team member, support the customer, and support the organization or home office.
Organizations and their sales teams can benefit greatly from sales leadership training. Sales managers also benefit by being equipped with essential skills and tools that they didn’t have when they held the role of a salesperson. They will now be able to create a cohesive vision for the sales organization, which will inspire their team members to achieve personal, team and organization-wide performance goals.