The business leaders I’ve spoken with recently have said that, in response to the global COVID-19 crisis, they are thinking a lot about protecting their people. They’re also thinking about protecting their organizations and, specifically, on identifying the best ways to hasten, and support, the recovery phase that will follow this challenging and unprecedented period in our history.
We all have a role to play in writing that critical next chapter, of course, but I believe that sales and training leaders have a particularly important part to play. They are in a unique position, because they are the ones with the capacity to bring the necessary skills to the customer-facing revenue-generating groups, preparing them to deal with today’s issues and the new world in which we will all be living once the crisis recedes.
After the safety and well-being of employees, revenue generation must be the strategic priority. Why? Simple: Revenue is the lifeblood of any enterprise. As we prepare for a post-crisis world, we want to make the best possible decisions when it comes to ramping up revenue streams — which means we need to double-down on creating and supporting the right learning and development (L&D) tracks for each member of the sales management team. They represent the most strategically important investment of our training resources, energy and attention right now. For one thing, when we focus on skills training for managers, the confidence and conviction of the sales team increases — which spills over to their interactions with buyers.
According to Sandler research, 43% of sales managers say they do not receive effective training prior to taking up the role, and 32% report their ongoing training is less than effective. Now, these sales managers must manage in a completely different manner from what they were doing just a month or two ago. Many of them were not properly prepared for their roles even before this crisis, and whether or not they like it, whether or not they planned for it, whether or not they have the tools they need, they are now managing a remote sales force.
Let’s be honest: Some of them were probably already struggling with basic management skills; now, they must figure out how to be an effective manager in a crisis environment. That is a tall order. Training leaders must make absolutely sure they are providing sales managers the support they deserve. We must be certain we’re giving them all the training, all the tools, and all of the coaching and support necessary, because they are the revenue-generators.
The first step is to take inventory of what your team has done to help your sales leaders in today’s environment. Creating and supporting personalized learning tracks for every sales manager in the organization carries a number of immediate benefits, all of which deliver positive ripple effects within the organization:
- Most significantly, an effective sales manager relays critical best practices to, and improves morale among, the frontline members of the sales team.
- Investing in training and developing sales managers dramatically increases the likelihood of the adoption of a common sales process and a shared sales language across the entire sales team, which increases revenue production and causes important improvements in operational efficiency that streamline interactions with other teams (like customer support) and have a positive impact on the entire enterprise.
- Making this essential training investment improves the manager’s coaching skills, which not only increases individual revenue production totals but, crucially, helps your organization hold onto its key contributors on the sales team for a longer period of time. This crisis is not the time to lose your MVP to a competing team.
- Investing training resources in your sales managers enhances your ongoing recruitment efforts. Make no mistake: Most of the companies coming to terms with this crisis need more top-tier salespeople on staff contributing to cash flow, and they need them now.
The bottom line? Protect your people … and your organization. To secure the biggest bang for your L&D buck in 2020, your choice is clear: Invest in your sales managers.