Sales Managers: A Neglected Genre?

Why development of sales managers’ coaching skills is more effective in the adoption of a business discipline like a sales methodology

“CRM 2.0 delivers analytics to support change and continuous improvement in the sales process.”

With the advent of increasingly powerful and intuitive CRM and Knowledge Management Systems, organizations are becoming more able to collect and analyse key data and trends which underpin their sale performance. With the advent of CRM 2.0 (the integration of sales management analytics with core CRM applications) the way is open for fundamental change in sales forecast management by enforcing a continuous assessment process through the life cycle of a sales opportunity. The identification of critical success factors, through past performance archiving, enables preemptive action to reduce loss risk and heighten win likelihood. Essentially, it puts the sales manager back in control of business management instead of living in the eternal player-manager role.

Coupled with this growth spurt in analytics, there is a realisation that intelligence about key clients and business prospects can now be embedded and continually updated, via SaaS technology, in formal sales process disciplines and methodologies. The widespread deployment of such tools is increasingly shown to have significant impact on sales performance.

But are new technologies and applications the whole answer to the challenges facing sales entities?

“1700 organizations voted closing forecasted deals the #1 sales challenge”

Metrics from typical research, such as that published by CSO Insights recently (based on responses from 1700 organisations) show that whilst closing forecasted deals remains the #1 challenge, the top 10% of businesses, in terms of achieving revenue quota, invest twice as much in sales manager training and development than the bottom 30%. Moreover, the evidence shows that formal sales process and methodology only works if sales managers are trained as the vanguard for establishing best practice standards for the application of these tools.

However, the training of sales professionals in the use of such tools is shown to have little impact unless sales managers are encouraged and equipped to coach continual deployment of these tools & disciplines. The virtuous circle looks to be an alignment of the applications and tools that drive sales disciplines with pro-active sales management intervention.

Recent research brings this issue to the fore by illustrating the need for management commitment to such coaching and mentoring activities which balance their focus on live sales opportunities, key account development and continual honing of fundamental selling skills. Additionally, habitual deployment of the chosen CRM based tools continually enhances workflow, communication and reporting.

“Best in class sales managers spend more time on coaching their sales people.”

To add weight and wider substance to this argument, best-in-class sales managers spend more time on coaching their people in crucial sales skills rather than in riding tandem in specific sales deals. To achieve the results expected and demanded by executive management, it is clearly imperative to put sales managers to the fore in all and any sales related training.

“Around 80%…rated key account management as Mission Critical”

However, if there is one area that I could single out if asked to highlight where the role of sales manager as a true manager is crucial, it is that of strategic/key account development. Around 80% of respondents in the CSO Insights research rated key account planning as ‘Mission Critical’, yet were not engaged in developing sales managers to coach dynamic application of formal disciplines in this area.

Because a successful account development planning programme demands strategic management thinking and deployment of a variety resources beyond the field sales teams, modern Sales Managers must be able to guide their charges to relate to senior executives in their own organisation as adeptly as they are expected to do in the client community. Moreover, the notion of a ‘single version of the truth’ is never more apt than its application in the field of key account development and planning. Enabling Sales Managers with the tools for tracking the progress of their teams, in relation to the essential activity and client -virtual team relationship development, as a continual workflow process is of far greater value than snap-shot, static, periodic reports, which are out of date the moment they are published.

So why the need for software application support?

“Two thirds of organisations admitted account reviews took place no sooner than in 90 days intervals.”

Lack of sales process adoption in this vital field of endeavor is the main culprit in failure to deliver performance up to and beyond expectation. Frighteningly, in recent surveys, two thirds of organisations admitted that, once strategic account plans were agreed, senior management review frequency was greater than or equal to 90 days! Such plans, when held in a purpose built application on a CRM platform, become living, dynamic records of true process, which can be reviewed at any time to test progress against objectives and justification for resources. This aspect of sales management can be exciting, as it has a clearer link to a Sales Manager’s own organisation’s market/product/growth strategy, thereby bringing them close to the senior players in their own Executive suite.

Training, coaching and mentoring Sales Managers in these aspects of business technology deployment is proving to be a highly significant advantage to those organisations who have the foresight to implement and champion it.

Dr John Heaford
Head of Sales Methodologies

John Heaford

John Heaford

John is a sales skills training consultant, company director, conference speaker and training systems designer. His ultimate goal is to build world class training support tools, for distribution over the mobile internet to hand-held personal devices, to field sales professionals and business executives. He is Head of Methodologies at SalesMethods.