Sales managers influence what salespeople sell, where they sell, who they sell to and even how they sell. These factors make the sales manager role one of the most influential and demanding jobs in any company engaged in complex B2B sales. How many direct reports do sales managers have in your company? Six? Maybe more?

So why is the sales manager one of the most neglected roles when it comes to training?

There’s an innate belief that top-performing salespeople already have the skills they need to excel in a managerial role. But the skill set needed effective sales management is much broader than what’s required to earn wins on the front lines of deals.

The good news is that world-class management practices are replicable—and we know what works. Coaching sales managers can generate significant gains in win rates for companies willing to make the investment in formal, dynamic sales management training.

The challenges of transitioning from selling to managing

Top performers use excellent communication skills to provide customers with the perspective that wins deals. They rely on proven methodologies and technologies to make the right moves at the right time. Most importantly, they know their customers; they’re good listeners who can guide buyers through each step of the buying process to a successful close. Effective sales managers need these same skills to succeed—but they also need a whole lot more.

The title “sales manager” belies the breadth of the role. Sales managers don’t manage sales; they’re removed from the decisions of outside buyers. What they really oversee is a complicated mix of budgets, processes, behaviors and people. They need the skills and information to influence behaviors early in the selling process to drive the desired results. And the salespeople who report to them can’t be “managed; they must be led.

To lead their teams to success, sales managers must achieve a complicated balance across three focus areas:

  1. Customers: Territories, opportunities and troubleshooting: sales managers must align their company’s goals with their customers’ journeys.
  2. Teams: From new hires to performance management, sales managers need to provide direction and motivation to their team.
  3. Business: Sales managers generate forecasts, align sales strategies to overall business goals and interface with executives and clients to ensure those goals are met.

It’s a daily challenge to find the right balance between these three focus areas—to manage processes and coach behaviors that lead to wins. Coaching is a new capability that many sales managers must learn from scratch.

Sales coaching drives seller performance

High-performing people tend to focus on the intersection of what matters and what they can control. Effective coaching can help sales managers identify this intersection and adhere to a dynamic process to drive stronger seller performance.

Given the broad influence that sales managers have within their company, it’s no surprise that research shows that companies that invest in developing the sales manager role have higher win rates. The 2017 CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report featured companies with a forecasted average win rate of 46.2 percent. Study participants that invested less than $500 in sales manager training achieved a similar average win rate (46.1 percent). Meanwhile, companies that invested more than $5,000 experienced a much higher win rate of 51.4 percent.

As companies mature their sales management coaching processes, the impact on win rates grows even more dramatic. When compared to companies with an informal process for sales management, those with formal or dynamic sales coaching processes were able to improve their win rates by 27.6 percent and their quota attainment by 31.7 percent, according to the 2017 CSO Insights Sales Optimization Study.

Sales managers: Coaching to win

Effective sales coaching broadens the skill set that new sales managers need to successfully guide their teams to meet company goals. The best sales managers have been trained to discover where customers are in their journey. They understand how to identify the most valuable deals that can be won, manage risks and allocate resources accordingly in their management strategies. They’ll know how to use their team’s skills and behaviors to advance value-based selling—a key differentiator in today’s market. They’ll undergo formal training on account management and territories to ensure that they align with both their customers and their business goals. In short, sales managers learn techniques to help them develop each salesperson’s full potential and help them break through to new levels of success, based on their sales goals, individual style and strengths and weaknesses.

Teams, targets, strategies and success: sales managers have a complex job with a high degree of accountability. They’re coaches, and like any coach, they need to analyze circumstances in real time to guide and motivate their team to win. Effective sales management coaching—training that is linked to the sales enablement process—can equip sales managers with the tools and techniques they need to drive , reduce employee turnover and create a winning culture with tangible rewards for their company. Sales managers won’t be the only winners: the organization will win too, with higher-performing sales teams that close more—and more lucrative—deals.

Learn more and contact us to see how Miller Heiman Group can help your organization.

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