In the past few years, three waves of change have rocked the sales industry:

  1. Sellers often play a smaller role in the buying cycle, as buyers wait later in the sales cycle to engage them
  2. Seller performance has stagnated, as they struggle to adopt perspective-based selling methodologies
  3. Sales organizations undergo constant change initiatives.

Managers sit squarely at the intersection of these trends, yet for most organizations, sales management strategies have hardly changed. In fact, the changes that have occurred in the managerial ranks have intensified managers’ internal and administrative focus. In part, that’s because managers have more responsibilities than ever before; it’s also because managers, fueled by a tsunami of data, focus more on administrative activities, including sales forecasting and reporting.

But it’s not too late to transform. Sales organizations whose sales management strategies haven’t changed with the times can address three key gaps identified in our latest report, 2020 Trends in Sales Management, that will improve sales manager performance and, in turn, raise seller performance.

  1. Driving Technology Adoption

For all of its promise, technology hasn’t yet led to greater seller efficiency for many sales organizations. Despite relying on technology that is supposed to drive efficiency and boost sales, sellers report spending the bulk of their time on administrative activities and only one-third of their time selling.

The disconnect between technology and sales results lies in part in poor tool adoption. An organization can deploy every tool on the market, but unless they coach their sellers to engage with those tools, a robust technology stack won’t drive sales. Managers should take the lead on driving adoption, but only 26.7% of organizations agreed that this was a strength.

  1. Coaching Sellers

Overloaded sales managers often struggle to find time for coaching. Even when managers do find the time, they take a narrow view, focusing on ways that their sellers can position themselves to close a specific opportunity, like acquiring a new piece of business. But coaching on individual opportunities doesn’t help the seller grow—or drive long-term sales success. Instead, managers need to take a holistic approach, focusing not just on lead and opportunity coaching but also skills and behaviors and funnel, account and territory coaching.

Managers need to follow a formal, consistent coaching process, so the time—however limited—that they spend with their sellers is more effective. Less than a quarter (24.6%) of organizations reported that sales coaching was a strength, although our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study listed sales coaching as a top practice linked to higher quota attainment and win rates. The more formal the coaching process, the higher sellers’ win rates: a dynamic coaching process—one that is defined, taught, reinforced, adopted and aligned with sales enablement activities—led to a gain of 32.1% in win rates than a less formal approach, according to the 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study.

  1. Hiring New Sellers

Hiring presents the biggest gap for sales managers in the  2020 Trends in Sales Management report. Only 22% of sales organizations said they consistently hired sellers who succeeded and 84% of sales leadership reported that they don’t have the sales talent they need to succeed in the future. As sales organizations continue to grow, through a combination of higher attrition and a strategy that prioritizes quantity of sellers over quality of seller performance, this creates a talent gap that requires the attention of sales management and sales leadership alike.

The key to solving the hiring problem is a full-fledged talent strategy that spans recruiting, hiring, development and transition, with the cornerstone of that strategy a data-driven process to identify what makes top performers tick. Less than a quarter of organizations currently assess their top performers, so they’re left to rely on proxies for success, such as industry expertise, and unreliable subjective impressions of attributes such as “assertiveness,” in defining a candidate profile. An informed approach based on leading and lagging indicators of sales competency is an untapped sales management best practice that yields higher quota attainment while lowering seller attrition.

It’s (Past) Time to Evolve Your Sales Management Strategies

Our latest research will help your organization identify whether it suffers from these gaps and offer strategies to address them. If you’re ready to transform and adopt sales management best practices, download the 2020 Trends in Sales Management report.

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