In training and coaching hundreds of sales managers, I have discovered a set of assumptions around the skills of Front-Line Sales Managers. Organizations assume that their managers possess these skills, sales leaders consider these skills as a given, and team members are continuously disappointed that their managers do not showcase these skills.
My intent behind sharing these assumptions is to ensure that Sales Managers are adequately trained and coached to handle these gaps. Here we go:
1. The assumption of time management: The most common issue highlighted by sales managers is their paucity of time. Caught between senior management and their teams, between customers and partners, and between high expectations and low delivery, sales managers are in a perpetual frenzy. How should they manage this frenzy?
a. Focus on the 20/80s (20% of actions that lead to 80% of results)
b. Limiting meetings to 20 minutes and 45 minutes (80% of meetings to be 20 minutes and the balance 20% to be 45 minutes)
c. By managing their energy and not their time and
d. By ruthlessly eliminating “useless” meetings
2. The assumption of talent management: I find it amazing that sales managers have not been taught how to hire great salespeople and are often left to their own devices to figure this out. Whether it be recruiting salespeople, onboarding them, or setting the right climate for their integration and teamwork, there are a lot of skills missing. Conscious training focus and discipline can help here – done right, managers can become magnets for talent, which is the first step to building high performance teams.
3. The assumption of team management: “All I seem to be doing, is telling my team what to do” – Sounds familiar? Sales managers tend to vacillate between the polarities of micro-management and full delegation with no measure of situational fluency. Transforming groups into teams, teaching sales managers to orchestrate resources, and helping them with situational leadership are simple skills that can help managers manage their teams better. Setting clear commitments and building an accountability rhythm will help further.
4. The assumption of coachability: “We expect our managers to coach their teams well“. Alas, nobody has coached these managers, for them to know what coaching truly means. Coaching has become such a buzz word that it has gained multiple interpretations, with sales managers adopting the definition that suits them most. Jocularly, a sales manager told me that they “coach” their teams in month 1 of the quarter, “manage” them in month 2 and “tell” them what to do in month 3, so that it fulfils all expectations from their leaders. For the full benefit of coaching to be felt across the organization, sales managers must first experience good coaching 1:1, and enjoy the ability to practice coaching in their day-to-day engagement with customers, partners and internal stakeholders.
5. The assumption of leadership – “What proportion of your time do you spend as a Leader?” I ask. The responses have never crossed 20%. Sales managers are so busy managing the present and the urgent that they are ignoring the future and the important. Sales leaders play a role here by grooming their managers to properly allocate their time, talent and energy so that the sales managers could create the space to focus on their own leadership development. The ability to set aside 30% of the sales manager’s time to focus on being a leader, is a good barometer to assess sales leaders’ capability to develop their managers.
While the 5 assumptions above may present a bleak picture, please note that sales organizations are always in a continuum. As a sales leader, my encouragement of you would be to assess, if any or all the above are true for your organization. Rather than assuming, may I request you validate these with your sales managers and be prepared to be surprised. I would encourage you to keep the conversation flowing. Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can achieve more together for your sales managers – that critical fulcrum for change within your sales organization.