One of the most common contributors to poor sales management leadership is the way that many sales managers end up in positions of leadership. Most sales managers have been called up out of the ranks of selling or promoted from some other business discipline because they were competent and respected as a highly successful individual contributor. Most are promoted without receiving any sales management training.
In a look at the typical sales manager career path, the Wall Street Journal explained that most sales managers start their careers as salespeople. After consistently meeting sales targets, “it’s possible you would be promoted to management, with a title like sales manager or territory development manager. The stakes get higher; you’ll now be responsible for a team and their numbers, not just your own.”
Unfortunately for the new sales manager who wants to do a good job as well as for the veteran manager who expects to leverage their experience to solve problems and increase revenue, there are a significant number of skills, tools, and processes specific to the sales management leadership role necessary for success.
As a result of being given sales management leadership responsibilities without appropriate training or education for the role, mistakes can occur. Even worse, more senior managers often embed these mistakes into their management leadership style.
A manager’s initial management and leadership style is created much in the same way as a young parent’s parenting style. Just as people commonly parent based on their experience and interaction with their own parents, managers commonly manage based on their interaction and experience with their previous managers.
Yet, in today’s ever changing business environment, it is quite likely that the things that made managers successful in the past are not the same things that will make managers successful today or in the future. Technology, compensation plans, business rules, not to mention economic factors, customer expectations, and customer buying patterns are all changing at warp speed. Whole industries – publishing, media, finance, and retail, to name a few – have gone through a sea change thanks to technological changes that affect marketing plans, sales procedures, and buying patterns. These changes affect both B2C and B2B businesses.
A new sales manager may not even be able to use their previous manager as a model with all of these differences.
Often, managers simply don’t want to admit that they may need help. Whether it’s a new manager attempting to live up to the confidence his bosses have shown by providing a leadership opportunity or whether it’s a tenured manager who is struggling with the changes in people, process, and technology that is today’s evolving business environment, no one really wants to admit that they are struggling and may need additional help to perform their appointed role.
Manager inexperience and denial can lead to mistakes, many of them common across industries, which in turn can cause a plethora of additional complications that can be extremely costly in terms of people, time, and money. A poor manager can increase employee turnover as high performers who aren’t coached well or more average sales staff look elsewhere for strong leadership. Sales managers can also become so discouraged by their mistakes or overwhelmed by their lack of knowledge that they themselves leave.
This can in-turn affect a company’s bottom line. Costs may not show up as a line item in the profit and loss report, but sales staff turnover affects revenue generating areas such as customer service and relationship management. This doesn’t even include extra hiring and interviewing costs to replace people more often. As the Center for American Progress states, “it is costly to replace workers because of the productivity losses when someone leaves a job, the costs of hiring and training a new employee, and the slower productivity until the new employee gets up to speed in their new job.”
Obviously, sales managers need preparation. So where are today’s managers supposed to acquire the knowledge, skills, and competencies of effective sales management leadership?
They must receive management training.
Well-trained sales managers will help increase revenue for the whole company. “According to an ASTD study, there was a “significant positive correlation” between the extent to which managers were trained and the percentage of their reps who meet their sales quota. Conversely, companies that didn’t train their sales managers suffered lower sales performance.”
The first step on the path to effective sales management leadership is recognizing the need for training or continuing education and learning.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin