Sales Management Effectiveness –
The Key to Better Sales Figures
(or what Sales Managers need to do well but don’t)
We have always known that the sales manager occupies a key role. Now, more than ever, sales teams have to be ‘fit for the fight’ and the manager is the key to this. We have worked for over 27 years in companies around the globe and we know there is a very close correlation between good sales management and sales success. Good manager equals good team, just as bad manager equals bad team (in spite of the quality or skills of the team, in our experience).
In this article we want to focus on those skills needed by managers to be effective in the current economic environment. There are many skills sales managers need in challenging times, so this article looks at those that are most critical and where the sales managers’ self-rating is significantly different to the teams rating. In other words, where managers think they are ok, (and really need to be ok) but in reality are not. (The ratings were collected by Prosell as part of their diagnostic process with clients, 2002 – 2011).
In a flat economy, most businesses will only grow at the expense of their competition, by taking business from them. This ‘market share’ strategy requires different skills to a ‘growth’ strategy. (A growth strategy means the market is healthy and we will get our share of new and repeat business). The skills examined below are ones that are more essential in a flat economy. And in hard times the sales managers’ primary role is to make sure his /her team are as effective as possible.
Three Key Skills
1 Skill Analysis
What sales manager would say they are not especially good at observing whether a sales person is using the right skills effectively? Our work shows a manager rating of close to 90% and a team rating of less than 20%. So why is this? Most sales managers fall at the first hurdle, they don’t keep quiet during sales calls and observe their teams selling. They take over and do it themselves (the short term deal becomes more important than the long term development).
Those that do observe tend to make subjective observations based on how they would do it, not an objective analysis against pre-agreed standards. These subjective observations have two major flaws. Firstly they are opinions of moments in the sale, not a complete analysis and secondly they tend to focus on the negative. (Ask yourself, when was the last time you agreed with a subjective, negative opinion about your abilities? And if you didn’t agree, how did you react?)
Below is a diagram that shows the process to follow for good sales skill analysis. This in itself is a problem for many sales managers, who don’t like process, planning and preparation.
Sales skill Analysis Process
2 Coaching Skills
Coaching is a skill that follows the same development principles as all skill development, including sales skills and that is the fact that training doesn’t make you good at it. Training may give you an understanding of what best practice looks like, but does not make you an expert, or even competent. Yet most companies, if they invest in sales coaching at all, limit this to putting managers on a coaching course. Our observations show less than 15% effectiveness when observing sales managers as coaches. (As opposed to a 68% self-rating). Independent research by the Sales Executive Council (Building Solution Ready Sales Managers, SEC 2005) also shows that of a list of 10 sales management activities, it is the one they do least well.
Not only is good coaching rare, but the impact of poor quality coaching is worse than no coaching at all, It leads to dissatisfaction and is directly related to top performers leaving.
Part of the problem is that sales managers fail to follow the 4 stage process in part 1. But the main problem is that they receive no coaching themselves on how to coach. This is coupled with the fact that many do not do it often enough to develop their own skills.
So if we want skilful coaches, who genuinely make a difference to performance, then it is not enough to train them in the classroom. We need to coach them in the workplace until they reach an agreed level of competence.
Most sales managers believe they have good people and interpersonal skills and that this directly relates to their ability to communicate effectively with their team. They also believe that this communication capability translates directly into being able to motivate others.
Motivation has been described as ‘getting people to do well and willingly what needs to be done’. It is also widely understood that 40% of effort is discretionary and that some people can keep their job while only doing 60% of what they are capable of.
While sales managers rated their motivation skills as very high (82%), the teams ranking was consistently below 40%. Most of the motivation techniques we saw were inconsistent (favouring the successful, as opposed to those who might actually need it). They were also very limited and tended to be recognition of success and the traditional back-slapping and celebration.
Motivation also tends to be one of those things that organisations find it difficult to measure and when they do, most measure outputs (how motivated are you?), through employee surveys. Very few, if any, measure inputs (what specific practices are our managers putting in place to motivate others?) This is one of many areas where most managers have been trained and have a grasp of the theory, but do not put training into practice.
Good motivation practice requires company, department and individual focus. It also needs to recognise we are all different and motivated by different things, so motivational analysis and planning tools are very important.
Finally, it is critical to understand that there is not just a link between motivation and performance, there is also a link between motivation and talent retention. Recent work has shown (Eric Jackson and Geoffrey James – 2012) that the number 1 reason top people leave an organisation is dissatisfaction with the way they are managed and developed.
Prosell offers a program that combines sales training and sales coaching. It is based on recognised research, which tells us that training alone has limited impact and that when supported by skilful coaching, has 74% more chance of being implemented.
Prosell an international sales performance improvement company has resources to deliver training and coaching programs in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, across Australia, New Zealand & Asia Pacific.