Why sales management requires significant training

Can you think of any profession other than sales management that provides so little training to such an important role in an organization?

Sandler Training President and CEO Dave Mattson told us this is one of the major issues in modern sales management: People are thrown into the job with no real training.

“Think about surgeons – they go through years of training. They aren’t put into the operating room without it,” he explained. “But sales managers, who are required to produce the revenue which drives the success of the entire organization, are rarely offered a formal training program.”

Dave added that sales managers are often the least trained group of people in any company. In addition to being a best-selling author (“The Sandler Rules” and “Sandler Success Principles”), Dave has spent the last decade leading the team at Sandler Training, which has served tens of thousands of clients across the globe.

That’s why we asked for Dave’s advice on how to solve this problem. His answer? A sales management playbook. Here’s what he said needs to be in it.

4 topics to include in a sales management playbook

1. Definition of role, responsibilities and what constitutes success.

The first item to include in your sales management playbook is a definition of the manager’s role. Sales management can include numerous responsibilities, depending on the needs of the organization. If you want sales managers to supervise and set sales goals, hire and onboard salespeople, and act as a coach and mentor to their team, state that. Explicitly. Do you also need sales leaders to calculate sales forecasts, run CRM reports and find the right pieces of technology to enable the team? Make that clear.

“The biggest failure is that there’s no recipe for managers to follow. Managers are required to do so many different things – customer-interfacing activities, hiring and onboarding people, and helping salespeople grow,” Dave said. “A playbook outlines what managers should be doing in each function and how much time they should be spending in control.”

In addition, your playbook should define how you will measure the success of sales managers. Of course, achieving quota is the ultimate performance measure for all sales leaders. But you also need to clarify what you define as success for the myriad other parts of a manager’s job.

“My biggest fear was always wondering if I was doing a good job. Could I get the job done? And what could I do to improve myself?” Dave explained. “No one on my team could give advice because they worked for me.”

2. General leadership and management training.

Since many people move to a sales management role from an individual contributor role, they’ve never had an opportunity to lead a team before. That creates an opportunity for growth, but also potential confusion. Without proper leadership training, a new manager might quickly jump to micromanaging people or not managing them at all.

Sales management needs to be able to inspire and motivate people to do their best work. Dave said that one of the most important lessons he learned in sales management was to invert the organizational structure.

“You certainly need to have a hierarchy in place within any organization but, ultimately, you work for your people,” he added.

Develop a cadence for leadership training. You could even consider getting some help from a sales training service like Sandler Training or Vantage Point Performance, the latter of which specializes in sales management training.

3. Sales coaching and development strategies.  

This is a critical skill for sales leadership. In fact, 74% of leading companies cite sales coaching as the most important role of frontline sales managers. While the person you promoted or hired into this sales management position is more than likely a great seller, themselves, that doesn’t inherently mean they know how to develop the sales skills of others.

Include sales coaching best practices in your sales management playbook. Explain that there are different types of sales coaching, and specify how much of their role should be dedicated to it.

“My biggest pain point was lack of time. I never thought I had enough time in the day to help people grow, while also doing all the things that were necessary for me to get my job done,” Dave explained.

Provide resources to help your sales managers become stellar sales coaches. In addition, take the time to teach them how to perform specific skill development tasks, such as role-playing.

4. How to set sales goals and define sales metrics.

Determining sales quota and then outlining the specific activities that will get a team there is no easy task. Many sales leaders take a hands-off approach to achieving goals, where they simply give their reps quota and then leave them to figure out their own path to success – which can be effective for more experienced teams, but not so much for younger ones.

Many teams still appreciate when a sales leader reverse engineers their sales process to determine exactly how many of their key selling activities it will take to achieve quota. The art of sales isn’t hindered by supplementing it with science.

Teach your sales managers how to set clear expectations for their team, and then tie them to each individual rep’s personal goals. Dave explained that matching personal goals to corporate goals allowed him to make sure that his team was successful.

“Simply setting quotas was always an exercise in frustration. The sales team usually thought the numbers were too high, and there was no way to hit them,” he said. “But when we took the time to explore the team’s personal goals and tie in the actions it would take to reach them, then personal motivation would kick in.”

More often than not, Dave added, that strategy motivated the sales team take their job to the next level and made achieving corporate goals much easier.

The skills of your sales management team are crucial to the overall success or your company. Develop a playbook for sales managers, so you can get the most ROI from them and the teams they lead.

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