How to Fix What’s Missing from Your Sales Training Program

Author: 
C. Lee Smith

A recent State of Sales report published by LinkedIn revealed that U.S. businesses spend $15 billion a year training their sales employees.  Despite this spending level, 68% of sales professionals are rated as moderate performers in the State of Sales, fourth edition, report from Salesforce. It’s tempting to call out sales professionals as slackers after considering these numbers. The truth is that poor performance from sales reps can be linked directly to the training their sales managers have received.

Answering yes to any of the following questions suggests that you need to step up the training of sales managers at your company.

  • Have you noticed a consistent pattern of lost deals in your company?
  • Do your sales reps lack credibility in the marketplace?
  • Are your sales managers hiring reps who don’t stay for long?
  • Are your sales managers failing to hold their salespeople accountable for their commitments?

Are your sales managers overwhelmed by distractions, moving from crisis to crisis with no time for coaching or developing salespeople?

Why Sales Managers Don’t Get Properly Trained

Because most sales managers have spent at least a few years as sales professionals, they’re accustomed to making their numbers. Often, they’re very good at this activity, which is why they were promoted. However, the skill set required for sales management is far different than the skills reps need to succeed. In many organizations, leaders hold sales managers accountable for the number they’ve promised to make by the end of the year. Sales managers incorrectly interpret that accountability and believe they must focus on the number, a strategy that leads to a revolving door in their department and too many lost deals as reps flounder.

Not all sales managers fail. Plenty of these professionals invest their time and efforts on tasks other than making their numbers. Specifically, they build, develop, and motivate their reps. The result of their hard work is a high performing sales team. The only way to be sure your sales managers replicate this success is to invest in training programs that help them improve the right skills.

Where Sales Management Training Fails

If you’re like many companies, you provide general training when you promote an existing rep into a sales management role or when you hire a new sales manager. This training might encompass sales methodology and how to process orders through the internal systems. You might also have new managers sit through diversity, equity, and inclusion training. But how much time do you spend training sales managers to develop their teams? For many organizations, the answer is “not enough.” In fact, in our Voice of the Sales Manager survey, only 53% of respondents said their training prepared them well for their first sales management experience. A general management training course held at the local Holiday Inn for a day doesn’t adequately prepare an individual for good sales management.

Training managers on how to efficiently manage and delegate tasks will give them more time to coach their reps. More importantly, it will enable them to make the time they already spend coaching more beneficial to their team.

Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership says, “In many corporate training departments, the people who deliver training to salespeople don't have the background of having managed a sales team. If one can't speak from personal experience to sales managers, sales managers don't want to participate. This is one reason why so many sales managers haven't yet received the specialized training to develop the skills and tools they need to become truly great at their jobs.”

Successful Sales Management Training

To introduce real change into your sales organization, you should invest in a robust sales management training program that builds the following skills.

Leadership Mind-set

Your new managers must develop a leadership mindset. Reinforcing the need to assist the reps in their department will help sales managers realize that they need to think on a different level. Their actions impact their direct reps in positive and negative ways. 

Time Management

There’s a disconnect between how sales managers spend their time and how they should spend their time. According to Gartner, only 10% of a sales manager’s time is devoted to upskilling their reps. The rest of their work time goes to meetings and email exchanges. Training managers on how to efficiently manage and delegate tasks will give them more time to coach their reps.

Personalized Coaching

I’ve always said that sales training is a one-to-many exercise, while sales coaching takes place in one-on-one sessions. To deliver the most effective coaching, your sales managers must understand the areas where your reps need to improve.

Sales managers often think they know what a rep needs to work on. Those opinions might be based on bias. If a manager believes closing is the most important part of the sales process, they’ll coach a rep on how to close. But a rep might actually need more help with their discovery process, which is the real reason they struggle when it’s time to close a deal. Your managers can learn exactly which elements of the sales process to coach their reps on when they review the details of a sales skills assessment.

Establish a policy that requires all sales managers and reps to take not only a sales skills assessment, but also psychometric assessments like the one found in SalesFuel COACH. Using those unbiased results will guide the personalized coaching that reps need and will give managers tips on how to communicate with each rep. When your managers take that approach, they move the middle of their sales team upward.

Most sales reps don’t easily transition into being effective managers on their own. Organizations that enroll their new managers in sales management training programs will benefit from their investment, like the online, self-paced SalesFuel Sales Management Training program. Once managers focus on the right metrics, the sales department will win more deals and enjoy increased rep engagement and loyalty.

C. Lee Smith is the founder and CEO of SalesFuel, a Columbus, Ohio-based firm that leverages critical insights to enable the acquisition, development and retention of top employees and customers. Lee is recognized as one of the leading sales consultants in the world by Selling Power magazine. His company is also recognized as one of the Top 10 Sales Enablement solutions providers by the publication. Lee has more than 30 years of experience in sales and sales management.


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