A knowledge gap crisis

Paul Nolan

Before I began researching this issue’s cover story, I had no idea the lack of sales management training was as dire a problem as it is. We thought there was a gap in training for B2B sales managers, but quickly discovered that “gap” is actually a canyon (hence the cover image).

In a 2017 report titled “Sales Managers: Overwhelmed and Underdeveloped,” CSO Insights reports almost 40 percent of organizations spend $500 or less annually on sales manager training. The Association for Talent Development found that only 11 percent of companies offer their sales managers extensive training and 22 percent don’t train them at all — compared to 66 percent of those same organizations that train sales reps at least annually.

The cost to companies is real, yet given the inaction to correct the problem, few seem to recognize it is as one. The message is clear: training is not just for frontline sales reps. The ATD report found a significant positive correlation between sales managers who receive training and direct reports who meet quota. The reverse was also true — untrained sales managers led to worse sales performance.

Conventional wisdom holds that companies take their top sales performers, promote them to managers and assume they’ll know how to get others to sell just like they did. It doesn’t work that way.

As Nick Kane, managing partner at Janek Performance Group, stated in a recent blog post, “All the leadership and coaching ability in the world will do little good if a manager doesn’t know how to develop to the particular skills of an account manager.”

Kane also points out that many of today’s sales managers thrived before the current self-educated, digital age customer truly kicked in.

“Today’s sales managers have to refresh and update their selling knowledge and acquire the skills to be able to teach that knowledge to their team. Even those who have current market and customer knowledge still often require training in how to pass along that information.”

As the year winds down, it’s natural for sales managers to assess their sales team and map out strategies to help those who didn’t reach quota in the past year boost their performance in 2019. The message we hope you take away from this issue’s cover story is simple: Maybe the training should start with you.