I’m sure you’ve heard it all before: the success of a sales team is based on thorough and constant sales enablement by the manager. To coach the salespeople, to implement new techniques, to keep track of the newest trends and competitor’s moves, those are all the parts of enabling the team’s potential for better sales. But the role of sales enablement doesn’t simply end there.
But while we’re all about enabling the sales team, many companies don’t fully realize the need for a sales manager’s enablement. Today I’d like to say a few words about just that, hopefully provoking some revolutionary thoughts; or a will for change in the way a company cares for and trusts its sales managers.
Taking control in the initial stages
It all starts with making the right choice, and smoothing out the start. Just like promoting an excellent chef to a restaurant manager won’t ensure ultimate success, think twice before promoting your best salesman to a sales manager. Making the right choice is where the seed of enablement is planted.
The onboarding process starts with the job interview’s last handshake, and that’s where your company traditionally starts expecting the manager to be a great coach, boss, analyst and strategist from day one. In fact, that’s a fairytale that hardly ever comes true, even with seasoned sales managers. The onboarding process for frontline managers usually lasts the minimum of a year. The manager can find his or her way, but we’re all just people, not managerial ready-mades. That’s why sales enablement for the sales manager is so important. Because what is the ultimate way to boost your sales department’s performance? That’s right: coach the coach.
A few words about enabling the manager
First of all, as a sales leader, answer this one simple question: does your company offer a sales manager training upon hiring? To my astonishment, too many leaders I’ve talked to over the years just brush that off as unnecessary and time-consuming. Why training when people can learn on-the-go? They’re managers, right? They should be able to adapt and function. That may be true, but only a quality initial training will lay a good foundation for enablement in the later stages. If you have a training program, excellent. If you don’t, think about it. Talk to your managers, ask them if they would have welcomed a more detailed onboarding sessions during their first weeks on the position. I am positive that their answers will be “yes”.
As you surely know, once you become a sales manager, you’re expected to grow and nurture your sales team towards better and better results. That is the role, in a nutshell. But without sales enablement on the managerial level, this process results in the sales manager getting stuck in the reporting and reviewing, coaching, scheduling and developing, sometimes even selling and other non-coaching activities. All this leads to little to no reinforcement and self-development of their coaching skills and team enablement techniques. Do you already see the difference between coaching for sustainment and coaching for growth?
Frontline sales manager enablement: lesson one
Enough suspense build-up, let’s cut the chase. By now you should be fully aware of the importance of implementing sales manager enablement into your company’s structure. Here are a few ideas on how to make it work.
Build a team of skilled managers and coaching experts.
They will collect expertise from the act of coaching your company’s sales teams plus their own experience in management. That combination will provide you with a task force that will take care of new manager’s initiation and ongoing development. If your inside people aren’t sufficient, outsourcing or using software and technology is always an option.
If your sales manager is the one pulling the best sales through, you have made the wrong hire. Every sales leader must realize that coaching must be on the top of their sales manager’s priority list, and their schedule should respect and reflect that. Setting clear priorities and articulating the results and expectations will make it easier for everyone to concentrate on what’s important.
Get everyone involved in the composition of their own enablement.
Whenever we’re talking about implementing new coaching methods, the feedback of the coachees is always a vital part of the process. Give the managers space to analyze and think about their methods and results, while leading them to do the same with the sales reps.
Start with yourself.
Enablement is not an one- or even two-level matter. It goes all the way up on the executive ladder, so start with self-education on how to lead your subordinate managers towards becoming better coaches for their team. Again, you have many options: reading books written by the top producing sales executives (Such as the Sales Manager Survival Guide by David A. Brock), utilizing various software educational programs or attending events and lectures specially on this topic.