Michael Jordan is one of the most brilliant basketball players ever. His discipline to become world class, to achieve the brilliance that inspired millions of people, is well known. But he wasn’t nearly that successful as a coach.
It’s the same in sales organizations. It’s not necessarily the best salesperson who makes the best manager and leader. Both roles couldn’t be more different from each other. Managing one’s own performance versus coaching a team to its best performance requires a completely different skill set—self-management versus leading others. Look at Vince Lombardi–not the best football player, but definitely one of the best coaches ever.
Many newly appointed frontline sales managers are thrown into the new role with little-to-no training or coaching. They find themselves between a rock and a hard place—between competing challenges that come with the new role, such as customer-management strategies; becoming a business manager; and becoming an effective coach. The resulting consequence is an onboarding time between one and two years. What sales organization can afford that? None.
When it comes to increasing sales productivity and executing your sales strategy, frontline sales managers have the most important role in any sales organization. Let’s assume a 1:10 control span and then imagine the business damage a bad frontline sales manager can cause versus the business wins an excellent frontline sales manager, acting as a great coach, can create. As a sales leader, you should leverage this potential – with the right first steps.
“But we have enablement and training functions.” I hear you. Unfortunately, most enablement functions don’t consider frontline sales managers as a specific target group. If they do, most of the time they offer the same content and training services that are provided for frontline sales professionals. That actually falls more in the category of information sharing rather than effective role-specific enablement. But it is exactly in this area where the synergies are the biggest and where the low-hanging fruits couldn’t hang any lower:
First, build a task force of excellent frontline sales managers who are well known for their coaching skills, along with enablement experts who also cover sales methodology. They should take the existing enablement services on content and training that are provided along the customer journey for frontline sales people and then define the must-haves for each stage. Next, the frontline sales managers get coaching guidelines to be used in conversations with their team members as they proceed along the customer journey. Finally, the top frontline sales managers can act as mentors for the new managers and help them learn how to coach effectively based on these guidelines.
That’s an investment not only in equipping your frontline sales managers with the tools to increase their effectiveness. You are also ensuring that what the sales professionals learned in training is now getting reinforced on a regular basis due to coaching by the frontline sales managers.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”