When it comes to a sales training program, top leadership typically has a clear understanding of what they want the program to accomplish. Unfortunately and all too often, these goals can turn into misguided directives for front-line managers and their sales reps. Those edicts often create a team that's good at gaming the system, rather than driving true sales results.
In your career, how many sales initiatives have you been a part of? How many of them have felt like the flavor of the month? The program of the week? These initiatives are championed at sales kickoffs with a lot of hoopla, and then they fall flat 6-8 weeks out. Account executives revert to old habits that die hard. One of the simplest ways to combat that complacency is to have a clear explanation of why you're doing the sales training program. What's behind it? Are you getting creamed by competitors? Are you concerned about the company's longevity? Do you have aggressive growth goals? Do your AEs now have to sell into a new market? Be clear on the why from a company perspective, and in this case particularly the why for the managers. If they're clear on the why, they can better articulate it to their team members.
Your managers need influence to succeed. Enable them to lead their teams, by helping them to be effective change agents. Forcing new programs on them will ensure they won't succeed. Involve your managers early on in the creation of any sales training program that they're going to be expected to reinforce. They're going to be more effective, and frankly more willing, to drive it on their own team if they had a say in its development. In addition to involving them in the content, consider a manager training day prior to the sales training for managers to absorb the content and information prior to the rep roll-out. They'll have a step up on the training and they'll be able to demonstrate their own leadership around the content during the rep training.
The Ability to Coach
The skills needed for a great manager aren't necessarily the same as those needed for a great salesperson. Your best sellers may not be your best managers, unless you give them the skills and training needed to coach others to success. Our delivery team often talks about the concept of unconscious competency. Managers are frequently unconsciously competent. They have a tough time communicating “the how” to others. Just telling your rep they need a champion isn’t going to help. Managers all qualify for example, but they aren't good at providing the how. They can say the what and the when, but a lot of times they aren't articulate on the how. Your managers need to get consciously competent around the "how".
It’s a scary proposition for a lot of sales leaders. Taking managers away from helping to sell, in order to teach them to coach. It's a critical component to the success of your sales initiatives and sales training programs. You won’t be able to improve your organization or have lasting success if you don’t have people who can coach your reps to do it better.
Enable your front-line managers to spend their time creating value for the company. Don’t make them run interference. Don’t pile on. Help them become leaders and focus on the right activities and your sales organization will generate more revenue and more repeat business.