How to Equip Managers to Drive Lasting Results from a Sales Initiative
First-line managers, more often than not, are the linchpin to whether a sales enablement initiative sticks or falls by the wayside. If your managers see how invested you are in the change initiative’s success, they’ll see the importance of driving long-term reinforcement and adoption.
To get managers to put in the work required to drive results, 30, 60, 90 days after the launch of your initiative, you’ve got to put in the work 30, 60, 90 days before the launch of your initiative. Here’s how you can get your managers on board and equipped to move the needle.
Don’t Leave Room for Ambiguity
It’s rare for people to leave a well-thought-out training initiative thinking, “that was a waste of my time.” Instead, if there’s going to be any issue, they leave a well-thought-out training initiative thinking, “so are we really going to do this?”
If your managers don’t see that the company, as a whole, is acting on this change, then you’ve already lost them. As an executive (a leader of leaders), you have to lead from the front, long before the initiative launches to get managers to know and see how invested you’ll be in implementing strategic change.
Equip your managers to make an impact by avoiding any ambiguity around your investment in the change initiative and the expectations you’ll have for your managers regarding its long-term success. Here’s how:
- Get managers aligned on the value of your sales initiative
- Ensure they instill the importance of your initiative into their sales teams
- Provide them with an operating rhythm and support to ensure they can and will execute
If you can do these three things right, before launch, then you’re already halfway home. After the launch of your event your managers will leave knowing what to do, what’s expected of them and how to execute.
1. Get managers aligned on the value of the sales initiative
In any industry and in any business, getting your organization aligned and bought in on a change initiative takes communication from high-level leadership, but it also takes action. As you begin to key in second and front-line managers into what’s coming, it will be important for you to inform them of the why. Why are you pivoting the business or processes? What’s the value of the initiative for the business, their teams and them as managers?
Once you’ve got your managers aligned on the value of your sales enablement initiative itself, you can begin to show your commitment through action. After all, talking about one thing and doing another is the quickest way to send the message as to what’s really important in your mind, and your managers will follow your actions, not your words.
How can you lead from the front in a way that drives commitment and action down the chain of command from second, to front-line managers and your salespeople?
How you can make it happen: The CROs we work with show their commitment to their initiatives early on in the process by participating in workshops, gaining cross-functional alignment from other departments and taking ownership of reviewing custom content to ensure it’s relevant to the organization. They translate this commitment and ownership down the line by engaging managers in the development and launch of the event as well.
For example, the CROs we work with will often encourage their managers to not just monitor pre-work completion, but also ensure their salespeople are understanding and comprehending the pre-work as well. These elite leaders encourage their managers to go a step ahead of saying, “Yep, my team completed the pre-work”. Get your first line managers to ask questions about the pre-work; things like, “What concepts from the prework are resonating with you?" or, "what questions are you bringing to training about what you’ve already seen?”
Urging managers to go beyond just doing the minimum shows them that you’re committed to ensuring adoption of the critical concepts of your sales initiative. This small action or encouragement before launch, reinforces to your second and front-line managers that you’re expecting more from this initiative. If you can take even small actions like these, your elite managers will respond and will begin to instill value in the initiatives to their sales teams and lead by example on their own.
2. Equip managers to articulate the value of the initiative to their teams and show it
Once you’ve got managers aligned and showing their commitment to the initiative through action, they’ve got to be able to instill this same value and ownership to their salespeople. In order to show their commitment to the initiative before, during and after launch to their sales teams your managers will need to know a few things:
What does good looks like?
The relationship between your sales reps and sales managers is critical to driving the overall success of your sales initiative. How well do your managers understand what good looks like in terms of their role? Will your managers know how best to stay in sync with your salespeople around the critical areas of your strategic sales transformation?
How you can make it happen: Throughout the planning, launch and post-launch adoption of your initiative ensure your managers have a clear understanding of what good looks like in their role specifically. When managers understand how they’ll achieve success, they’ll be more equipped and eager to take action and lead by example — meaning they won’t let your salespeople's skip over pre-work, go through the motions in training, or shortcut critical new concepts in live opportunities. Here are a few ways we help our customers ensure alignment between their sales managers and reps in the four key areas of sales effectiveness.
What’s in place to help managers be valuable sales coaches?
Every lasting change initiative has three audiences; (1) sellers, who execute new skills and changes, (2) front-line managers, who coach and reinforce new skills/changes, (3) leaders (second-line managers and CROs), who support front-line managers by developing them and creating an environment that promotes the fact that it’s okay to run the business in this evolving way. When an initiative doesn’t stick it’s often a result of number three not happening, which creates a snowball effect to number two and number one. If you think of each of these three roles as a pyramid, you’ve got to have the base, number three, to ensure the other two levels stay intact.
How you can make it happen: Ensure that your front-line managers have the skills and support they need to execute and drive lasting results. Here’s how:
- Provide resources to improve their sales coaching abilities
- Provide manager-specific training aligned that’s aligned to your initiative
- Provide a management cadence or operating rhythm they can follow to drive results (and you can use to support them and measure their success, see below)
3. Provide a cadence for success (this one’s make or break)
We’ve talked a lot about what you can do on the front end to set managers up to succeed and drive results. But, one of the biggest things you can do on the back end is to provide a management cadence or operating rhythm for success. For our customers, this coaching rhythm is often critical to helping sales leaders ensure oversight on reinforcement and adoption, and helping managers continue to make an impact long after the sales initiative launched. Here are two ways you can implement a successful cadence:
1. Define the when and the what of each critical coaching session:
You’ve likely already got some type of cadence in place for deal and forecasting reviews with managers, but your managers may not have set cadence for weekly, monthly or quarterly reviews with reps, other than 30/60/90 day check-ins and/or basic deal reviews and coaching sessions. Critical criteria can be missed in the gaps between meetings and results can stagnate because of it.
How you can make it happen: A management cadence or sales coaching operating rhythm is often most effective when it starts from the front. As an executive leader, you can lay the groundwork for a sales coaching cadence that all of your managers should abide by, by first developing a cadence for yourself and sharing it with sales management. As you develop the cadence that you’d like your second and front-line managers to replicate with their teams, think about a few things that will be the most important for your teams to do/apply to every opportunity to drive results from your change initiative. Whether it’s pipeline gen, moving deals through the funnel, capturing high-value opportunities, etc. — define two or three things that will make an impact on the longevity of your sales initiative and help your managers build a cadence around that. Then find ways to ensure these sessions actually happen and are a useful use of time for your sales teams.
2. Use opportunity reviews to improve your manager’s coaching skill set:
With any change initiative, it’s important for high-level leaders to keep in mind that it’s not just new to sales teams, it’s new to second and front-line managers as well. Help them to understand that you’re not expecting 100% expertise, but you are expecting commitment and on-going improvements in their ability to coach to high-value results. Then, implement ways to improve your sales managers ability to coach on the key methodology and processes incorporated in your strategic sales initiative.
How you can make it happen: Some of the most elite CROs we’ve worked to set standards by actually participating in front-line manager opportunity review sessions with their sales teams. When these successful CROs share their operating cadence for the upcoming business or calendar cycle (quarterly, for example), they choose a time during the upcoming business/calendar cycle to join each of their front-line managers in one of their review sessions. The goal being not to take over, but to stay on after, along with that manager’s supervisor, to share what that manager did well and what they could improve on to make a bigger impact. Talk about accountability and support.
If you’re operating a large-scale, global sales organization you, yourself, may not be able to join in on these opportunity coaching sessions. If that’s the case, ensure your front-line manager’s supervisors participate each month to provide support. Elite managers take these critics and make continuous improvements that drive on-going improvements in deals and in their salespeople’s skill set.
Don’t Wait. Move Closer to Your Desired Outcomes.
If you can’t wait any longer to hit a turnaround point or finally achieve executive-level sign off on budget for your strategic sales enablement initiative — ensure your investment drives your desired outcomes. Ensuring the initiative will stick from the beginning will align the spend with ROI for the business and make it significantly easier for all the decision makers to come to agreement on whether the initiative is worth the investment.
SKOs are approaching quickly and many sales leaders are shifting their travel and entertainment investment into launching virtual sales initiatives aimed at equipping their sales teams to thrive in 2021. Review our virtual sales kickoff resources guide to see how elite CROs are preparing to drive lasting results through virtual SKO initiatives and transformations.