Smart sales organizations know how important it is to invest in their frontline managers. Skilled sales managers are at the heart of the sales team.
With our 2015 Sales Manager Survey, we set out to understand how companies go about building skilled leadership. What are the priorities for skill development and support?
What we discovered is that only about 50% of sales organizations are providing ongoing support to sales managers. The reasons why are interesting.
As we spoke with sales leaders, we learned that they were skeptical about the usefulness of corporate training programs. One VP said that investment in sales manager support did not affect performance.
A mid-size company’s CEO spoke enthusiastically about their recent sales manager training. The program was “the best they had ever taken — they really loved it!” Impressive. But when I asked about ongoing reinforcement for the training — silence. I followed up by asking about the sustainment components the vendor offered to ensure that managers could apply their training in the field? Silence again.
In these interviews, I hoped to find anecdotal answers so that I could understand why development programs aren’t working. I wanted specifics.
Discussions with one training manager focused on their 2-day workshop to develop key skills. But it was what they weren’t doing that was more interesting.
- There were no measurements to gauge the impact of the training (before/after).
- Top management was not actively involved in follow up.
- There was a lack of commitment to sustainable skill development; without it, the skills dissipate.
The end result? A waste of time, resources, and energy — with no real return on investment.
Great training with no follow-up or sustainment is basically just a sales “get together” event. As Matt Myatt says in his Forbes article The #1 Reason why Leadership Development Fails,“This may be heresy to some – but training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails.”
Don’t train leaders. Coach, mentor, and develop them.
According to the American Society of Training & Development, “U.S. businesses spend the majority of more than $170 Billion dollars on “Leadership Training.”
Training simply doesn’t work to create leaders. With the misplaced investment in training that doesn’t work well, it’s no surprise that 50% of companies are disappointed with the results. The beneficiaries are the companies in the training industry.
Well Then, What’s the Right Way?
What I’ve learned is that two hours is enough to teach/train a sales manager on a skill. But it takes six months of ongoing skill reinforcement to reach true proficiency. “Training” sales managers is only useful if there is a coaching component.
I recommend that companies change the way they invest in sales management development.
An ideal investment would look like this:
- 10% pre and post assessment
- 20% formal training (blended learning approach)
- 60% on coaching/mentoring (to reinforce, sustain, and perfect the skills)
- 10% providing the right tools and training on them
Is this too slow and costly? The alternative is a program that doesn’t work. Imagine what your organization could realize if you could up the game of every sales manager by a grade or two.
Sales managers have a tremendous impact on developing the sales talent of their team and, as a result, on the performance of your organization. Ask yourself what is the value of a team of STAR sales managers?
There is no silver bullet in sales. However, I think there may be a powerful strategy that 95% of organizations miss. Developing great sales leaders.
Shift your focus from training to coaching, mentoring, and developing your sales manager and you can expect to see some great sales performance changes.