Trying to build a high-impact sales team? Heads up: Your team will only ever be as good as its manager.
In fact, a reported 69% of sellers who exceed annual quota consider their sales managers as being “above average” at their jobs.
But here’s the problem: A good candidate for sales management is hard to find.
Unless you invest in a good training program (and your people).
Why is there a knowledge gap for sales leaders?
Lots of sales managers get hired because they’re expert salespeople, either because they know what to say to close deals or because they demonstrate value to customers. A full 58% of business managers claim they received no management training at all ahead of their start date. Even more alarming, recent Sales Xceleration research uncovered only 20% of companies allocate funds for critical sales leadership training.
While selling skills may be impressive, they often don’t crossover to managing several sellers and helping them produce sales results. This means that without proper management training, a top sales rep does not always make a great sales manager. But — they can grow to become one by having proper training in the following areas:
- sales coaching
- sales guidance
- performance KPI tracking
- motivational coaching techniques
- interpersonal communication among teammates and stakeholders
The better your sales managers are trained, the stronger your sales reps and business is going to be.
What are the benefits of sales management training?
To close the gap between what it takes to sell and what it takes to lead a sales team successfully, companies have to break away from the current management training.
Aside from what we’ve already told you about high-performing sellers rating their managers as “above average” or better, there are lots of other benefits to building an all-inclusive program for sales management training, such as:
- A better sales machine: 60% of salespeople say selling is much harder today than it was five years ago. That’s where good coaching and training from a sales leader comes in. A good sales manager isn’t just a win for the sales team, it’s a win for all revenue-facing operations (i.e., the entire company’s bottom line).
- Happier and empowered employees: Providing opportunities for sellers to train and learn new skills is a smart way to motivate, engage, and empower your sales organization. It shows you’re invested in their success as professionals, as well as valued team members, with the potential to regularly contribute to organizational success.
- Higher-performing reps: LinkedIn’s State of Sales Report 2020 indicates that top-performing reps are more likely to have spent time with their sales managers during training. This suggests a well-trained manager can cultivate better sales skills and competencies, leading to the development of more top-tier sellers.
What should sales management training include?
Here’s a breakdown of seven key skill sets and ideal qualities you’re bound to find in any productive and well-respected sales manager. As we go, we’ll review some parallel training courses uniquely suited to building and perfecting each skill set.
1. Monitoring and managing sales processes
Sales managers are responsible for monitoring competitors and the market at large, as well as managing and innovating sales processes to ensure sales reps are properly armed.
Any sales management training system should include, at minimum, a basic refresher on the fundamentals of good salesmanship: from prospecting to closing deals to setting effective goals for bottom-line growth.
Sales management prep should likewise cover additional software training (such as your CRM, sales enablement platform, etc.) to familiarize new sales managers with all company solutions and how they impact sales processes. These lessons should focus on how teams use these tools today, giving managers a better frame of mind about where gaps exist and areas of opportunity in sales pipeline management.
A good training course: Janek Performance Group’s Critical Selling Skills course, includes best practices such as active listening and dealing with customer objections. This course can also be customized according to your requirements.
2. Managing with an eye on the big picture
A great sales leader – like any great leader, really – is someone who can grasp the big picture sales strategy, anticipate changes, and seize opportunities for growth. There are some leadership skills that can be learned and applied to help with longer-term initiatives and encourage success over time. These skills include goal setting, time management, sales forecasting, and team performance tracking/prediction. Consequently, your sales management training should prepare you to lead sales teams in the moment while also keeping an eye on the future.
Here are some complementary skills you can hone to support big-picture efforts:
- Collecting, analyzing, and presenting performance metrics. You should know how to extrapolate critical performance trends from raw sales data and how to make inferences about future key-account management and territory approaches, product rollouts, and individual seller performance rates. You should also be able to present your predictions clearly to get your team behind any necessary changes to existing processes.
- Market landscape canvassing. You should become adept at spotting signs across your industry of 1) what your competitors are up to, 2) how your specific market is behaving (or is likely to behave), and 3) any potential shifts in consumer demand.
- Building and establishing attainable SMART goals. You should understand how to create and implement sales goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. These should be developed according to your business goals as well as your firsthand experience with your team’s capability levels and culture.
A good training course: The RAIN Group’s sales management skill development program features an entire module devoted to sales forecasting.
3. Strategies for communication
The ability to convey a clear message to your team is essential in maximizing your team’s performance.
Any truly effective sales management training course must include lessons in messaging and communication, detailing how and when to:
- Listen: A key strategy of persuasion is listening to the needs of your sellers. If you can take their concerns into account, you’ll be more likely to get them on board with your SMART objectives.
- Reveal: Part of your communication skill set will be knowing when to admit to your own personal feelings. The more human you are with your sellers, the more they’ll be able to identify with you.
- Respond: Feedback is a particularly fine line for sales leaders. Providing pointers on how to improve without demoralizing your team members is a crucial tool in the manager’s toolbox.
- Impart: If you need something from your sellers or your stakeholders, you’ll have to be open about your expectations by setting up an onboarding program that ensures reps adopt the right selling behaviors. Clarity and gravitas are rhetorical tricks that can help broadcast your needs in a simple way.
A good training course: The Brooks Group’s eight-step sales management training program, focuses much of its philosophy on building strong communication skills to establish clear expectations and maintain accountability through meaningful follow-up sessions.
4. Leading with accountability
Accountability is a top-down phenomenon, so if you’re hoping to hold your sellers accountable to specific milestones, quotas, etc., you’ll need to get comfortable taking responsibility for your own actions, too.
Many aspects of leadership accountability will likely seem intuitive to you: honoring commitments, staying humble, and remaining answerable for the successes and failures of your entire team are all fundamentals of accountability culture. We submit to the first step of accountability is to know yourself, your strengths, and your weakness.
Still, some targeted training will provide a chance for you to consider responsibility at scale. Find a reading program that boosts your ability to truly handle situations, no matter who throws them at you.
A good training course: Sandler Sales Leadership Training, which cites a “culture of accountability” as an essential component of leadership success and includes instruction on how to shoulder responsibility effectively.
5. Building collaboration capabilities
Much of your sales management training should center on setting a collaborative example – that is, promoting a sense of teamwork and camaraderie across all initiatives.
This requires that you understand what every single team member can bring to the table (and what they can’t) and that you can allocate assignments and responsibilities accordingly.
It also requires you to show your team spirit by assuming a fair share of the burden, working directly with teammates to solve problems, recalibrate goals, or push deals over the finish line. The listening skills developed during communications training will help you here.
A good training course: Bain & Company’s Leadership Alignment program, which devotes a portion of its leadership effectiveness training to “concrete behaviors” that support productive working relationships.
6. Mentoring and empowering through sales coaching
There may be no “I” in “team,” but that doesn’t mean personal coaching isn’t an important part of a sales manager’s day-to-day. The best sales team always has strong and effective leadership to mentor and inspire them to become to most efficient sales professionals they can be. Their sustainability relies on your in-person or online sales training programs, onboarding strategy, and attention to personal development. So much so that, sales and leadership author Marc Wayshak refers to coaching as the “number one activity that any sales manager can do.”
One-on-one sales coaching can come in a variety of different ways, but its core principles include empathy and a keen sense of observation. In addition, good sales mentoring practices might include:
- Investing in seller improvement over time by sitting down regularly with each sales rep to discuss roadblocks and possible solutions.
- Encouraging teammates to set their own personal SMART objectives and build a list of career goalposts they hope to meet.
- Being available to your sales reps both logistically and emotionally.
- Building an encyclopedic knowledge bank of call scripts, playbooks, sales methodology strategies, etc.
- Practice role-playing with sales reps, leading feedback workshops, and more.
- Defining structures sales meeting processes as a team and individually to continuously monitor and track growth over a period of time.
When finalizing your sales management training systems, make sure sales coaching skills like these are heavily prioritized. You’ll find the terms “sales leader” and “sales coach” will become more or less interchangeable as you settle into your sales management role.
A good training course: Challenger’s Coaching to the Challenger course for managers, which emphasizes a “personalized” coaching approach that matches the needs of each seller.
7. Evaluating low individual and team performance
Your company data and performance are everything, proper tracking and assessments of your organization’s data are vital to your overall sales success. New managers must be prepared to think analytically and be data-focused. This includes clarifying which performance KPIs are most relevant, how and when to track them in your sales enablement tool, transforming analysis into action, and being honest if their sellers need to adjust or rethink their closing strategy to meet company goals and turning them into a higher-performing sales force.
A good training course: ASLAN’s Catalyst Workshop, an intensive program that includes a framework for measuring sales performance and 200+ activities for strengthening seller capabilities.
Create a culture of sales success
With these seven skill sets, you’ll be well-equipped to build your dynamic, high-impact sales team. Building your sales team up can have a massive ripple effect throughout your entire organization – boosting companywide morale and productivity. If you’re looking to elevate your sales team to the next level, check out Highspot’s Top 21 Sales Training Programs and Techniques for nurturing and fine-tuning seller talent in 2023. Also, download our Definitive Guide to Training and Coaching to learn how you can help your sales team master winning behaviors.