Methods and benefits of training sales managers | Sunday Observer

Methods and benefits of training sales managers

5 September, 2021

Two key schools of thought exist on the subject of the significance of providing training to new sales managers.  First, some entrepreneurs presume that effective sales managers can be promoted from the existing ranks. The idea behind this is that existing smart and result-producing sales practitioners can manage a team of salespeople effectively after appointment. 

Second, they assume that training sales managers is a long and expensive process that is hard to justify. Even if they can afford the sales management training, often the business owners think that smart salespeople when promoted can perform equally well in a management role. 

In this context, even when they interview a sales manager from outside the company, they place confidence in the sales performance track record of the candidate rather than the management skills. 

This is a mistake: The two functions, selling and sales management are entirely different from each other. Selling needs a unique set of people skills while sales management needs a combination of selling experience and skillful management. Simply, developing a salesperson may improve the performance of a single territory while sales manager development can produce an overall performance to the revenue of the organisation. 

In many organisations, successful salespeople get promoted into leading sales teams.  Often, those new appointees struggle to take charge due to the lack of leadership and management knowledge and skills. An incorrect promotion can destroy the existing performance level of the sales team. Hence, properly designed training is imperative for a new sales manager, specifically on administrative and leadership aspects.

In most cases, when a person is promoted from the existing staff, they lack critical competencies such as recruiting, coaching, motivating, and even retention skills. In addition, making plans and strategies for monitoring selling activities have to come through training. Often such newcomers attempt to improvise systems based on their experience and at times theoretical knowledge. Such attempts rarely become successful.  

Need for training 

The sales managers are responsible perhaps for the most important task of an organisation: Bring in revenue for the sustainability and growth of the organisation. The primary tasks are to build, develop, manage, and lead a team of salespersons. This means that the sales manager’s performance as a leader is one of the key elements of success. Therefore, a simple mistake in the selection and recruitment of a sales manager can be detrimental in the long run. 

However, despite the significance, throughout my long career in sales, I have observed that many sales managers are unprepared for the job. Most frequently, they either apply too much pressure or show too much leniency to the sales team. Giving leadership to a powerful and professional sales team requires a perfect balance between both ends. Therefore, the selection of an effective sales manager with sales experience and management knowledge is one of the most challenging tasks for a company. 

The experience of a sales manager in personal selling time is essential for the job. The more experience the sales leader has as a salesman makes him a more effective manager due to the enhanced understanding of behaviours of others, challenges in the terrains, withstanding never-ending customer rejections, and other crucial factors in selling. 

Similarly, the knowledge in management aspects to research, organise, coordinate, motivate, and setting controls, etc. are essential elements of sales management. Hence, when searching for a sales manager, companies must look into the management qualifications and/or experience aspect of the candidate as well. 

Even when both criteria are available, directing the recruited candidate to a sales management training stint can be extremely useful for an organisation. The simple reason is that transition from sales practitioner to manager is neither an easy nor natural process for most people at the initial stage even when a person has both experience and management knowledge. 

Onboarding process

An effective onboarding process to train new managers is essential to take them out of his or her usual comfort zone of ‘selling’ and subsequently send them into leading a sales team. Once the onboarding is done, the ongoing developments help them to refresh or improve skills and adjust to a new role. The new manager must be educated on the critical competencies of the role of the sales manager. 

During the onboarding, the managers should be encouraged to concentrate on the basic requirements such as the leadership of the available team competencies, manage coaching conversations with the team, and essentially how to communicate effectively with the sales team.  

Through my own experience, I can confidently say that a natural resistance from the team can emerge when a new sales manager takes over, recruited from inside or outside. The magnitude of such confrontation can vary depending on the experience, skills, and performance of the sales team. 

A skilled and proven sales team can collectively pose challenges to the new manager. It is the cleverness of the sales manager that should deal with this situation. However, a well-thought-out onboarding process can defuse this common phenomenon successfully.

The best way 

The onboarding process is essential for the development of a manager and can offer high payback for any size of the sales force. While organisations with large sales teams can afford customised programs, small companies need more creative approaches. There are several methods companies deploy in training their sales managers.  Providing mentoring opportunities to the new sales manager provides an opportunity for him or her to learn from the existing experienced seniors of the organisation. Apart from providing formal guidelines and setting up goals, the experienced senior staff can offer counsel to the new managers. They can offer clear real-time examples of what good leadership looks like.

Peer learning is an extremely effective way to get the new managers to start. Senior managers should engage themselves in educating new managers on areas such as planning, recruiting processes, selling and sales revenue monitoring, performance management, and so forth. The new managers must be allowed to obtain guidance and advice from their more experienced peers in the organisation to learn the most appropriate practices. 

At the initial stage, learning from the seniors of the organisation can provide the best result to the newcomer. They are the best to provide information on the specific skills and job challenges in the organisation until the new manager is prepared to be innovative and creative. 

Providing training for sales managers can be a complex task depending on the type, size, and culture of the business. Therefore, larger companies frequently use outside training resources to train them or bring in experts to plan the induction period. As a trial-and-error method can be dangerous to start a new sales manager, apart from the outside training resources, companies can provide learning material for newcomers to learn independently.

Finally, a word of caution: Regardless of the sales experience, management skills, sales knowledge, and leadership skills, the new managers must not attempt to set up new systems until the sales team is fully prepared to accept them as their leaders. 

Similar to the importance of the first few sentences in a presentation, the first few days or weeks are extremely important to a sales leader to establish him with the team. If the manager starts with the wrong foot at the very beginning, it will be a hard task to reverse the attitudes of the sales team members later.

The management skills of the sales manager are vitally important to bring in revenue to an organisation. By recognising the value of preparing the new sales manager with a perfect blend of training methods, organisations can create a winning sales unit headed by a skilled and knowledgeable leader to increase sales revenue through better team performance.