I don't have anything against sales management training. … But, in most cases, the approach puts the cart before the horse.
If your sales management training focuses on how to forecast, how to set goals, Salesforce automation tools, running sales meetings, territory alignment, commission and incentive plans, you're learning how to manage sales but you're not learning how to lead people and that should come first.
What's the difference? Well, it's no small thing.
Sales Management Training Can Be a ‘Misleading’ Term
Managing sales is short-term, while leading people is for the long-term. When you manage sales, you're focusing on results and actions. By contrast, when you're leading people you're focusing on the very people who are going to execute and drive those actions and (hopefully!) get those results.
Let's take it back a step. The word “manage” comes from the root word “mano” which means “to handle.” This is an important job. Managers handle the work that needs to get done today. They are, in fact, responsible for results.
The word “leader” comes from the root word “leden” which means “to guide.” Just the thought of guiding conjures an image of someone being out in front, clearing the way, taking people some place where they've never been before, some place exciting where they want to go. Leaders focus on the long-term. They're focused on taking people to new places, expanding the capacity, creating the opportunities, and clearing the path forward.
As a Sales Manager, you need to do both. You need to start with being a people leader.
Strong leadership will help you retain your top performers. It will help to engage all employees at a higher level so they'll be more committed and apply greater discretionary effort. As a leader, you'll be developing people so that their competence and confidence is expanding.
Who to Hire?
There are some dangerous misperceptions and myths out there that take us off track. It is not true, for example, that salespeople are primarily money-motivated. Studies disprove this. It's also not true that all you have to do is hire people who are self-motivated and experienced. There's nothing wrong with hiring those folks, but if you're relying entirely on those variables you’re missing out on all the work you should be doing as a leader to retain, engage, and develop those folks. Pretty soon, they're going to go elsewhere.
What people really want in the workplace (including salespeople!) is to have a sense of belonging, to have clear direction, to be able to see a greater purpose in the work that they do, and to know that what they do makes a difference and that they have the ability to contribute.
Leadership is what brings all of that to the forefront. That's why you need to lead people before you worry about learning how to manage sales.
For Sellers at All Levels
By the way, in addition to this being relevant for sales management training, everything above also bears some discussion when it comes to training for frontline sales people, too. That's because buyers also want leadership. They want to be engaged. They want someone who’s going to help them to develop and to see their way clear to an exciting future. Buyers want leadership from sellers, and sellers need leadership from their managers.
It all starts with you and your focus on becoming the best people leader you can be.