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5 Ways Sales Manager Training Is Missing the Mark

I believe that sales managers have one of the hardest jobs anywhere. Not only is it one of the hardest jobs, but it's also a job that isn't as well supported as it should be. For example, sales manager training may not be offered at all or, when offered, usually focuses on sales and not management. And then there are the mixed messages about what, exactly, the job duties are -- selling? managing? coaching? forecasting? All of the above and more?

The result is that many sales managers truly don't know what it takes to be successful. That's unfortunate because this is an extremely important job -- one that makes a difference in the success of the company long-term.

What Happens Without Adequate Sales Manager Training

Unfortunately, because so many sales managers work their way up the ranks, when they take the job of manager they focus more on selling than they do on managing. After all, that's what they've always been rewarded for… it's what they know how to do… and it's what they think they've been asked to do more of in their new role. They end up focusing on sales instead of on management activities.

The problem is that this focus keeps them from developing the frontline sellers who really ought to be doing the work of selling.

Most sales managers have never been taught how to manage sales and lead people.

There are five big mistakes that are made in most training programs for sales managers. Without tackling these issues, the training leaves sales managers unable to truly do their jobs.

sales manager training#1 - Selling Instead of Managing and Leading

Many sales managers don't make the necessary passages from doing the work of selling to the work of managing and leading. They haven't been taught how to manage and lead. They don't know how to manage and lead. As a result, they just do what they’re best equipped for doing which is selling. Because they don't make these passages, they don't have the skills needed to train and coach and develop the sellers who are in those roles now. That stunts the growth of everybody and affects the entire organization.

#2 - People Development Is an Afterthought

Many sales managers aren't given license or permission or encouragement or performance metrics around building people.

So they might hire and onboard people, but they do it minimally in a rush to get back out in the field and do selling work. They don't spend time working with people to overcome the performance issues they have. Instead, they churn through sales people because those folks leave when they don't get the development and clear expectations and support they need to succeed. And because they haven't developed them, sellers aren't successful. They are not able to perform at a standard needed to keep their jobs. All this churn is a result of sales managers not knowing what they need to do and how they need to allocate their time differently in order to truly make an impact on sales.

#3 - It's not Really Coaching

Most sales managers don't know the difference between coaching and mentoring. They think they're doing field coaching but they're not. Instead they're selling. They’re demonstrating how to sell. They've got a sales person tagging along while they sell, but however you choose to describe it, this is not the work of coaching. It might be mentoring if knowledge is truly being shared instead of the sales manager stepping in as a mercenary closer.

Coaches do not get in the game. Coaches observe from the sidelines and facilitate self-discovery. They use coaching as a teaching tool to get the most out of people and to help people develop and grow in their competence and confidence. Coaching is its own discipline. It requires a discrete set of skills and learned behaviors. It’s not about showing or telling at all. Coaching drives improved performance and significant development of those being coached. Mentoring and managing and selling demonstration activities do not deliver the same results.   

#4 - Short-Term Thinking

Most sales managers over-focus on the numbers. They can't help. They don't know any better way. One of the reasons they don't know any different or better is because they, too, are rewarded for sales performance. Most sales managers carry goals that are roll-ups of the team members’ quotas. This construct incentivizes the sales manager to continue selling instead of managing and leading people.

By over-focusing on the numbers, sales managers look too short-term at numbers and activities that drive results today. They seldom look long-term at how to improve and how to strategically position the company for growth in the marketplace. They don’t have time to build for the long-term by developing people, gathering competitive intelligence and bringing ideas for new products to table, or listening to customers so they can be responsive for the future rather than reactive in the present.

#5 - Misunderstandings About Motivation

Many sales managers haven't been taught about what really motivates people. They buy into the old-school myth that all sellers are money-motivated or, at least, the best sellers are money-motivated and those are the ones to recruit for your team.

None of that is true. In fact, research disproves that sellers are only money-motivated.

Before they were sellers, they were people. And people are motivated by all sorts of things.  Leaders know how to tap into individual intrinsic motivations and bring out the best from everyone. They know how to ignite a spark within someone instead of having to light a fire under them with threats of performance plans or additional commissions.

What Sellers Want

Sellers want to work for sales managers who will help them learn and grow. Sellers want to be in environments that put people first. To have that kind of culture, sales managers must understand what it means to manage sales and lead people.

When it comes to choosing sales manager training for your organization, be sure to pick a program that focuses on teaching sales managers how to manage sales for the short-term AND how to lead people for the long-term.

If you’d like to learn more about how to win in selling and leading, be sure to check out our new book Stop Selling & Start Leading. It's the behavioral blueprint for selling based on buyer preferences, and it includes great stories from sellers about their personal bests in selling and those times when they were making extraordinary sales.  You can find Stop Selling & Start Leading at all major book retailers. Now available as an audiobook, too!

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Topics: sales managers, sales training

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