The first-line sales manager arguably has the most important role in any organization. Key performance indicators such as percent to plan, growth, close ratios and employee engagement can almost always be linked to the leadership, coaching and mentoring provided by the sales manager. In this final post of an eight-part series explaining what SAVO calls AMPs – Achieving Maximum Potential, it is no surprise they have packaged up some best practices focused on first-line sales leadership. (You may also enjoy the post about SME Promotion, which always aids the sales manager.)
As we get started, a caveat – there is no single post or one vendor who can give you the recipe for a secret sauce that creates perfect sales managers every time. This is about testing and changing ingredients along the way – where every dash of salt counts. SAVO’s experience working with over 200 customers does qualify them to provide some advice in this arena.
In this limited space, let’s focus on leadership skills necessary for a successful sales manager. I would suggest these are the five high-level responsibilities for a sales manager:
Setting Territory Strategy
- Establishing a plan to achieve the territory’s sales objectives, taking into consideration overall business and sales goals, market opportunities, past sales results and available resources
- Reviewing progress and adjusting the plan as needed
Building the Sales Team
- Attracting, developing and retaining talented individuals
- Evaluating key strengths and development needs for the team and providing learning opportunities that enable associates to realize their potential
Raising the Bar
- Continuously raising team performance expectations
- Motivating and supporting team efforts to achieve goals while upholding organizational values and standards
- Tracking progress towards goals
Guiding Sales Opportunities
- Clearly connecting solutions to business needs
- Developing strategic sales solutions and courses of action for customers that appropriately consider available facts, constraints, competitive circumstances, strategic priorities and probable consequences
Building Trusting Relationships
- Using appropriate interpersonal styles to establish effective relationships with customers and internal partners
- Interacting with others in a way that promotes openness and trust
It’s important to support sales leaders with best practices (one version of the truth) in all of these areas. You have best practice tools for territory planning, just-in-time training for building the sales team, model conversations for raising the bar, standard sales process for guiding sales opportunities and SMEs that model good relationships.
Best practices and a solid leadership framework are a very good start. For change to take hold across your organization, first-line sales managers must champion it. However, they must first understand the change, adopt it and reinforce it. SAVO consultants ensure you have a way for managers to collaborate and to share change management stories – both the good and the bad.
At the pace of business today, we rarely have time for classroom training, but these leaders must always be developing coaching techniques to successfully teach and mentor front-line sellers. SAVO provides a platform for just-in-time training, coaching and tribal knowledge sharing (such as best practices about how to conduct an account review, what is helpful in incenting a seller, how to reinforce a message, etc.)
SAVO provides an experienced Sales Enablement Consultant to guide an organization through activities designed to identify, collect and apply the tools and experts necessary to empower first-line sales leaders and their direct reports to succeed.