As sales organizations grapple with a changing, highly competitive sales environment, having effective frontline sales managers is critical, but many businesses seem not to regard them as a valuable asset. Why is this a continuing problem, and what can be done to solve it?
The Sales-to-Management Transition
Typically, frontline managers begin as salespeople, and they’re very good at selling; but sales skills don’t automatically equip them to manage the sales activity of a team. As a result, they may not understand how to run their organization, develop and execute a sales strategy, and manage sales performance. If the sales cycle slows down, they may not know what to do to address the problem.
People skills are also important. A team of eight or nine sales reps might generate $9 million to $30 million or more in business, and a strong frontline manager can help them achieve success. While most frontline managers bring valuable sales experience to the team, however, they may have no experience in leading, mentoring, and motivating others. Clearly, frontline managers play an important role, and they need and deserve support in making the transition from sales to sales management; it isn’t a natural progression.
The Traditional Approach
The traditional approach is to focus on training the salespeople, reasoning that, if we train them well, they’ll drive the engine and sales will run smoothly. In truth, training salespeople without establishing an effective infrastructure to support them means you have good salespeople who lack the strategic direction, coaching, and management they require to realize their potential and grow the business. Well-trained, well-equipped frontline sales managers are a core component of that infrastructure, and we need to break with tradition and focus on their training and development first.
The First Priority
As those closest to the sales team, frontline managers are uniquely positioned to guide the team’s effort and boost its performance. That’s why you need to focus on the managers first and give them the knowledge and skills required to mentor, troubleshoot, and lead by example.
For example, salespeople often act as lone rangers in applying new training, and they often find it difficult. They try for a while and then give up because they have to close some deals any way they can. A knowledgeable, well-prepared frontline manager can help the entire team understand and apply training as he or she coaches, models behavior, and addresses problem areas.
When you enable frontline managers, you enable the salespeople, as well. They are a key resource that organizations cannot afford to neglect.
Are you doing all that you can to help your frontline managers succeed? Given the valuable role they play, you should constantly ask that question.
Here are the basics for providing effective, ongoing support:
- Train your frontline managers in all the skills required to manage the business of sales, updating their learning and filling gaps as needed.
- Educate and inform them first about new strategies so they’re well prepared to support the sales team.
- Help them develop the people skills they need to excel as leaders and mentors.
- Provide them with tools that facilitate tracking, improving, and measuring the progress of their sales team’s activities.
- Free them from time-consuming tasks not related to their core responsibilities so they have the focus and energy required to handle major challenges and opportunities.
What are your secrets for ensuring the success of frontline managers? Share your thoughts in the comments section.