How To Structure Sales Manager Enablement To Crush Your 2018 Goals

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Three key insights into sales manager enablement that will help your sales organization reach (or exceed!) 2018 goals.

There is a deep-rooted problem in today’s sales organizations. Frontline managers are trapped in a vice created by the traditional approach to sales: Hit the number at all costs. The status quo has sales organizations lurching from quarter to quarter, barely keeping ahead of the game, and rarely pausing to improve. There is a mantra in leadership theory that we have to “slow down to speed up“. But this is a luxury that sales simply cannot afford in their quota-driven world. As forward-thinking organizations are just beginning to build sales manager enablement programs, the burning question is how to structure programs that sales managers will actually want to use.

This year, CommercialTribe hosted five Sales Manager Effectiveness workshops around the country. In the beginning, we weren’t at all sure how this concept would be received by the market. There wasn’t much work or research being done that focused specifically on the frontline sales manager role, and part of our intent was to see how important and relevant sales manager development is to sales organizations, and to work with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the country to understand how they are structuring solutions to the sales manager enablement issue.

Who Needs To Be Involved In Sales Manager Enablement?

sales manager enablement trust alignmentThe interest in sales manager enablement cuts across all the main stakeholders of an Enterprise sales organization. We began our outreach by focusing on the sales enablement function, thinking that these leaders are most familiar with the benefits realized by training and development. We quickly realized how important the topic is to sales operations and leadership as well. Each function has a slightly different stake in it, but all recognize the acute need for developing better sales managers.

Sales Enablement

Sales manager enablement is much bigger than training—it’s the next generation of enablement. Creating buy-in and measuring the impact of initiatives is a perennial issue for sales enablement. Sales manager development helps enablement create a bridge between their central function and the field. It is a catalyst for leader-first enablement, where sales managers become force multipliers by enabling their teams in the field through coaching.

Sales Operations

Sales operations leaders care about sales manager enablement because they recognize that the data they need is only as good as the people entering it. This data entry, of course, largely falls on the shoulders of frontline managers and reps in the field. They recognize that a well-developed, highly professional sales manager has a greater appreciation for the importance of data-driven management. Further, they need sales managers to consistently and effectively coach their reps on how to enter data correctly in order to maintain (or, in many cases, create) data integrity.

Sales Leadership

Forward-thinking sales leaders want to create a sustained revenue generating machine. This goal is easier said than done, and there are many parts to building such a machine. But sales leaders we talked with quickly recognized how improving the effectiveness of their sales management team multiplied the impact of improved rep performance and productivity. The ability to develop their entire team—to “shift the middle”—is central to their ability to build and sustain their revenue engine.

The purpose of the Sales Manager Effectiveness Workshops was to show these stakeholders how to align their needs to create a successful sales manager enablement program in their own organizations. Three key insights to making sales manager enablement succeed in your organization came out of these workshops: trust and alignment in creating a sales manager enablement program are critical, sales manager enablement cannot solely be solved centrally, and teams must focus on developing specific interactions—in workflow—rather than training on skills. Let’s take a look at each of these insights in greater detail.

1. Trust & Alignment Are Critical For Sales Manager Enablement

The fact that you need to be able to observe, assess, and coach to develop a team is basic. But what you really need to do this effectively is trust. What I mean by trust, in this context, is not about trust in individual people or managers (though that is important, too). It’s that everyone in the organization trusts the criteria that they are being evaluated against, and how that criterion manifests in their coaching.

Unfortunately, this trust is largely missing from most sales organizations today. The reason it is missing is that it’s extremely difficult to get all the stakeholder groups in a sales organization aligned on the skills that they believe drive results. When you think about the three main personas profiled above and what their stakes in sales manager enablement are, getting each of these functions, as well as all the individual people within them, to agree is no easy task. There are very few organizations that have aligned on key skills to assess for their sellers and even fewer that have accomplished this for their frontline sales managers.

The exciting part about this is that sales organizations are truly beginning to understand the importance of doing this and they are working on tackling this issue of trust by aligning around sales assessments. But it’s one thing to talk about it, another thing to actually put it down on paper, and a completely different world to put it into practice in a sales manager enablement process by measuring the effectiveness of coaching and development.

So, how do you create trust in your organization around evaluating the right skills and then coaching to develop them? The key to accomplishing trust is a step in the process of building a sales manager enablement program we call Calibration. In this context, calibration is code for alignment. It’s how you create alignment in all layers of the organization, including enablement, ops, and sales leadership, as well as sales managers and reps who all need to trust in the evaluation criteria and the coaching process.

If your organization—in particular, your sales managers—are not aligned with the assessment criteria and how to coach, the program becomes a mess. People don’t know what to expect, they have different experiences. And when there is no consistency in how people are being coached and evaluated, there is no way to pull real insights out of the data to enable effective, targeted coaching at scale. In this environment, there is no way to get coaching and development to stick.

2. Sales Manager Enablement Must Happen Within The Team’s Workflow

sales manager enablement in-workflowSales enablement creates great training and practice programs using their LMS and/or learning paths that provide the sales team with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in the field. The problem with this in sales manager enablement is a time management issue. Frontline sales managers will do anything to get their team to hit the quota, but they are starved for time in their daily lives to “slow down to speed up”.

In reality, sales managers have very little time, and often less desire, to participate in enablement-lead learning and development. They need coaching and development that is timely, highly relevant, and succinct. They need development that happens within their daily workflow.

What do I mean by this? Sales managers and their reps already have scheduled meetings—many of which happen on a regular cadence (hopefully). The most effective sales manager enablement initiatives will work within these meetings to evaluate interactions and provide relevant, timely feedback on how the manager, seller, or both can improve. Sales manager enablement that happens within workflow helps to create trust in the process, improves engagement, and significantly increases the performance of sales teams.

3. Focus Sales Manager Enablement On Developing An Interaction, Rather Than On Skills

This insight is so beautiful in its simplicity that it’s difficult to think that very few organizations are doing this today. Most sales training programs focus on skills development. They create a skills-based framework and try to train the field to develop all of these skills to apply to their interactions. At first, this makes sense. After all, if a manager or rep develops active listening skills, for example, she can apply that skill to each of her interactions whether it’s a 1-on-1 meeting or a discovery call or a negotiation.

The critical reality is that this type of training is simply too much information for a global sales organization to internalize and apply in the real-world with any great impact. We know from research that only about 30% of training content is retained by participants. When they go out into the world they end up simply reverting to old habits, putting hundreds of thousands of training investment to waste.

Instead, focus your sales manager enablement program on improving specific, real-world interactions they have in their daily lives. For sales manager development, consider focusing on 1-on-1, pipeline review, deal review, or forecast meetings. For sales reps, this may include interactions such as the discovery call, the demo, or negotiation call.

The message is clear: sales organizations need to focus on sales manager enablement by providing them with the training, tools, and coaching they need to coach and develop their reps. In so doing, we create force multipliers within the sales organization who can help create agile, sustained revenue-generating sales teams now and in the long-term.

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4 Sales Leader Resolutions That Will Fail (And The One That Won’t)

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Why Do Sales Leaders Make Resolutions That Are Bound To Fail?

How did 2017 end for you? Did your team smash their goal, barely squeak by, or fall apart? As a sales leader, your success is based entirely on your team’s performance. So, no matter what happened in the past year, I’m willing to bet that you’re making some resolutions to be a better sales leader—to improve your team’s performance.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

If you want improved performance (and what sales leader doesn’t?) you need to change something. But what will you resolve to change this year? What can you resolve to change this year that will have an impact?

sales leader resolutions goalsChange is hard. The most common New Year’s Resolutions fall into three main buckets: being healthier, self-improvement, and better financial management—all worthy desires we can all attest to wanting. But research (and common knowledge) says that 88% of us fail to achieve our goals, illustrating that the desire to change alone is not sufficient to actually achieving goals. What do the 12% do that the rest of us don’t? Read on.

For sales leaders, change is an even more daunting task. Every year (and quarter, and sometimes even month) is Groundhog Day. Remember Bill Murray? Wake up and go knock down the number all over again…

For many sales leaders, this pressure gets handed down to the team and can make it feel like nothing else that matters. Hit the number. Hit the number… But while the number will be how you are measured, the process you follow to get to it is what you can improve.

So, did you resolve to be better this year? In the spirit of new beginnings, here are four resolutions I know you’ll have trouble keeping, and one that you actually can.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #1

I will spend more time developing my team.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an absolute advocate for developing sales teams. It’s what I’m passionate about. But the pitfall with this common sales leader resolution is that, without the proper structure in place, you will eventually let sales team development slip as daily pressures and competition for your time intensifies.

Steve Jobs said: “The most precious resource we have is time.” We often don’t think about it that way, but time is scarce. To do something is to take away something else. What are you going to take away in order to spend more time developing your team? What will your managers and reps have to give up?

Here’s a list of stuff the average sales team does on a routine basis: Sales Calls, Field Travel, Forecast Reviews, Pipeline Reviews, Deal Reviews, Territory Reviews, 1-on-1s, Team Meetings. Then there are the fire drills that constantly derail everything.

Keeping all the trains running on time in and of itself is a significant undertaking. Finding more time outside of these settings to develop your team is not likely to be sustainable. Eventually, your focus will flounder and the time you put aside for development will revert back to old habits.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #2

I will be a better coach.

Coaching is a skill that can be learned. Getting better, like any skill, requires repetition. You’ve probably read a lot about the multiplicative impact of coaching, so you’re ready to dig in. But how will you be better?

First off, you’ll need to carve out the time and space for coaching in an already chaotic schedule (see #1 above). You’ll need to be able to identify not just how to coach your team but, more importantly, what to coach them on. Your high-performing managers will need to develop different skills than those that are struggling with high turnover and under-performance. Then you’ll need a feedback mechanism to help you understand if you’re making progress toward becoming a better coach.

Better sales coaching is a critical need in today’s business, and working to become better is certainly a worthy goal; however, you’re likely to abandon it when it feels hard and the impact is unclear. it’s taking too much time and the impact is unclear.

Sales Leader Resolution Bound for Failure #3

I will build a great team culture.

sales leader resolutions team cultureThere’s a famous Peter Drucker quote that says: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” You may be feeling like the key to success is a better team environment. There’s nothing more fun than being part of a team that loves coming to work each day. But cultures are lived, not made. Nor are they easy to measure and identify. How will you do it?

For many leaders, more time as a team outside of work is an answer, including team building events or everyone’s favorite boondoggle. These are time-tested tactics that can have an impact but may not necessarily change how your team performs on the job.

Culture means different things to different people, and building a great culture is certainly a worthy sales leader resolution. But it’s bound for failure if it simply revolves around happy hours and forced “team building” interactions.If you want to build a great culture, think about how your team interacts with each other every day. Think about what your people value, what their professional goals are and how they are empowered to work toward those goals.

Sales Leader Resolutions Bound For Failure #4

I will mint more stars.

Every sales leader has their stars. And every sales leader wants more of them. On the best sales teams, star managers and sellers push everyone else to be better. On the worst, the team’s performance is overwhelmingly reliant on them. So how do you get more of them?

There is a severe shortage of sales talent out there, so you can either hire them or you can make them. The problem with hiring them is that they are tough (and expensive) to find, and they often come with baggage. Making them is far better, particularly for growing sales teams,, but it’s not like flipping a switch—developing stars takes time.

If you want to mint more stars, put a plan in place today but don’t expect anything to come to fruition overnight.

What Do These 4 Sales Leader Resolutions Have in Common?

Time.

None for these sales leader resolutions are bad goals to have. But remember we’re talking about resolutions here. And the #1 reason resolutions fail is because YOU’RE TREATING A MARATHON LIKE A SPRINT.

In the sales world, time is currency and managing it leads to long-term success. Small changes are more likely to be achieved because they aren’t so intimidating and they can happen within your sales team’s existing workflow. The last thing you want to do is shoot for something big, only to find out you don’t have a realistic plan to attain it.

So, what is the one sales leader resolution you can actually keep?

The One Resolution You Will Actually Keep

I will make my team better at one activity they are already doing.

Now hear me out. You can do this. There’s definitely something that’s gnawing at you coming into the new year. Has your team ever missed a forecast? Ever feel like you’re handing down a goal and praying the team can build enough pipeline to hit it? Have you ever joined a sales call, only to cringe at what you hear?

Whatever it might be that’s on your mind, your team can get better at it. Pick the one activity you want to improve and then go to work. Where do your people already do that one activity? Is it the forecast meeting or opportunity review? Perhaps the discovery call or demo? The most critical activities for your sales team to improve are already on everyone’s calendar every day, week, and month. Pick the event and start observing to understand what’s actually happening.
What you’re probably going to find is there aren’t clear expectations, leaving it up to each individual’s interpretation of what “best practice” looks like. Or maybe you’ve set those expectations but your team struggles to apply them, but now you know why. Either way, you’ve got a coaching path to solving the problem.

One final piece of advice and this is important. When you start showing up to meetings and calls that you never used to before, people are going to think its about performance. Nothing puts people more on edge than feeling as if they’re being evaluated and that evaluation will be used against them in a performance related discussion.

You can help alleviate this natural anxiety by communicating your positive intent. Your mantra is to pick everyone up, not bring them down. If you set it up right, you just might start to chip away at some of the other failed resolutions we explored earlier.

We will probably never stop making resolutions. It’s in our optimistic human nature to continually strive to be better. But why go to all the trouble of trying to change if you can’t actually follow through? Shrink the size of the change and create a clear plan to execute. Focus on making it as easy as possible for you and your team. If you have to think too hard or do too much, you’re off track.

Do you want to build a team that is capable of taking on bigger goals every quarter?
Do you want a great culture that attracts and retains the best talent?
Are you tired of taking your team out of the field for training with questionable impact?
Do you feel like you can’t add any more non-selling work to your team’s plate?
Do you want a SUSTAINABLE REVENUE MACHINE?

 

sales leader resolutions guide cta

Top Sales Technology Solution Providers of 2017

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CIO Applications Magazine announces the top 25 sales technology solution providers of 2017

Nicholas de Kouchkovsky’s 2017 Sales Tech Landscape notably includes over 700 sales technology providers organized into 32 categories (up from 300 in his first edition, published in 2015). It’s astounding to see how far the sales technology industry has come in just a few short years! Management of the sales tech stack is proving to be, understandably, complicated for sales organizations large and small. In his article, de Kouchkovsky illustrates:

“I have vivid memories of a well-known company sharing at an American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) meeting that its inside sales department was using more applications than having people!”

(de Kouchkovsky, Sales Tech Landscape 2017: Making Sense of 700+ Players)

sales technology solution CIO MagazineCIO Applications Magazine steps in to help Chief Innovation Officers (CIO) make informed sales technology purchase and integration decisions for their own sales organizations. In reviewing this burgeoning industry, CIO Application Magazine’s review panel of CEOs, CIOs, and VCs selected just 25 vendors most capable of providing the best sales technology to fulfill management needs. The resulting Top 25 Sales Technology Solution Providers list helps CIOs provide value to the business by enabling a smarter, more productive sales organization through innovation and technology.

See The Full Top 25 Sales Technology Solutions Providers List

CommercialTribe is honored to be included in this list. Our continued commitment to improving sales manager development through our platform and services solutions uniquely enables sales teams to achieve above average quota attainment. We fully believe that activating frontline sales managers as coaches is the next big key to sales performance enhancement. That belief has, and continues to be, validated through the work we have pioneered in partnership with some of the most progressive sales organizations in the world.

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