The Proven Secret to Empower Better Sales Managers

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Improve the quality and frequency of conversations between reps and managers with calibrated leadership teams

How do you spend an entire day in a room with sales enablement, sales operations, and sales leaders? In constructive conflict of course!

Throughout 2017, my team and I hosted a series of Sales Manager Effectiveness Workshops across the country. From San Francisco to Dallas, Chicago to Boston sales leadership, enablement, and operations all showed up because there is one key thing they can agree on: We need to help frontline sales managers become more effective.

Though each of these functional areas have a common goal, they all agree with this statement for different reasons:

For Sales Enablement, it’s far easier for managers to kill any change initiative than support it.

For Sales Operations, key business metrics like forecast and pipeline become unreliable without managers who regularly inspect and coach to them.

For Sales Leaders, a sales management cadence looks great on a piece of paper, but when managers are consistently under pressure to choose the urgent over the important it is not well executed.

Calibrated assessment aligns the needs of all three of these stakeholders to help frontline sales managers become more effective by providing the coaching framework they need to succeed.

The Power of Calibration

Jim Collins said: “Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.”

When we’re talking about assessing sales teams, calibration is really code for alignment. When you get sales enablement, sales operations, and sales leaders together in the same room the way we did during our workshops, you get a wide variety of perspectives on the skills or attributes that sales managers need to be successful.

Calibration helps sales organizations work past this noise to align with what the company as a whole needs in order to hit the revenue goal. Stakeholders in each functional area will have their own ideas on how best to get there, but no one group can go off and accomplish goal attainment alone.

Calibration also helps the leadership team build trust and buy-in from their frontline sales managers. Think about it: What if your management team agreed on how they were going to manage? I’m not talking about them being told how to manage, but that they are bought into a unified process of management—and they live it every day. This is the power of calibration.

Calibration Empowers Sales Leaders

Think about your job as the sales leader. You spend a great deal of your time strategizing, planning, organizing and motivating. But at some point, your team has to go out and do the work. And this is where you are rendered almost powerless because you simply cannot be in all places at all times.

Calibration empowers sales leaders to move from just being an average or a good leader to a great one. With calibration, you can rest a little easier knowing that your management team is managing each of their sales teams with consistency in quality and timing. This is often referred to as a sales management cadence.

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Once your organization has aligned with the attributes and activities that are important to your sales management process, a cadence helps keep everyone on-track throughout the month, quarter, year, and beyond. It sets the framework by which your sales managers are expected to spend their time in field travel, joint calling, 1-on-1s, team meetings, forecast, pipeline and deal reviews, among other activities.

And while cadence informs the quantity of these interactions, calibration informs the quality.

A good example here is the 1-on-1 meeting between a frontline manager and a rep. You could say that you expect your sales managers to 1) have a clear purpose and agenda (forecast, pipeline, deal, skill building); 2) practice active listening; 3) provide constructive feedback 4) practice guiding vs. telling; 5) close with action items.

When you know that each of your sales managers are managing their teams the same way, and to a similar standard, you’re empowered to let go of the day-to-day of these interactions and start focusing on improving them.

The key to helping your frontline sales managers hit their quotas is making them better at coaching their reps within the meeting and activities that are already on their calendar. Improving the efficacy of these interactions is the greatest lever you have as a sales leader in influencing better outcomes for your entire organization.

Calibration Empowers Frontline Sales Managers

Without a framework to manage, your sales managers will struggle to succeed.

Chances are that your sales managers are largely making it up as they go. They’ve been promoted to the position and given a ton of responsibility, but they were never provided with a framework for how to accomplish their goals. Sales organizations put a lot of investment into training their sellers but very little (if any at all) into training sales managers. As a result, sales managers simply attempt to apply the knowledge and skills that made them successful from their days as sellers. This means that you likely now have a management team largely comprised of Lone Wolves.

If you have read The Challenger Sale then you’ve heard of the “Lone Wolf”. Lone Wolves are deeply self-confident and have a natural ability to succeed on their own instincts. They break rules, are hard to manage, and do things their way or no way at all. They are the least common profile of all salespeople, but they are the second most common among top-performing salespeople.

And what do we do with top-performing salespeople? Promote them to managers!

You’ve tolerated your Lone Wolves because they perform. But are they really impacting your long-term revenue goals positively and effectively? Are your Lone Wolves effectively coaching and developing to improve the performance of their entire sales team, or are they spreading bad habits by just focusing on the ones who emulate their style the closest?

Calibration begins to drive consistency in sales management processes and enables frontline sales managers by providing them with the framework they so desperately need (whether they know it or not). It informs them of what behaviors they need to expect in their teams and how to coach individual reps to close performance gaps.

For example, to run an effective discovery call, your sales organization may agree on a few critical behaviors: 1) set the agenda; 2) deliver an insight; 3) ask discovery questions; 4) present the value proposition; 5) close for next steps.

When you provide frontline sales managers and their reps with these criteria, they have visibility into what will make them successful, what is expected of them, and what they can work on to improve performance.

Furthermore, managers know specifically what areas they need to coach and develop individual reps on to help them improve—whether that rep is a top, middle, or low performer. Rather than simply riding their star sellers to goal each quarter, calibrated assessments enable frontline sales managers to level-up everyone on their team to produce more.

Your frontline sales managers need your help. They need sales leadership, enablement, and operations to align with expectations that drive successful interactions to get at the true root of underperformance. They need a defined management cadence to bring clarity to the activities on their calendars, and they need a process that provides visibility into making those interactions effective. This is where calibrated assessment really makes a difference. Because when you can improve the behaviors of your managers, they improve the behaviors of your reps. That is the impact of a force multiplier throughout your sales organization.

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