Enabling Sales Managers: How to Overcome Intangible Obstacles
Oct 13 2017
Over the last couple of months, I’ve shared many articles on how to approach the enablement of your sales managers, based on our 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report. Lots of data, analogies, models, and frameworks on how to get the topic off the ground. Now, it’s time to hit the road.
Understanding intangible obstacles
In many ways, sales management is like driving on unfamiliar roads that twist and turn. You just never know what the next challenge is going to be. Being prepared can help you reach your destination safely. Let’s take a look at three of the obstacles that could be around the next bend.
Inertia: In many industries, the biggest obstacle is not the lack of agreement on the need for enabling your sales managers adequately. It is the fortitude to follow through and act upon the related business case. Most sales leaders accept the simple math and the various data that point in the same direction that sales manager enablement cannot be ignored. No sales leader can ignore two-digit improvements of key performance indicators. Most sales leaders agree that their sales managers are the key role when it comes to ensuring sales execution and driving sales transformation across their organizations. Sales managers are at the frontline on a daily basis. And if sales execution and implementation don’t happen at the frontline, they won’t happen anywhere. The rational part of the discussion is accepted most of the time.
Resistance to change: Interestingly, there is something less tangible that often stands in the way of developing sales managers properly and systematically. It’s the concern that changes initiated by a sales manager development program will come too close to the sales leadership team and impact them, their leadership style, and their behaviors. They’re eager to approve budget for enabling salespeople because it doesn’t involve a required change on their part, while approving budget for enabling sales managers might. Those reasons are often unconscious and are rarely verbalized. However, these reasons exist, and we have often seen that getting approval for sales manager enablement is much harder than for enabling salespeople, even if the business case is crystal clear.
Force of habit: Furthermore, it’s simply a habit to prefer the development of salespeople rather than sales managers. The habit exists because it is how many of today’s sales leaders grew up as sales professionals and what they experienced when they became first-time sales managers. Being a salesperson, most sales leaders also experienced support and development. But when they were promoted into their first sales manager role, most of today’s experienced sales leaders didn’t get any specific support.
If you’ve received verbal commitment on the business case for sales manager enablement, but nothing is moving forward, consider whether one of these three obstacles may be standing in your way.
- Use stories and analogies to support your case: The driving analogy I often use may help because it is one that we’ve seen resonate with many of our clients. The ”license to manage” idea could also help.
- Use frameworks to create awareness: The sales manager triangle is instrumental in helping people visualize the complexity of the sales manager role and in raising the required awareness of the challenge. We’ve found that even with a commitment to the business case, a lack of awareness of this complexity and the corresponding challenges stalls many initiatives. Or worse, enablement teams are tasked with enabling sales managers, yet not given the budget and authority to do so.
Finally, ensure that your sales manager enablement program is connected and aligned to your overall enablement efforts and sponsored by the sales leader. Management needs to see that any new investments will not only pay their own dividends, but also improve the ROI on existing investments.
- Did you already start enabling your sales managers? If so, did you experience rejection?
- How did you overcome these obstacles?
- What are your lessons learned?
Related blog posts:
- Why Sales Managers Need a “Driving License”
- Sales Managers: Overwhelmed and Underdeveloped | Our First 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report
- Creating A Business Case For Sales Manager Enablement
- Sales Manager Maturity Assessment: Two Perspectives
- The Business Case for Sales Manager Enablement: Final Thoughts
- Why Sales Manager Enablement Is More Than Coaching