Frontline Sales Managers: Capabilities for the Required Maturity Level

3.15.16I provided an overview of how to approach frontline sales manager maturity, and walked you through our CSO Insights frontline sales manager maturity model. We ended with roughly defining the three maturity levels: required, recommended and world-class. Today we will take a closer look at the required maturity level and the related capabilities for frontline sales managers to become proficient in their role.

Quickly developing new frontline sales managers to the required level ensures scalable productivity and performance

Ambitious and performance-oriented sales leaders cannot afford to let newly promoted sales managers figure it out on their own. Not only does this approach take too much time, but it’s also not scalable because different people will figure out the same things in different ways. Furthermore, ambitious salespeople expect value from their managers. If they don’t get it, they may become frustrated, fail to deliver on their potential, and even leave their managers. Building a scalable platform for continuous success requires more than enabling salespeople only. It’s also about developing their frontline sales managers in a systematic and holistic way.

Changing their perspectives and getting clarity on the role to avoid typical pitfalls

Frontline sales managers who have been newly promoted from sales must change their “about me” orientation to “about them.” Now, it’s all about the sales team. To help the new sales managers change their perspectives, the role has to be defined and clarified in the first place. The Frontline Sales Manager Triangle defines the three areas in which FSMs are always working: customers, business, and people. It also helps to understand the complexity of the role and the potential conflicts of interest when it comes to decision-making. The driving license analogy may also help to raise awareness of the role’s complexity.

Furthermore, developing frontline sales managers as fast as possible will help new FSMs avoid typical pitfalls. One of those pitfalls is becoming a micro-manager – especially if a person is detail- and control-oriented or driven by fear. Another pitfall is attempting to make the team’s quota by continuing to sell instead of concentrating on coaching the salespeople to their best performance. A third pitfall might be caring more about being perceived by colleagues as “still a friend” than becoming a great manager.

All FSMs must learn to coach; it is the key skill needed to leverage salespeople’s potential

Coaching is defined as a leadership skill to develop each salesperson’s full potential. Sales managers use their domain expertise along with social, communication and questioning skills to facilitate conversations with salespeople and discover areas for improvement. Most people are not born with highly developed coaching skills, which is why coaching has to be learned from scratch. It’s recommended to begin with general coaching programs that enable sales managers to learn the technique itself. But many organizations stop here and are surprised that coaching doesn’t deliver the expected business results; or even worse, that sales manager still don’t coach.

Effective coaching can drive win rates up by 9% – specific coaching frameworks are essential

The devil is in the details. This mandatory detail is a formal coaching process or framework that bridges the customer’s journey and the sales organization’s internal processes. Such a coaching framework requires that the customer’s journey is mapped to the internal processes (ideally from marketing to sales and service or delivery) and that the phases – and the gates from one phase to the other – are clearly defined. The coaching impact on win rates of forecasted deals, for instance, is 9% better with a formal coaching process compared to discretionary coaching, which shows almost no impact, according to our CSO Insights 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study.

Based on those mapping results, a coaching framework can be created with coaching questions for these different customer’s journey phases and what they mean internally. Often, coaching frameworks need variations for different scenarios, such as different buying scenarios and different products and solutions. A coaching framework should also include the necessary analytics, as well as where to find and how to use them to make coaching sessions highly effective. Ideally, the sales managers have the relevant data and analytics right at their fingertips within their CRM system, and the coaching process is integrated as well.

To achieve the required FSM level, lead and opportunity coaching is a foundational skill all new sales managers have to learn. For the recommended maturity level, additional coaching areas have to be added, such as account coaching, funnel coaching, and specific coaching on skills and behaviors.

Stay tuned, next week; we will discuss how to get to the recommended FSM maturity level!

Questions for you:

Do you have a coaching process or framework? If yes, what does it look like?

How do you develop your new sales managers to make them effective as fast as possible?

Do you integrate coaching into the CRM system? If yes, what does it look like?

Related blog posts:

Frontline Sales Managers: Key Role, but Poorly Developed and Enabled

What Triangles Have To Do With Frontline Sales Managers

What Driving Licenses have to do with FSM Development

How World-Class Frontline Sales Managers Coach Differently To Drive Performance

Frontline Sales Manager Challenges – Same, Same, But Different!

Sales Coaches: Workaround or Shortcut to High Performance?

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