Frontline Sales Managers: How to Get to the Recommended Maturity Level

3.24.16Last week, we discussed how to get frontline sales managers to the required maturity level that enables them to be proficient in their new role. As soon as the basics of effectiveness in the new role have been established, the next challenge is to get frontline sales managers to the recommended level, to make them true professionals in their role.

Developing frontline sales managers from proficient to professional is equivalent to developing them from individual effectiveness to creating organizational effectiveness.

To get to the recommended level, three focus areas should be addressed: taking coaching to the next level, fluency in key business methodologies – especially regarding the evaluation principles that drive funnel confidence – and forecast accuracy.

Taking coaching to the next level: from opportunity coaching to funnel, account, and territory coaching, as well as skills and behavior coaching.

As discussed last week, the required level is achieved by learning coaching as a new capability from scratch. Then, the newly acquired coaching skills have to be applied to lead and opportunity coaching, the main coaching area that has been defined in the required maturity level. To get to the recommended maturity level, frontline sales managers have to deepen and broaden their coaching skills. Additional coaching areas are funnel coaching (salesperson and sales team), specific coaching on skills and behaviors (depending on the current transformation journey and based on the enablement programs), and account and territory coaching.

Funnel or pipeline coaching builds on opportunity coaching. Funnel coaching is focused on the structure of the salesperson’s or the sales team’s funnel. This requires understanding the types of opportunities in the funnel, e.g., many small ones or big deals, their volumes, age, assumed close dates, and specific stages and risks. Funnel coaching is a mandatory step to focus resources on the most valuable deals with the highest win probability. Additionally, funnel coaching is essential to managing the inherent funnel risks. Funnel coaching also helps salespeople assess how their funnel translates into their quota attainment and how to improve their funnel performance.

Coaching on skills and competencies is an area where FSMs should build on the enablement programs. Every sales organization is in some kind of transformation. Often, it is transitioning from transactional to more value-based sales approaches, and the ability to show strategic benefit and value. This is a challenge that was ranked second (34.7%) in our CSO Insights 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study. It’s crucial that frontline sales managers ensure that their coaching builds exactly on the enablement programs, to reinforce the expected skills and behaviors on a regularly basis.

Account coaching is often overlooked, but it is equally important when an account strategy is in place. Here, it’s all about mapping the account strategy to the current achievements within an account (also from a customer’s perspective) and deriving adjustments or changes to plan, strategy, focus areas, relationship maintenance and development, etc. Account coaching sessions should be held in accordance with the organization’s rhythm of business. Often, a quarterly rhythm makes sense.

Territory coaching is also an overlooked coaching area. How often have you heard the sentence “just work your territory.” This isn’t coaching; it’s telling. Territory coaching should be focused on helping the sales professional develop and execute a plan which will set priorities within a territory in regards to which customers to focus on and buyer roles to call on.  It includes all the tasks necessary to improve the quality of lead identification. Once those leads are identified, the established lead and opportunity coaching process takes over.

Skillfully applied deal evaluation principles drive funnel confidence and forecast accuracy, and these, in turn, drive organizational performance.

Given the FSMs’ fluency in all sales methodologies and processes, and their ability to coach exactly these methodologies in the above-mentioned areas, one specific area is often not properly addressed. It’s the question of how to consistently evaluate deals; how to figure out which deals are most valuable for customers and their own organization. Standardized criteria for deal evaluation should be provided by sales operations as part of the sales management methodologies. Now, the challenge is that FSMs must learn these principles and how to apply them. Only then can funnel data be compared, be created according to uniform standards, and be easily taught to new frontline sales managers.

Stay tuned: Next time, we will discuss the increasing relevance of the FSM’s ability to be a communicator, cross-functional collaborator and escalation manager.

Questions for you:

How do you teach your sales managers to coach accounts, territories, and funnels?

How do you enable your sales managers to makes the right priorities when it comes to deal decisions?

Related blog posts:

Frontline Sales Managers: Capabilities for the Required Maturity Level

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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