How to Approach Frontline Sales Manager Maturity

3.1.16The term “maturity” is defined as “the state of being fully grown or developed” according to Oxford Dictionaries.

The disconnect between the FSM’s key role and the lack of FSM development

FSMs are the key role in any sales organization. No other role has more direct impact on salespeople when it comes to strategy execution, sales productivity, and transformation. No other role is more important to salespeople. On the other hand, we know from our research that organizations still don’t invest enough in the specific development of their frontline sales managers. The primary focus of investments is still to invest in salespeople. Generic management and leadership programs are not wrong, but specific sales manager programs that connect the dots across people, customers and business (see the FSM Triangle) based on an organization’s sales system, make the tangible difference. Those FSM programs develop people who are new in the role or new to the company, help them to learn quickly the new perspective of an FSM (it’s no longer about them, it’s about their teams) and newly required capabilities, such as coaching.

To develop specific FSM development programs, sales enablement leaders need to understand what their frontline sales managers’ current maturity level is, what their specific capabilities currently are, and what those should be.

That means we need a generic FSM maturity model (organizational view) and a more specific capability model (people view) that defines the relevant capabilities for each maturity level.
Let’s begin with the three-level maturity model today that can be used as a checklist or self-assessment to clarify the current state of FSM maturity across the sales force.

The required maturity level describes the basic requirements every sales organization should have in place to allow FSMs to become proficient in their role: “change perspectives.”

The main development focus to get to the required level is to equip newly promoted FSMs to change perspectives, from “it’s about me” to “it’s about them.” Elements a sales organization should have in place are the following: hiring and promotion based on a clearly defined sales manager role description focused on their main activities (that’s often missing!) and the expected results. Enablement should provide a basic sales management program, coaching guidelines and related coaching training services. The coaching guidelines should be based on the stages and gates of the sales process. The development focus on this level is to help FSMs to change perspectives from “it’s about me” to “it’s about them” and to shift their focus to the right activities and to coach the related behaviors rather than focusing on results only.

The recommended maturity level is the checkpoint for every sales leader – what should be provided to allow FSMs to become professional in their role: “navigating the triangle.”

In the recommended maturity level, specific sales manager roles are defined, e.g., leading a territory, or industry, leading accounts or a business development team or a solution sales team. Skill assessments and various hiring strategies are in place. Enablement provides an FSM development program that covers all areas of the FSM Triangle: customer, people, and business, with a special focus on a coaching framework that’s connected to the enablement framework, following an customer-core approach. The development goal and the criteria to measure maturity here is how well the FSMs are focused on managing the right activities and on coaching the related behaviors. When you navigate the FSM triangle successfully at the recommended maturity level, you focus on the activities and the related behaviors rather than on measuring results only.

The world-class maturity level refines the criteria of the recommended level into a flexible, balanced and adaptive approach that transforms frontline sales managers into frontline sales leaders.

This level builds on the recommended level. It also covers different skills assessments for different FSM roles, specific promotion paths, and overall top-talent search. Attracting top talent is the key focus that allows the organization to establish an adaptive and agile learning culture. Enablement provides various FSM development programs to address the different maturity levels and capability needs, all based on a customer-core enablement framework. FSM communities help the profession evolve. This FSM community also provides peer mentoring in addition to the FSM development programs provided by enablement. Overall, the world-class level thrives on the platform of scalability that has been built with the recommended level to an adaptive level.

Assessing the FSM maturity in the organization based on the above-mentioned areas is essential to design targeted FSM development programs for the specific FSM groups and assessed maturity levels.

In a follow-up blog post, we will discuss the FSM capability framework.

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

Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra: Managing Activities and Coaching Behaviors

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

Related research assets (membership required):

Frontline Sales Manager: Maturity Model

Frontline Sales Managers – Webinar Part 2: Maturity Model

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