Why Sales Manager Enablement Is More Than Coaching

Clients often ask us, “Isn’t sales manager enablement just about sales coaching?” As the title of this blog post suggests, it is not. It’s like having advanced cooking skills and expecting that these skills alone would automatically create delicious meals. No, you also need to know what to cook, you need the required ingredients and you need a well-equipped kitchen to perform. And if you are a professional chef, you also need additional skills like sourcing, calculating, planning, and organizing your kitchen team to create delicious meals and an unforgettable customer experience.

In the same way that a successful chef needs other skills in addition to cooking, effective sales managers require other skills in addition to coaching. However, both skills are for both professions highly differentiating.

Many organizations that claim to provide sales manager development offer general leadership and coaching programs. For example, they may onboard new managers with a set of internal management techniques and policies and general leadership programs. They may also teach them how to conduct performance reviews according to HR’s prescribed standards. But those programs and services are not tied directly to the unique role of the sales manager and the specific challenges of that role along the customer’s journey.

These general programs are all great as a foundational layer, but they are not what moves the sales performance needle, because they don’t teach sales managers the specific skills and behaviors they need to lead their team’s efforts in the field. To create value, these programs must be positioned as a foundational layer on which the tailored sales manager development program can be built.

The real core of a specific sales manager program and what makes a program most effective is its interconnectedness and alignment to the particular behaviors and activities that lead to the desired sales results. That requires a program to cover all areas of the sales manager role: customers, business, and people. Furthermore, such a program has to be derived from the organization’s business and sales strategy, as well as from the current level of sales manager maturity.

Coaching belongs in the people corner of the sales manager triangle. A holistic sales manager enablement program must also address the business and customer elements of this complex role.

Let’s look at the different skills in each area of the sales manager triangle and discover why there is more than coaching to be developed in sales managers.

In the people area of the triangle, new skills such as coaching and hiring have to be developed.

In the people area it’s all about leading the individual salespeople to leverage their full potential. This area is what makes sales so dynamic, and it is where coaching fits in. In our experience, and based on our data, coaching has to be formalized to create significant business results. If not already established, you should define and prioritize the relevant coaching areas. Then, develop a sales coaching process as the connecting element between the customer’s journey and the internal process landscape. Most of us are not born as coaches, so we need to learn this skill from scratch. Then, the specific sales coaching skills that are unique to the organization and its specific challenges can be developed much quicker and more effectively. Sales managers must also develop other skills such as recruiting and hiring, as well as interpersonal skills such as communication and listening.

In the business and customer areas of the triangle, existing skills are reinforced and sales managers’ perspective has to be shifted from “it’s all about me” to “it’s all about the team.”

Sales managers now have a new role in the field. Whenever they engage with customers, it’s either to manage escalations or to help their sales teams to create more and better business. The training needed to reach the required level of sales manager performance is less skill development and more a shift in their perception, their thinking, and their decision-making.

In the business area, it’s the same challenge: reinforcing skills and shifting the sales managers’ perspective. It’s about the mechanics of sales, e.g., sales methodologies, processes, forecasting, and reporting. Even organizations with a random approach to sales management development may have done some work in this area, like defining a process for producing forecasts. However, there is usually vast room for improvement, i.e., in defining processes for evaluating opportunities and determining how to apply these evaluation criteria to the different sales pipeline or funnel stages on a team level.

These areas, customers and business, can benefit from eLearning modalities, whereas coaching requires interactive learning with tools such as role plays and simulations.

Stay tuned: Next time, we will talk about the impact of coaching on sales performance. It can be huge, if done the right way.

Related questions:

  • In your organization, do you have a sales manager enablement program?
  • If yes, what did you include in this program?
  • What are your experiences so far?


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