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The state of sales manager enablement is perhaps best illustrated by this unfortunate truth: a whopping 20% of companies provide no formal training to first-line managers, according to CSO Insights, while another 40% spend less than $500 annually on sales manager training and development.
Even with sales enablement programs on the rise, many businesses still fail to teach sales managers the skills needed to effectively lead and coach their reps. Why? As CSO Insights Research Director Tamara Schenk puts it:
“Mistakes arise from underestimating the complexity of the sales manager role, and its huge relevance for implementing sales strategies and driving sales performance.”
A sales force led by unprepared sales managers will suffer from coaching deficiency and lower productivity – both issues that sales enablement should be countering. But while research suggests a widespread lack of sales manager enablement, companies that have invested more than $5,000 in sales manager enablement improve win rates by 11.5%, according to CSO Insights.
With that in mind, we’re highlighting 3 ways sales enablement leaders can help new sales managers thrive in their demanding roles.
1. Establish a Sales Manager Onboarding Program
Companies set new sales managers up for failure by throwing them into the fire or relying only on generic leadership and coaching programs. Instead, there should be a formal sales manager onboarding program that addresses the unique challenges of the position.
To do this, the sales enablement team must:
- Clearly define the responsibilities of the sales manager, including where they should primarily focus their attention – be it coaching, pipeline management, team leadership, hiring, strategic account guidance or a combination of those activities.
- Determine the competencies required for sales managers to accomplish these prioritized activities.
- From that, build a curriculum that helps new sales managers develop specific skills like hiring and coaching, and implement a framework for assessing them against these criteria.
- Certify that new sales managers have the business knowledge, skills and confidence to do their jobs effectively. Sales readiness technology is a great way to ensure consistent assessment (via video coaching activities) and help managers get in the mindset of coaching and professional development.
Internal management and generalized leadership training – for example, learning how to resolve team conflicts or properly conduct performance reviews – can certainly be used to supplement the enablement team’s efforts. However, it shouldn’t form the bulk of a sales manager onboarding program.
“[Management and leadership] programs are great as a foundational layer, but they don’t teach the specific skills and behaviors needed to lead the sales team’s efforts in the field,” Schenk said.
2. Use Sales Enablement Tools to Your Advantage
Sales enablement technology is quickly evolving to meet the needs of time-strapped modern sales managers, who must track team performance and work to improve it via coaching.
For example, Brainshark’s new team dashboards provide managers with a visual representation of their team’s sales readiness progress across all learning, coaching, and self-enrolled activities. This single view allows managers to quickly identify which teams and individuals are thriving (and which ones are falling behind) by tracking number of activities assigned, completion statistics and average score.
Sales readiness technology can also support a sales manager’s coaching efforts. Our new AI-powered Machine Analysis engine saves time and streamlines the video coaching review process by automatically generating a score for each submission.
Having the machine do some of the scoring makes it a lot easier (and quicker) for managers to distinguish which reps hit the mark and which may need more help, allowing them to better prioritize their coaching time. In addition, it can help managers develop benchmarks of what ‘good’ looks like across their teams.
“For many companies with large sales forces, it’s important for managers to be able to easily identify who needs the most coaching, and on what,” says Tracey Abby, director of global sales and channel enablement at cyber exposure company Tenable. “With Brainshark’s Machine Analysis, we’re excited to see AI applied in a way that gives sales managers and coaches an automated ‘video screener’ – pinpointing which reps need the most guidance, based on their video submissions, and why.”
3. Have a Transformation Game Plan for Sales Managers
Sales transformations – such as mergers and acquisitions or entering new markets – present intense challenges for an entire organization, but sales managers especially.
Why? Transformations require a “re-boarding” of the entire sales organization, and the first-line managers will be responsible for executing whatever strategy has already been outlined. If managers have not bought into the vision, of if they don’t understand why changes are being made, they’ll lack the confidence to lead reps through the transformation. Without proper guidance, reps will eventually revert to old habits, leaving your sales transformation goals dead in the water.
“The first-line manager is the heart and soul of any transformation,” says Brainshark Chief Readiness Officer Jim Ninivaggi. “If you don’t get the managers bought into the transformation, it doesn’t matter what you do with the reps.”
Sales enablement leaders must help managers effectively coach their reps to sell in a way that’s consistent with the new company strategy. They can accomplish this by:
- Creating a 7-to-8-week transformation training program that ensures sales managers are capable, willing and ready to lead transformation efforts
- Using a sales readiness platform to regularly distribute training content and exercises that enable sales managers to lead short “mastery sessions” with their teams. These sessions should be built around a narrow, easy-to-digest topic, such as opening a sales call, pre-call planning or objection handling.
- Leveraging sales readiness technology to test a manager’s coaching abilities via video coaching submissions and assessments. When showing the manager video of a rep’s sales pitch, for example, you can prompt him or her to identify the major mistakes and highlight what was done well.
Read more: Download our latest eBook, “Sales Transformations: A Sales Enablement Survival Guide,” to learn more about how sales enablement teams can successfully tackle these complex scenarios.