Why world-class training for sales managers wins business

July 12 2017: It’s a paradox that sales manager have the most complicated and influential job in sales, yet consistently receive less training than the people they lead.

New research has revealed that this approach is shortsighted. The potential rewards of a proper development programme for sales managers are large.

Why are sales managers left to “figure it out” after they are promoted from the sales team? Often it’s simply because that is the way it has always been, says Tamara Schenk, research director at CSO Insights.

The motive to change

It is often said that hospital consultants who were overworked and under-supported as junior doctors are resistant to improving conditions for today’s young medics on the frontline – reasoning that if they survived the pressure and the long hours, then others can too. Many of today’s senior sales managers were also left to fend for themselves when they were starting out on the management ladder. It can be difficult to persuade them that this approach is no longer good enough for today’s complex and fast-changing markets.

Now, however, the evidence exists in black and white: most companies do invest less in sales managers, and in the process they are harming their business. Corporates that do invest in these junior, frontline managers – the linchpins of their organisation – achieve measurably better win rates and profitability, according to research jointly conducted by Schenk for CSO Insights, part of Miller Heiman.

“If you want to invest to impact performance, invest in the role with the highest leverage effect – the sales manager,” Ms Schenk told a sales enablement webinar run by the Association of Professional Sales.

Impact of training

The groundbreaking research by CSO Insights shows:

  • organisations that spend less than $1,500 a year on training managers have average win rates of 46.1%, compared to 51.4% for organisations that spend more than $5,000 a year
  • quota attainment increases from 55.5% to 57.4% when more is spent on training sales managers
  • organisations that do not invest in their managers attain only 85.3% of target revenue on average, compared to 104.9% in organisations with world-class manager training.

Ms Schenk said the findings should come as no surprise, as sales managers have a vital influence. Improving one manager’s coaching skills boosts the performance of every person that manager leads.

Tamara Schenk, CSO Insights

Despite this, the report found that 18.6% of organisations offer no training to their sales managers whatsoever – an approach Ms Schenk warned risked allowing managers to bed in bad habits that held back performance.

Investing in sophisticated sales enablement programmes for the sales team without at the same time training their managers risked throwing money down the drain, she said.

“Unless your sales managers adapt their management techniques, they will become a drag on performance and keep even the most forward-thinking sales enablement initiatives from reaching their full potential,” warned Ms Schenk.

Making the case

It’s a message that today’s sales leaders would do well to take back to their own organisations. But how to convince the C-suite? Schenk advises using the argument of the bottom line. She recommends making the financial case for a world-class enablement programme for sales managers, by applying the CSO Insights statistics to your own organisation. What would an 11% improvement in win rate and a 19% uplift in target revenue attainment mean in cash terms for your employer? It’s a sum that should have the eyes of senior executives lighting up.

Read more about the groundbreaking research by CSO Insights here.

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