When a sales manager gets promoted, it’s typically because he or she was a very successful salesperson. However, many of the skills that made the manager successful as a rep are in direct conflict with the skills needed to succeed as a sales manager. Most organizations know this and take great pains to prepare these newly-minted sales managers for success – primarily in the form of training.
One of the most common types of sales management training is leadership training, which is designed to create greater insight and self-awareness about how sales managers relate to their team. While leadership ability is certainly important, there is another type of training that is often missing from the picture — actual sales management training.
At its core, the most necessary role of a sales manager is to manage, coach, and direct salespeople toward their goals. The company’s overall vision and strategy is set by executives and sales leadership, leaving sales managers to carry out the execution of the vision and to achieve its stated targets. Without this vital role of sales managers, a company’s vision and goals will never be realized, but sales managers need the right skills and tools to lead their team to these outcomes.
So why are leadership training programs so commonly used to train sales managers?
Having been in a variety of leadership positions myself, I’ve participated in many leadership training programs. My personal experience of leadership training is that it is very enjoyable – so enjoyable that I always feel better about myself for at least a week afterward. The challenge is that the outcomes of most leadership programs are a bit squishy. Interesting, but squishy. What I mean by “squishy” is that the knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to action. I may discover that I am a ‘driver’ and that many of the members of my team are ‘amiables’; however, knowing the personality types of my team members doesn’t mean that I know what they should be doing on a daily basis to achieve their individual goals. Whether I am an ‘intuitive extrovert’ or a ‘feeling introvert’, I still need the management skill to drive my team to a specific revenue target. Knowing how to interpersonally relate to my team members is a valuable skill, but this skill alone doesn’t equip me for my complex, fast-paced role.
The reason I feel compelled to write this article is because I believe that sales managers of course need training on leadership skills, but not at the expense of management training. The reality is front-line sales managers need solid management skills more than anything else to succeed in their role.
So next time you are planning the sales management training programs for your organization, choose a program that will help your sales managers determine what their salespeople need to do on a daily basis, as well as how the sales managers need to spend their own time. Sales managers are most successful when they are able to identify the high-impact selling activities of their sales team and then demonstrate the management behaviors that will improve seller execution of those activities. Leadership is important, but management is crucial.