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Are We Letting Sales Managers Down?

The role of a sales manager is often regarded as one of the most challenging yet pivotal positions within a company. Sales managers are the linchpins who drive revenue, motivate teams, and strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Yet, despite their critical importance, there is growing concern that we might be letting sales managers down. Let’s talk about the key issues facing sales managers today and explore how organisations can better support these essential leaders.

The Evolving Role of Sales Managers

The role of a sales manager has evolved significantly over the past few decades. Gone are the days when the primary responsibilities were merely overseeing sales activities and hitting targets. Today’s sales managers must wear multiple hats: they are coaches, strategists, analysts, and motivators. This multifaceted role requires a diverse skill set, which includes deep industry knowledge, emotional intelligence, and data-driven decision-making abilities.

However, many organisations fail to recognise the full scope of these responsibilities, leading to a gap between expectations and the support provided. Sales managers often find themselves overwhelmed, juggling numerous tasks without adequate resources or training.

71% of managers enter the role with no formal training

Challenges Faced by Sales Managers

One of the most pressing issues facing sales managers today is the lack of ongoing training and development opportunities. While sales teams often receive regular training on new products and sales techniques, sales managers are frequently overlooked. Effective management requires continuous learning and development, yet many sales managers are left to figure things out on their own. Adding to this challenge is the immense pressure to meet sales targets. Sales managers are often held accountable for their team’s performance, leading to high stress and burnout. Unrealistic expectations and constantly shifting goals further exacerbate this stress, making it difficult for sales managers to maintain morale and productivity within their teams.

With the increasing demand for reporting in modern businesses, managers have essentially become an outsourced service for leadership, providing real-time numbers on demand. Numbers and data have, rightly or wrongly, become an obsession for the modern company, placing the burden on managers to constantly dig through data. But at what cost?

To quote the great Anthony Iannarino “Sales managers are spending so much time looking at the scoreboard that can’t play the game”

Anthony Iannarino shares some home truths about modern sales management

Strategies for Supporting Sales Managers

To ensure that sales managers are not left to fend for themselves, organisations must adopt strategies that provide comprehensive support and development.

1. Invest in Training and Development

Organisations should prioritise ongoing training and development programs tailored specifically for sales managers. This can include leadership training, advanced sales techniques, and courses on the latest industry trends. By investing in their professional growth, companies can empower sales managers to lead more effectively.

The competencies required to be a manager are very different from those of a seller, and we must continuously improve the managers’ toolkit. This shouldn’t be a once-a-year grand gesture but rather constant and consistent training and development in the right areas. Essential modules such as becoming an effective coach, managing poor performance, performance management, conflict resolution, running effective deal reviews, and accurate forecasting should be non-negotiables for the modern manager. Yet, many businesses still expect managers to handle these responsibilities purely on instinct.

2. Enhance Support Systems

We expect our managers to coach their teams, yet we often neglect to coach them. Isn’t that a bit odd? We should be dedicating time and effort to help managers navigate their challenges while also working to lighten their load, not add more to it. Too often, managers are treated like analysts whose sole purpose is to provide numbers on demand. The primary focus of their role should be on enhancing their team’s performance, continually motivating their staff, and executing strategic objectives.

Having the right enablement in place to support managers is crucial. Much of the enablement is focused solely on individual contributors, leaving managers to simply hold the reins once the program concludes. Every enablement program should not only require managers to attend but also include dedicated sessions designed to help managers successfully execute the program’s concepts. These sessions might include coaching strategies, tools to measure the impact of coaching, and methods for identifying early signs of performance dips.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

Setting achievable goals and expectations is key to reducing stress and burnout. Organisations should work closely with sales managers to develop realistic targets and provide the necessary resources to meet them. This collaborative approach can help align expectations and foster a more supportive work environment.

If managers were to write down exactly what they do day to day and share it with their leaders, there would likely be a massive disconnect and, in some cases, utter shock. This discrepancy is often no one’s fault, as businesses are excellent at creating initiatives but terrible at discontinuing them. As a result, managers often persist with tasks that are no longer valuable or important. Clear communication about current priorities would help offload unnecessary work and make managers far more productive.

Sales managers are the backbone of any successful sales team, yet they are often overlooked and under-supported. By recognising the unique challenges they face and implementing strategies to address these issues, organisations can ensure that their sales managers are not left to struggle alone. Investing in the development and support of sales managers is not just beneficial for them—it’s a strategic move that can drive the entire company towards greater success.

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