March 4, 2014 Keenan

Sales Managers, More Important than the Head of Sales?

They spend more time with your sales people than anyone else in the company. They perform the coaching sessions. They lead the pipeline review meetings. They create the personal development plans. They influence and then bless the account plans. They distribute the quotas. They manage to the quotas. They influence the deal strategies. They resolve territory disputes. They sit next to, talk with and are closer to the sales people than any other person (role) in the company. Sales managers are the lynchpins to success in sales organizations.

Sales managers are the key to a humming sales organization. They don’t get much play, but I’m gonna argue here, that sales managers are the most important players in your sales organization and that if you want you sales organization to crush it, then having the best sales managers is the key.

A lot of love is given to the sales people and there should be. They are the ones on the ground, at the customers, doing the work. A lot of love is given to the sales leaders, the CSO’s, the XVP’s of sales because they are high-profile, drive strategy and have tremendous formal authority. But, in the end I think more recognition and love needs to go to the sales manager.

Try rolling out a new sales process, a new territory alignment or new pricing without the sales manager. Yeah! Exactly.  Good luck! Let me know how that turns out.

Sales managers are the doers of sales management and without them, you’re screwed. They create buy-in with the sales team. They reinforce the goals, efforts, culture and objectives of the organization. Sales managers are the conduit between senior management and the feet on the street. It’s the managers who do the implementing, who actually make sure things are getting done.

Great sales managers straddle the chasm between the sales team and senior leaders. They understand the importance of delivering messages and what it takes to create buy-in. Great sales managers are in touch with the “individual” sales reps. Great sales managers create connections and understand the motives of the sales people that just can’t be and isn’t being done by senior leadership. You can’t succeed without really good sales managers.

Sales managers are like broadband connections. If they aren’t working well, you’re screwed.

Sales managers connect the sales people to sales leadership. Everything goes through them up or down. No initiative can be successful without sales managements buy in and support. Therefore, if you want a bad ass sales team, consider sales managers with the following;

Influence;

Sales managers MUST have influence in the organization. They must wield formal and informal leadership. They must  be perceived as a valuable resource by the sales team. Sales managers must be able to influence the sales team and affect their attitudes, thinking, approaches and more. If your sales managers don’t have influence, you’re done.

Buy-In

Sales managers are the delivery engines for your sales organization. They are at the sharp end of the stick for delivering information and new initiatives as well as enforcing and supporting the current environment. If sales management isn’t bought in, compliance, acceptance and buy-in from the broader team is assuredly screwed.

Sales managers have to be completely bought into the sales culture, the sales strategy, the sales objectives, the sales goals and more. Buy-in is critical at the sales management layer. Without buy-in, the seeds of resistance and revolt are sewn.

Thick Skin

Sales management can be a thankless job. Sales managers are constantly sandwiched between sales leadership and sales people. They have to address competing needs, requests and view points. As the intermediary, they balance and juggle these competing elements. Sales managers need to be able to say no, up and down. They need to be able to accept criticism, from up and down. They need to be able to deliver the difficult messages and take the heat.  Often, sales managers are simply the messenger and if their skin isn’t thick enough, they punk out and fold like a house of cards. When this happens, a chasm of understanding begins to develop. Sr. leadership and the sales team become disconnected, not understanding why the other doesn’t understand “the challenge” and the organization starts to unravel, all because the middle layer, the “broadband” connection is not functioning properly. They’re too scared to deliver the real messages, for fear of upsetting either party.

Sales management is the broadband connection to the sales organization. It needs to be wide open and fast. It needs to be durable, reliable and always on.

If you want your sales team to succeed, take a good long look at your sales managers. If they aren’t killing it, you’ve got a problem. Sales is a tough business. As you sit and look out onto the revenue horizon, planning your next conquer, you’re sales managers are in the field making sure that the plans are being executed. They are gathering the information you need to plan the next move. They are allocating the resources. They are managing the sales team, the folks actually doing the selling.  Sales managers aren’t just set and forget. You have to be committed to their success. You have to respect their opinions and ideas. You have to engage them regularly. You have to give them autonomy. You have to embrace them as the conduit to your success or failure — because they are.

It’s time to start giving some more play to sales managers. There the reason sales organizations fail or succeed.

What’s your sales management team look like? Is it broadband or dial-up?

 

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