The front-line sales manager role is one of the most difficult in the corporate world. We work directly with sales managers across multiple industries and have had the opportunity to observe the challenges that strangle sales manager productivity, performance and success.

Here are a few of the challenges that we see our clients addressing in an attempt to give them a fighting chance.

Large Span of Control: Span of control decisions affect sales manager success. If sales managers have too few direct reports, you’ll underutilize sales manager talent and have a high-cost structure. If sales managers have too many people reporting to them, they can’t spend enough time coaching and supervising each person, and they’ll struggle to spend time with key customers or drive execution of the sales strategy.

Not Enough Training and Coaching: We expect a lot from a sales manager, but organizations regularly underinvest in training and coaching a sales manager so they can be more successful at training and coaching their salespeople! Some companies run sales managers through programs to improve coaching skills, but often they don’t follow-up the training with sales manager coaching. Remember, 90% of training content is typically forgotten within two weeks of a training event. If managers aren’t coached, they won’t be able to coach well.

Not The Right Support From Sales Operations & Enablement: Sales Operations and Enablement functions often march to their beat, with limited appreciation of how the sales organization works, sells, learns and adopts new tools and processes. Sales managers want help, but they can’t manage the persistent barrage of one-off initiatives designed to “help the sales organization become more productive.” There is often an expectation that after a webinar and PowerPoint presentation a sales manager will be drilling he salespeople daily on what was released. Clearly that not who it works, so sales operations and enablement need to work more closely with sales managers to give them the support they need.

They are Forced To Manage Via Spreadsheets: Most mainstream CRMs provide the ability to manage the sales process, pipeline and forecast management, and the sales team directly from the CRM solution. Unfortunately, the finance and sales operations teams often find it easier to get and provide information via spreadsheets, instead of leveraging the CRM’s reporting and dashboards abilities. If your organization says that it’s not possible to use its CRM for pipeline, forecast and performance management, then you have either lousy process, a bad CRM implementation, or both.

The challenges above won’t be addressed by decree. Addressing them will require, time, money and resources, as well as alignment between sales operations, sales enablement, and sales leaders. The ROI is significant if you can get it done.

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