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5 Skills That Will Turn Your Sales Managers Into Leaders

Tuesday, July 5, 2016
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Picture this: you’ve just promoted your sales rep Jackie to manager. Jackie is your MVP—she consistently tops your sales charts, and is widely regarded as your most effective communicator. With those skills, combined with her experience, Jackie should be an awesome manager, right?

In our opinion: not at all.

Just because Jackie is a top performer doesn’t mean she has what it takes to lead people. By not providing training that helps her develop management skills specific to her new role, you’re severely limiting Jackie’s chance to be successful. In addition, even if you do have training you can offer her, you have to ask yourself whether it will be effective. Only 28 percent of business executives say they’re effective at developing leaders, according to the ATD whitepaper Experiential Learning for Leaders.

You may be asking yourself, “What training do my sales managers need?” To help you get started, this post covers five skills your training should offer. To see a full list of topics and grade your existing training, download the free Essential Checklist of Leadership Training Topics. This checklist also suggests different learning experiences based on what works best for your company and culture. 

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1. Setting Goals 

There’s no way around it—managers must be able to set goals to be successful. Without an understanding of desired outcomes, a manager’s ability to drive progress toward a company’s overall goal is severely hampered. But beyond just understanding how to set goals, smart managers are able to take big goals and break them into smaller, incremental wins. This allows employees to focus on achievable tasks with clear metrics, and then celebrate success. 

2. Developing a Strategy 

It’s one thing to set goals, and a completely different thing to be in a position to achieve them.

Let’s say your company wants to increase revenue by 15 percent this year. You ask one of your most experienced sales managers to recommend a strategy to achieve this goal, as well as a training program on how to execute it. She obtains statistics from your learning and development department indicating that your highly mobile sales team has a very low training completion rate. Because they’ll need to learn on the go, she proposes a microlearning strategy so they can train in between sales calls.

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Can all your sales managers develop a strategy with confidence? If not, the right training can help them brainstorm effective approaches that will achieve company and team goals.  

3. Setting Expectations 

Does this sound familiar: You finish a project on time, but after you turn it in to your boss, she tells you that the project’s goals have evolved since you got the assignment. As a result, your work needs changes—a lot of changes. And by the way, the new version is due tomorrow morning at nine.

Great managers prevent this from happening by setting clear expectations up front, and always keeping their team members in the loop when those expectations change. In doing so, they build healthy relationships and strong communication with their team.

4. Understanding Drivers and Drainers 

Drainers are factors that limit a company’s revenue or reduce its efficiency. While some drainers are unavoidable—labor costs, product returns, paying to keep the lights on—companies sometimes create drainers by accident. Think of the roles you’ve had in which checking something off your list required three different forms. Or you needed a half-dozen approvals before you could work on your next proposal. While managers create these kinds of practices in an attempt to more effectively supervise their staff, they often distract their teams instead of enabling them.

Drivers, on the other hand, are factors that maximize efficiency and improve the bottom line. Like drainers, drivers come in a wide variety of flavors, from new customers to more streamlined processes. As you can probably guess, effective drivers can negate the effect of drainers on your company, and successful managers will take it a step further by identifying drainers that can be removed altogether. They’ll consolidate those three forms into a single page, and they’ll put it online to save time and money.

With an understanding of both drivers and drainers—and the relationship between them—managers can have a lasting, positive impact on their sales teams. 

5. Evaluating ROI  

To close effectively, sales reps need to be able to educate their prospects and customers about the benefits of a product or service. They also need to have an understanding of how best to spend their own time—are they better off putting in more hours cold calling, or nurturing current relationships?

Successful companies trust their managers to help reps determine whether an investment of time or money is worth the potential return. If your sales managers don’t have a firm sense of how to calculate those benefits for their customers or for themselves, they’ll have a difficult time teaching their team how to do so.  

But Wait, There’s More 

There’s more to creating successful sales managers than just picking the right person. It takes smart training to prepare them for the new challenges they’ll face.

The five skills above are just a sample of what your managers need to know. To go more in depth, download the entire checklist of leadership training topics.

About the Author
Brian oversees new business development, partnerships, client engagement, and the strategic direction for Unboxed Technology. Brian often mentions the relationships that have shaped him, from the people he’s worked with to the family and friends that keep him grounded. He’s the first to admit that his success stems from partnering with great people who share a passion and a vision for excellence, just like the team at Unboxed.
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