Would your team pay using their own money for the time they send with you?

Many years ago, upon my promotion to first line sales management my boss gave me some great advice. More accurately he gave me 2 questions to constantly ask myself. He said;

‘Well done you now have the power. But I don’t want you to use the power unless you absolutely have to. Imagine your sales team don’t work for you.

  1. How do you add value to their world?
  2. Would your people pay, using their own money for the time they spend with you?

This question has stuck with me for more than 15 years. It drives a number of question’s as we tackle change management issues within sales enablement. With all of its complexities in matrix organizations.

I’ve seen across hundreds of implementations ranging from a 2 day training event to a new CRM system that front line sales managers control everything. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ was Peter Drucker’s famous quote. Sales managers dictate your culture. Only the change movement’s they believe in drive any meaningful difference in a sales organisation.  The best organisations understand that sales managers are the point of greatest impact and the point of greatest failure. Yet if you look at any meaningful study of training spend across sales – the sales people come top, followed by senior leadership. Sales managers don’t get the investment they deserve to really improve themselves and sustain enablement initiatives.

Many now agree that sales managers that can coach are a key ingredient in any sales organisation. The go-to-market may change every 6 months. Some things you can control, some things you can’t. Good sales managers that can coach can execute whatever strategy change happens in a business. But the best coaches we’ve worked with are not just coaches is the traditional sense; good listeners and able to execute the softer side of coaching. They also have the tough love streak that is required to make sure there is complete clarity of task. Clarity of task is different for each role you manage. Clarity of task is what high performing managers do better than anyone else. How much help do your sales leadership give your sales managers in narrowing down the high impact tasks for the sales teams? How well do your senior sales leaders model the right behaviours for creating clarity of task?

Most sales managers I speak to already know that coaching is a good thing and want to do more. A bit like sales people who struggle for selling time, modern managers are struggling to find good coaching time. Let’s be honest, it’s quicker to just pick up the stick and tell people what to do. Balancing coaching time is an obvious idea. Some fascinating results from a recent study by Vantage Point Performance in to the habits of the best sales managers – in particular the managers that showed greatest forecast accuracy*. The highlight of this paper for me, was that the best managers spend LESS TIME coaching their team. Now the headline might be surprising, the detail shows that they actually spend less time with ad hoc coaching and inspecting their teams, but they do spend more time in formal, organised coaching – in particular the early part of the sales funnel, rather than the later stages. It’s a question of priority rather than time. Breaking the cycle of inspection to hit numbers as a first line manager is tough. Inspection wont go away and its still  a great basis for coaching but its not enough by itself. Hence they need help for their leaders to zoom out as see that the early stage deals today if properly qualified, save us all more time in the long run.

So it’s not about quality, it’s all about quality.  If you want to see real return on your sales enablement investment you need to have a solid plan for your sales managers. That way your sales teams might just start to pay using their own money for their time with their managers….

*Vantage Point Performance – Cracking the Sales Manager Code by Jason Jordan