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Quickest Way to Increase Sales

Profiles in Sales Management
By Brian Snader

It's often said the quickest way to increase sales is to train your salespeople to sell more effectively. And there's one surefire way to improve the selling behavior of your sales force that is so obvious it's often missed. It's the quickest method of all... more effective than many large-scale sales training programs, courses, techniques, and strategies concocted to streamline selling. What is it?

The answer is: give your salespeople better sales managers. Under the leadership of a great manager, good salespeople often become excellent, mediocre performers are inspired to become good performers, and those near failure are terminated and replaced with more effective salespeople. Great sales management works like magic: regardless of which district the superior sales manager takes over, regardless of the raw material given to him or her to work with, salespeople will shift upward in performance and morale as a group. Before long, that district will improve significantly.

Sounds easy? Of course not, and for a few big reasons:

  • First, great sales managers are hard to find. More often than not, if you want an entire team of great sales managers, you're going to have to work with the sales managers you have and nurture them, bring out their potential greatness, or contract the work out for someone else to do it for you.

  • Second, the best sales managers tend to be promoted. Although some people want to remain sales managers for their entire careers, often the promotions offered are too tempting to refuse. This means that sales manager vacancies are a fact of corporate life, and the need for new sales manager blood arises with rhythmic regularity.

  • Third, that new blood can only trickle down the pipeline from a few sources: another companies' sales management, your own company's non-sales management, or your current pool of sales representatives. With promotions of sales representatives being the most frequent route for new sales management influx, it only makes sense that newly promoted sales representatives need nurturing in the transition.

In fact, selling and managing require such completely different skill sets that even the best salespeople sometimes fail when promoted to sales management positions. A solid sales management development program is crucial for ongoing sales success.

Managing vs. Training?

But if sales management development is where it's at, does that mean that sales representative training programs are a waste of time and money? If all you need is a great sales management team to get high sales performance, why bother with training the sales team in selling skills?

Training programs for salespeople are important because they frequently boost the sales performance curve at strategic career junctures. Most salespeople improve their selling at first, but plateau eventually without additional training interventions. Good training often provides representatives with insights that aid morale as well as enhancing skills. It can also uncover and help to correct individual selling problems that the sales manager might not have recognized.

But the key is to find a training program for your salespeople that your sales managers can own, drive, and use as a vehicle to make their own jobs easier. The programs chosen must be compatible with the sales managers' methods and their ability and desire to coach.

Sales training programs that fall outside the sales manager's area of control are often ineffective. For example, imagine the owner of an athletic team shipping the players off to training camp without their coach, then shipping them back to the coach who is fuming with resentment that he wasn't included in the training process.

Dangers of Non-Involvement

Or imagine that the coach enjoys the week off but doesn't fully buy into the training program that the team was shipped off to learn-and slowly changes what they learned in camp to bring in their preferred concepts and undermine the training investment. These scenarios reflect the way sales managers often think and feel when Corporate purchases sales training programs without full sales manager involvement.

At Systema, we recommend you select comprehensive systems of sales and management assessment, training, and development that can begin with any group, from a pilot group of representatives or individual sales managers to an entire sales force, independent contributors, and executive staff.

Given a choice, most companies invest primarily in developing their sales representatives. But, is it a good investment to train the salespeople if you don't train their managers? If you think about it, it's much less expensive to have your sales managers train your salespeople rather than to have an outside "hired gun" step in, do the job, and walk out.

Training sales managers to train salespeople makes more sense because sales managers can offer ongoing coaching and because it ensures a more prompt return on investment.

For information on Systema's sales management development systems, e-mail us at systema@systema.com

Energizing Sales Performance World Wide Since 1969

 

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