Why Sales Management is the Key Point of Sales Transformation Failure

sales management sales transformationDo you want impact from your sales training initiatives?

Then don't rely on just what happens in the classroom with your sales people.

Leaders who invest in sales skills training and then don't require all levels of sales management to attend the same training as their sales people always confound me. How can this be?

As a leader, I would fear two things. First, the training could be teaching something contrary to what I believed my people should do. If that happens, not only has the money been wasted but I also have to undo the damage and re-train them. Second, I would fear not being able to support and reinforce what they had learned, again potentially wasting that investment.

In spite of these very real risks, everyday, sales people sit in classrooms while their managers are basking in the belief that they are above it all, that they already know everything they need to know about selling. After all, they've paid their dues. Only sales people need sales training. Right?

Why Everyone Needs to Participate

The bottom line here is that if we really want to change selling behavior in any meaningful way, classroom training simply isn't enough. If we are launching a game-changing new sales methodology, we can't teach people everything they need to know in a few days or even a couple of weeks in the classroom.

What happens AFTER class in the field provides the most critical learning opportunities and greatest potential benefit. Not that a few people won't change as a result of the training, with little or no management intervention they absolutely will.

However, significant ROI won't be generated by a handful of people changing their behavior. Big returns occur when the majority, if not all, commit to, are held accountable for, and ultimately execute the targeted selling behaviors more effectively.

This INCLUDES managers. Each level of management has a responsibility for driving the adoption of new behaviors and the development of new skills. If true behavioral change is going to take place, everyone has to be held responsible and accountable for his or her role.

Remember, Sales Transformation is about changing the very culture of the organization. The culture won't change unless managers are deeply and inextricably involved. That being said, Sales Transformation isn't for the weak of heart. It takes strong senior leaders who are committed to driving change and even changing themselves.

A Focus on Accountability

Accountability for well-defined behaviors at all levels of the organization is essential and lack of this accountability is arguably the single greatest obstacle to meaningful Sales Transformation.

Just to be clear, even our view of accountability may need to change. Accountability is defined as "responsibility to someone for some activity." Notice, the definition does not say "some result", rather "some activity." Results don't happen unless the activities required to produce them happen first.

Many sales organizations fail to "transform" because managers are unable or unwilling to drive the behaviors or day-to-day activities that will deliver the desired results. When all conversations center on results rather than the behaviors that produce them, real accountability simply doesn't exist.

Top 5 Coaching Behaviors

Management must consistently engage in the following coaching behaviors at each level of the sales organization:
  1. Set goals for activity (number of proposals, contacts, etc.) and proficiency (closing ratios, average sale value, proposal ratio, etc.) with every member of their team that are mutually agreed upon and continually reviewed/updated.
  2. Regularly and consistently seek to uncover gaps in performance relative to those goals.
  3. Identify the root causes for failure to perform (environment, commitment, capacity, skills, knowledge).
  4. Determine corrective actions/activities required to address the root causes for failure.
  5. Evaluate each report's performance to make certain incremental improvement is taking place.

5 Questions to Help You Overcome this Obstacle

Here are five questions that will help you determine where you are relative to overcoming this obstacle:
  1. Are all managers fully committed to your formal sales process?
  2. Have you and your managers clearly defined activity and proficiency metrics for every individual on your sales team?
  3. Do your managers consistently review those metrics to uncover gaps in performance?
  4. Do your managers hold everyone on their team accountable for their commitment to your formal/dynamic sales process?
  5. Have you identified ways to inspect the selling and coaching behaviors by which your sales results are produced and are you reporting on and inspecting these behaviors consistently?

By making sure everyone participates in sales training, focusing on the above five coaching behaviors, and honestly answering the aforementioned questions, you'll be on your way to overcoming any obstacles that stand in the way of true sales transformation.

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Bob Nicols

Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.

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Topics: Better Selling

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