How Good Are Your Sales Management Skills?

If you could do just one thing to improve the performance of your organization’s sales managers – and, by extension, the performance of your reps – what would that one thing be? The answer, according to a new study, by EcSELL Institute, is to provide professional development for your sales managers.

According to the report nearly half of organization surveyed said they do nothing in this area. Of those on target to meet their 2010 goals, 64 percent provided professional development for sales managers; of those not on target, only 36 percent provided professional development resources for their management team. “To me, that’s a direct correlation,” says William Eckstrom, founder and president of EcSELL Institute.

Yet 45 percent of the report’s respondents said they do nothing in the area of professional development. This finding was in line with the findings of a CSO Insights’ Sales Management Optimization study, which found that 46 percent of companies surveyed spend less than $1,500 a year on sales-management training. Barry Trailer, managing partner for CSO Insights, urged organizations to make changes. “With the complexity of the job of sales manager increasing,” he says, “we have to invest more in giving these individuals the tools and training they need to coach and mentor their teams if we expect to see win rates improve, margins stabilize, sell-cycle times start to decrease, etc.”

Sales executives tend to nod their heads and agree with this kind of statement – but few have done anything about it. In an earlier study, EcSELL asked sales executives whether they thought developing their sales managers was more, less, or equally as important as developing reps. An overwhelming 97 percent said that sales-management development was more important. And yet, when asked how likely they were to put additional resources the following year toward developing A) sales reps and B) sales managers, 34 percent said they were going to put additional resources toward training reps; only 17 percent said they would do so for managers. In other words, executives are almost 100 percent more likely to develop their reps than their managers – even though they acknowledge that management development is more important.

Bottom Line

The bottom line: Organizations wanting to make an impact on performance must devote resources to professional development for its sales managers. That said, Eckstrom warns sales managers not to sit around waiting for their companies to provide sales training.

“Regardless of what your culture is, we need people in sales-management roles who say, ‘I’m going to get better,'” says Eckstrom. When you do that – when you take charge of your own professional development and create an atmosphere of constant learning – you’ll not only get better, you may just find you move the entire culture around you in the same direction.