Is Your Sales Team Over-Managed and Under-led?

5-proven-ways-to-increase-adoption-of-your-sales-enablement-initiatives-500x-500It’s a common misconception that management and leadership are the same things but they’re not. Managing involves dealing with or controlling things – for a sales manager this could be anything from fighting fires to telling reps what they should be doing.

Whereas leadership is about leading people and guiding them to achieve. Both require different skill sets and have vastly different results when it comes to teams. According to author Tom Peters:


“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.”

While sales managers need both management and leadership skills, many tend to manage more than they lead. After all, it’s easy to monitor and react to statistics, processes, and deadlines. But it’s much more challenging to inspire and develop a team to achieve by developing and executing a clear strategy. When a sales team is over-managed and under-led it can lead to several problems that may impact your sales results, team turnover and the overall culture of your sales organization.

Managing is not motivating

One of the biggest issues with managing people rather than leading them is that it can be demotivating. Very few people are inspired to succeed when they’re told that they’re not meeting quota.  By focusing in on the numbers or process constantly, sales managers risk alienating and demotivating the majority of their team and make them feel unappreciated.

According to CSO Insights

20% of salespeople turnover each year

– that’s a significant investment walking out the door. They also found that sales managers only spend about 20% of their time actually helping sales reps sell, something that’s unlikely to be a coincidence. Reps that feel supported are more likely to feel motivated and willing to stay. In fact,

87% of millennials and 69% of other employees

say that development opportunities are important to them in a role. That’s one area where leadership is particularly important.

Directing traffic serves a purpose but it’s far more exciting to take your team on a journey to get them to where they need to be. Rather than focusing in on what someone is doing, strong leadership can help guide salespeople on how they can improve and set a clear path to help them achieve it. This is particularly important in this day and age where buyers are well-informed and savvy. They require salespeople who are well-informed and adaptable, and reps need strong leadership to learn these skills.

Leadership is liberating

Sales teams that are truly led are liberated and unconstrained. They’re given wings to do their job well, rather than being bogged down in red tape and control. This doesn’t mean that leadership equates to anarchy, far from it. But a good leader knows how to influence behavior. They will help their team find a way through the necessary elements of their role so that they can focus on what’s really important – selling better and closing deals.

The numbers are of course important, but a good leader knows which numbers to focus on and how to use them to influence their team. That final step is what makes the difference between a manager and a leader. Numbers and processes are good, but ultimately they are just a tool to inform decisions. If you want a salesperson to perform their best, then you need to look at all the aspects of their role. The numbers can inform this, but they will rarely tell the whole story.

Bain & Co has conducted detailed research

over several years about what makes a leader. Their research has identified leadership attributes that focus in on the human aspects of performance and grouped them into four key areas:
over-managed under-led

Leadership is less about monitoring and more about creating an environment where people can thrive. This involves building trust, encouraging people to learn and inspiring them to achieve. It’s about building a sales culture that reaps dividends long into the future.

How to shift the balance from managing to leading

There are several things that you can do to focus on leading over managing. One of the most important is to set a strategy and be clear about its goals. It should set the stage for what they need to achieve and how they will go about doing this. This can then be constantly reiterated through communications, coaching sessions, rewards and KPIs. This gives them clarity and also creates a cadence for them to look forward, develop and strive for their goals.

By linking your team’s development, through training and coaching, they not only see that you’re investing in them but that there is a purpose to what they’re being asked to do. It is here where you can rely on management tools – track leading indicators to identify where to focus your energy. Use all the data available to identify the key areas of focus and inform coaching and training programs. While your reps don’t need to know the detail of the analysis, they should be able to see how the areas of focus link to the overall strategy.

Another important aspect of a sales manager’s role is to make it easier for their team to sell. Many sales roles inevitably come with a lot of non-selling tasks and there’s always room for improvement. This often provides a good opportunity for leaders to seek out feedback and suggestions from their team. By giving their team a forum to have their say, the can feel some ownership over the issues and feel like they are proactively involved in trying to address them.

The role of a sales manager certainly isn’t easy, but it can be far more effective by making a conscious effort to balance the need to manage with the importance of leading.

7 Things that will Transform Sales Readiness in 2018

7-things-that-will-transform-sales-readiness-in-2018-(Conflicted-copy-from-shrawan’s-MacBook-Pro-on-2017-12-28)The end of the year is fast approaching and 2018 is already promising to be another huge year for sales readiness. As the pace of sales accelerates, buyers become even more knowledgeable and industry dynamics continue to evolve rapidly, so there’s no time for sales organizations to slow down. Here’s our forecast of what’s in store for sales readiness in 2018.

1. Sales readiness becomes essential

Just a few years ago Sales Ops was considered a nice-to-have, now it’s an integral part of a robust sales organization. Sales readiness is coming of age and the best sales teams understand how important it is to gain a competitive advantage. In 2018, sales readiness will no longer be viewed as an option and more businesses will see it as an essential element of a winning sales strategy.

2. Artificial intelligence will arrive but not as expected

There has been a lot of hype about artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years but it’s still a long way from replacing sales reps. In 2018, AI will start to make a difference in the sales process – it will help reps work smarter and faster, not replace them. There are so many manual tasks that that can be achieved quickly with the assistance of AI according to

Mohit Garg, Co-Founder and Go-To-Market leader

of Mindtickle “

Processes that can easily be automated, eliminating repetitive work, maximizing sales outcomes by taking advantage of data-driven insights, so that the sales reps can focus on closing deals.”

Another area where AI is showing huge promise that will prove its value in the coming year is in the area of dynamic coaching. AI will be able to identify triggers and provide coaching opportunities to managers so they can help reps deal with specific situations in real time.

Tamara Schenk, Research Director of CSO Insights

notes “

Sales leaders will shift their enablement investments between individual contributors and their managers to take advantage of the enormous performance potential of robust coaching approaches that equally leverage coaching skills, process, and AI-empowered technology to make coaching time as effective as possible.

3. Sales stacks will become more tightly integrated

Sales tools lose their effectiveness if they become cumbersome to use and difficult to manage. The trick to optimizing your sales stack is to ensure it is tightly integrated. In the coming year, more emphasis will be placed on building seamless sales stacks rather than just adding more technology to reps’ toolsets. Streamlining your sales stack with seamless integrations will ensure that sales teams can use their tools to improve effectiveness and efficiency rather than being a source of confusion and aggravation.

4. Analytics will enhance sales readiness

Analytics is used extensively to understand how our customers behave, in 2018 organizations will benefit from the data available in sales readiness tools to better understand their reps. This data isn’t just about how many sales calls reps are completing. It also considers their productivity, how effectively they sell and what information they use. This information will enable sales managers and leaders to take the sales readiness of their reps to a new level.

“The right measurement and tracking ensure that key stakeholders are aware of the readiness of their sales team over time and can track improvement,”

explains Nishant Mungali

, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer

for Mindtickle.

5. Millennial needs become the norm

Millennials are now the

largest generation in the US

and this will only continue to grow. So while businesses have focused on the need to address millennial preferences because they were different from Generation X or Baby Boomers, the reality is we must now accept that the preferences of millennials are those of the majority.

This will have a significant impact on sales readiness in the coming year because things that were once considered important to millennials will now become the norm. Bite-sized content, mobile capability, sharing wisdom over classroom teaching, value-driven learning, agility, flexibility to learn on the go and gamification will no longer be optional for sales readiness in 2018. They will all be mandatory to meet the changing needs of the workforce.

6. The cadence is set for continuous learning

With industry dynamics changing weekly and new products features rolling out regularly, it’s no longer sufficient to set and forget training. To maintain your reps’ level of sales readiness they need to be trained regularly. In the coming year, more businesses will shift from periodic training to continuous training enabled by mobile sales readiness tools that facilitate real-time updates to be pushed out to reps anywhere. Learning modules will become smaller and more frequent, making training a regular part of a salesperson’s job.

7. Peer-to-peer learning will take off

Traditionally, external experts have come in to train reps on new techniques and selling models, but this will change in 2018. While external training will still be relevant, internal expertize will become more prevalent, particularly as sales readiness technology enables winning sales techniques to be shared more readily amongst the sales organization.

This could be facilitated through best practice video role plays, success stories that are easily searchable or social tools that facilitate the sharing of knowledge easily. Sales enablement and sales leaders will still continue to play an important role in this process. Together they will ensure that content that is shared is truly the best practice so that peer-to-peer learning becomes the optimal form of learning.

6 Signs Your Sales Managers are Under-Trained

sales-managers-are-under-trained_500x500Research by the Sales Management Association has found that

41% of companies have no budget

to train their sales managers, and half of those that do have a training budget don’t offer any specific training to help them manage or lead a sales team. Yet sales managers are charged with the challenging task of motivating and leading their team to bring home the bacon.

The role of a sales manager is quite broad, so you can’t just look at their team’s quota to determine if they’re doing a good job. Here are six signs that may indicate that your sales managers are in dire need of some specific training.
1. They manage instead of leading

Many sales manager are promoted through the ranks, and while they may have been impressive salespeople, that doesn’t mean they know how to lead a team. Just like sales skills, leadership skills need to be learned either through experience or with specific training. Without these skills, many sales managers may naturally revert back to where they feel most comfortable.

This can manifest itself in several ways. Some may prefer to take over a deal and do the selling themselves. Others might spend all their time on their A players or C players, and leave the majority of their team floundering with no direction.
2. They see everything (or nothing) as a priority

You can’t do everything, that’s a simple fact of life, but it is something that a manager has to learn. Sales managers need to be able to differentiate between the tasks that are urgent and important and those that are not and prioritize them appropriately. The importance they place on particular tasks will be reflected in their team, which will rapidly magnify them. As leaders, sales managers must set the priorities for their team so they know where to spend their time.

Coaching is a classic example of something that is often overlooked even though it should be a priority on a sales managers to-do list. If a sales manager doesn’t know how to coach effectively they may de-prioritize it in favor of something they’re more comfortable with. So if some important things aren’t being prioritized, perhaps look into whether your sales manager has the skills to lead or coach their team effectively.
3. They can’t see beyond the horizon

It’s easy to get distracted fighting fires each day, but sales managers need to find the time to look beyond their immediate priorities and plan for the future. Developing a long-term strategy can be daunting even for experienced managers. It takes time, planning and discipline to develop a strategy that is clear, consistent and can be monitored. Without this, managers may find themselves directing their team aimlessly or, worse still, going around in circles. When you’re leading a team, this kind of ambling is inevitably reflected in how the team behaves – they have no purpose or direction.

If your sales manager can’t articulate exactly what they want their team to focus on in the next three, six or 12 months then they may need some help putting together a strategy that provides their team with clear direction and guides them on how to achieve it.
4. They don’t know how to identify performance issues in their team

Numbers, quotas and KPIs only tell part of the story when it comes to why someone is performing under par. Sales managers need to draw on a range of information and experience to really understand where their team’s skill gaps may be. Once an issue is diagnosed, the sales manager then needs to determine the best way to address the issue.

This can be quite challenging, particularly when some issues aren’t readily solved by training initiatives. For example, if a rep lacks motivation there may be many soft issues that need to be addressed to get their performance back on track – perhaps a good rep feels like they’re being underutilized. An experienced sales manager might bring them into the fold to help motivate other reps, but a less-experienced sales manager may not be able to identify and resolve these performance issues or tackle them in a way that is less than effective.
5. They let the loudest team members dictate the direction

The squeakiest wheel may get the oil but it isn’t always the one that needs the most attention and it’s the same when it comes to sales teams. Just because one person is complaining the loudest, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their issue is the direst or in need of attention. This is an issue that inexperienced sales managers may face the most, particularly if they’re lacking confidence. This can result in potential inequities in their team, misdirection of their energy or even alienate some team members.

Sales managers need to develop their softer skills so that they can manage different personalities effectively. These skills take a long time to develop unless specific training is provided.
6. They lack consistency

It’s not unusual for sales managers to develop their own processes and approach, but this lack of consistency, particularly in larger organizations can quickly become problematic. Sales managers need to be open to learning new things so they can all speak the same language, leverage the same information and embed consistency amongst their teams. This ensures that customer interactions are consistent, the messaging they hear is the same and also ensures that each sales team is on a level playing field.

From an organizational perspective, consistency enables sales teams to be compared accurately and reduces the possibility of confusion. But without sufficient training and guidance, it is almost impossible to achieve consistency across the entire sales organization. The best way to achieve this is for one area to have responsibility for ensuring processes, training, and the information is rolled out and monitored across the entire organization.

The Next Big Opportunity for Sales Enablement: Sales Engineers

If you’re looking for a quick win in your sales enablement programs then look no further than your sales engineering team. One of the most overlooked roles in sales enablement is that of the sales engineer, also known as technical sales, pre-sales or sales consultant. While 94.3% of businesses focus their sales enablement initiatives on frontline salespeople and account managers, only 45.9% shine light on their sales engineers, yet they play a crucial role in the sales process.

Sales-Engineer-enablementSales engineers often require more enablement than reps by virtue of the highly technical nature of their role. They not only need to know everything about their product, competitors, verticals, and industry, but sales engineers must also understand how to apply this information to different use cases and differentiate your product from that of your competitors. Sales engineers touch almost every part of the sales process and play a significant role in proving the success of your product to potential customers.
Sales engineer enablement

The sales engineer is the resident product expert in a sales call – a situation that can be highly stressful even for the most competent professional. They bring together the knowledge of how existing customers use your product, usually learned from the customer success team, with the sales teams understanding of the customer, their pain points, and needs. Essentially, sales engineers need to have the knowledge that both sales and customer success teams have, along with the detailed specifications of your product. As a consultant, they provide the deep knowledge that helps customers see why they should choose your product and be able to demonstrate it.

Their role covers not only initial sales conversations but also customized demonstrations and proof of concepts. It’s the sales engineer who sets up sandboxes and pilots so that customers can trial your product and see their specific use cases in action. This process of proof of concept can take a sales engineer anywhere from one week to six months to complete.

Some businesses have acknowledged the key role that sales engineers play. Symantec designed and implemented a comprehensive enablement program targeted specifically to the sales engineers and they believe well-enabled sales engineers make their pipeline bulletproof.  This is the exception rather than the rule and speaks to the value Symantec have placed on the role of the sales engineer in their focus on customer success. Many companies simply arm sales engineers with the same information that they give their sales reps or customer success teams. While this is a start, it rarely provides them with all the information they need, nor the depth of knowledge required, to complete their role effectively.

Some areas that sales engineers need to be enabled include:

  • Detailed product knowledge that incorporates technical specifications
  • Customer use cases
  • The product roadmap and future releases
  • The RFP process and what security documents are required for different verticals and industries
  • Up to date information on competitor products and industry updates
  • The ability to dive deeper into specific pain points and requirements
  • How to conduct a technical demonstration and manage trials and proof of concepts
  • Each aspect of the sales process including who is involved and understanding when they are required

Given how critical sales engineers are in turning an opportunity into a customer, it’s surprising that more businesses have not focused on enabling their knowledge and needs. Businesses that do this now can achieve a competitive advantage that is almost guaranteed to help them close more deals faster.

How have you enabled your sales engineers?