Sales Leadership Development in the New Millennium
Leading-edge sales organizations understand the value of investing in leadership development. They believe that strong sales managers are the key to driving sales rep performance.
The STAR Sales Manager Survey set out to gauge the development priorities of sales organizations. We wanted to better understand what skills were important and the level of support companies provide their sales managers in terms of skill development.
The survey found that 50% of organizations are providing ongoing support for their front-line sales managers.
To better understand the reasons why I spoke with several sales leaders who were, in fact, providing support to their sales managers.
One of the VP’s said he was not happy with the impact of the corporate training program that he was mandated to use. He went on to say that he didn’t feel the investment in sales manager development is having any impact on performance.
I recently spoke to the CEO of a mid-sized company about what they were doing to support their sales managers. He shared with me that they rolled out a coaching program and said that it was the best program the sales managers have ever taken. “They really loved it!”
I was very impressed. I asked him what they were doing to sustain their excellent training. There was silence. A few weeks later, I spoke with him again because I thought he was on the right track. I asked him, “what sustainment components did the supplier provide to ensure the managers could take the great training and apply it in the field? Again he was silent. He said he would speak to the training manager.
I decided to speak to a few more companies. I was hoping to get more anecdotal answers to help me understand what is it about development programs that are not working? What specifically are companies doing?
In my discussions with training managers who have run sales managers development programs, I found out that their company had developed a curriculum comprising 1-2 day workshops focused on key skills training.
What they weren’t doing was even more interesting.
- There was no pre and post-measurement to gauge the impact of the training
- The next level of management was not actively involved in the follow-up
- There was a lack of accountability at both levels of sales management to turn the learning’s into sustainable skill development
- And like most training, the learnings dissipate in short order.
The end result is a complete waste of time, energy and money with no return on investment.
Great training with no follow-up or sustainment is a great event, nothing more, nothing less. As I prepared to write this article, I found a very insightful article at Forbes.com, “The #1 Reason why Leadership Development Fails” by Matt Myatt.
Myatt states, “This may be heresy to some – but training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails.”
Don’t train leaders, but coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them.
According to the American Society of Training & Development
“U.S. businesses spend more than $170 Billion dollars on leadership-based curriculum. The majority of those dollars being spent on “Leadership Training.”
The #1 reason why sales management training and development programs fail is that training doesn’t create leaders. With a majority of dollars invested in training, it is no wonder that 50% of companies that are committed to supporting their sales managers are disappointed with the results of their training programs.
The only people who continue to benefit are those in the training industry. You need to coach sales managers to develop.
The New Way
Over the last few years, I have realized that I can teach/train sales managers on a skill in 2 hours, but it takes 6 months of ongoing coaching to perfect these skills. The only time I would agree to train sales managers is if there was a coaching component.
For the new millennium, I recommend that companies change their mix on how they invest in leadership development.
An ideal investment in sales manager development may look like this:
- 10% pre and post-assessment
- 20% formal training (using a blended learning approach)
- 60% on coaching/mentoring (to reinforce sustain and perfect skills)
- 10% on providing pull through tools
You might say that this approach is too slow and costly. What is the alternative?
Sales managers have a tremendous impact on developing the sales talent of their team and, as a result, on your organization’s performance. Ask yourself what is the value of a team of STAR sales managers?
Many sales experts will tell you there is no silver bullet in sales. However, I think there may be one that 95% of organizations miss. Developing great sales leaders.
By shifting your focus from training to leadership coaching, mentoring and developing your sales manager, you can expect to drive great sales performance.
If you have any questions or comments on the survey or this article, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.