Poor sales performance usually starts at the top with ineffective management. This can be a difficult truth to swallow, especially when you see how hard your sales managers work. But there’s a difference between hard work and effective leadership, and sometimes even the most dedicated managers require further training.
The challenge lies in providing them with development opportunities without dampening their confidence. So how do you have THAT tricky conversation?
Take some reassurance in the fact that you’re not alone. According to research by Dave Kurlan and the Objective Management Group, approximately 82 per cent of sales managers are ineffective. That’s a big number, and points to a widespread problem. Would you like your managers to be part of the 82 per cent, or the 18 per cent?
Encouraging your managers to pursue further training is challenging because it involves asking some tough questions – of yourself and your team. Taking your sales performance to the next level involves being brutally honest about what works and what doesn’t. If it was easy, the statistics would be the other way around, and only 18 per cent of sales managers would be ineffective.
Dave Kurlan advocates taking the hard road and striving to achieve excellence, no matter how rocky the terrain. He takes a ‘no nonsense, no excuses’ approach, and believes everything starts with first acknowledging what you do not know.
Evaluate yourself first, then the team
Before you have THAT conversation with your managers, start by evaluating your own performance, and the performance of your entire sales team as a whole. No salesperson is an island. This is best achieved with the help of an external training provider, who can ask the right questions and provide you with the framework to guide the evaluation.
Once you have done this, you’ll have a clearer picture of where your sales managers could be going wrong. It’s much better to approach them with a specific request for improvement, than to reach out and say “Hey, something isn’t working but I’m not sure what.”
Managing THAT conversation
When the big conversation arrives, avoid making it personal. Talk about where the entire team is falling short – as per the evaluation – and explain how your manager can help you work towards a solution. Show them that you’re willing to support them to do their job better through further sales management training. Demonstrate how a new course will add to their work satisfaction and help them achieve their goals. You’re investing in their future – and the future of the company – which is actually something to be valued, not feared.
By first undertaking a team-wide evaluation, the conversation becomes much easier. There’s less drama and uncertainty surrounding your manager’s performance. You’ll be able to draw on concrete examples, identify gaps and move forward with confidence. It’s like solving a problem – it’s hard to find a solution if you don’t know where the problem starts. But once you realise the root of the issue, you can work backwards to fix it, without alienating your team in the process.