Small companies typically make one of two sales management mistakes. Either they promote a top salesperson to become the sales manager, or they task that individual to perform the dual role of selling and overseeing the rest of the sales team. It has been thoroughly documented that neither works well.
“The reason many small organizations stay small is because they don’t dedicate the necessary resources of time and money in the sales leadership or sales management function.” – Anthony Iannarino
So, what is the true cost of not having an effective sales manager? Let’s first consider what it is that a sales manager actually does. The job comes with four primary duties: (1) to ensure a healthy sales pipeline, (2) to instill accountability, (3) to coach the salespeople on their opportunities, and (4) to lead the professional development of the sales team.
Providing Leadership, Direction and Accountability:
The sales manager is like the coxswain of a rowing shell, controlling the steering, speed, timing and fluidity of the team. The coxswain is in charge of motivating the crew, maintaining a straight course towards the finish line, and being the coach when the team is on the water.
The sales manager does the same job in a different setting. Without strong leadership, the boat drifts off course, synchronization falters, and forward momentum suffers. The sales manager holds the team accountable, and that is best done through regular weekly meetings. Yet, those weekly meetings shouldn’t be “grill sessions” but rather a time to understand where the challenges are and to work collaboratively towards improvement. Sometimes that gets lost in translation.
That accountability is a way to keep track of the activities that lead to success. When there is a lack of accountability, sales activities are not what they should be, and people lose sight of the goals they are shooting for. It’s human nature, so the job of the sales manager is to keep the team focused on doing the right activities that produce results. Sales teams don’t manage themselves.
Providing Coaching, Training and Professional Development:
The sales manager also coaches the sales team on their opportunities, and that is one of the most important functions because it has a direct impact on top-line results. It starts with having a clearly defined sales process that serves as the roadmap of the steps that the salespeople take to advance their opportunities. Having a proven, repeatable sales process is critical to success.
Yet process alone won’t ensure that the salespeople achieve their full potential, and that is why the coaching is so important. The coaching must be individualized because each salesperson is different. They all have differing strengths, challenges, and needs, so the best way to get the most out of the team is with individualized coaching.
That has a direct impact on the morale of the team too. People want to be on a winning team, to feel that their efforts matter, that their skill is improving, and that they are recognized for it. In the absence of coaching and professional development, morale suffers. The hidden cost of not enough training and development is increased turnover in the sales organization which kills forward momentum.
Understanding Why Opportunities Get Derailed:
It is also the sales manager’s job to understand why sales opportunities don’t close and come up with a plan to improve performance. That’s why a systematic, ongoing win-loss analysis is a valuable tool. The win-loss analysis helps the sales manager understand where deals get derailed, whether there are parts of the sales process that need strengthening, and where to focus the coaching, training, and development.
If sales are not what they need to be, the best thing a sales manager can do is understand why opportunities are not closing and take proactive steps to boost the win rate.
The challenge for most small businesses is that they don’t have the resources to bring in the caliber of sales manager they need to drive results, or that the sales force is not large enough to justify hiring a full-time sales manager. That is when enlisting an experienced fractional sales manager starts to make good business sense.