Of the 93 sales representatives selected, 50 percent of the respondents said their companies’ sales strategies were highly clear, 41 percent said they were moderately clear, and 9 percent said they were not clear. Also, according to the report, the respondents’ average rating of their managers’ “overall effectiveness” was 6.3 out of 10. In other words, most of the respondents would give their managers a “D” in terms of helping them sell.
“When you think in terms of the recession we’re in, organizations need to get the most leverage from their salespeople,” said Ron Koprowski, executive vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “You need the maximum return, so you want people to be executing against your strategy effectively.”
Organizations tend to focus on the development of managers’ tactical skills, but Forum Corp. found that 70 percent of managers can increase their effectiveness dramatically by focusing on strategy, coaching and motivation. As a result, the executive sales team should start investing in its sales managers.
“Sales managers are probably more critical to sales effectiveness than any other element,” Koprowski said. “Many organizations [spend] huge sums of money on sales-force automation or throw training dollars at the skill development of their salespeople, but [they invest] relatively little [in] their frontline sales managers.”
In terms of strategy, managers must be able to communicate the organization’s sales strategy in a way that makes sense so that employees can then align themselves with that overall approach. With coaching, managers need to be “thinking partners,” Koprowski said.
“In a lot of selling situations, the manager is not necessarily the expert; the salesperson is,” he explained. “But the salesperson needs a thinking partner to brainstorm ideas [for] how to overcome price objections, how to penetrate higher into an organization or [how] to get through purchasing. [It’s that type of coaching that] creates a positive, nurturing, reinforcing climate.”
And climate is just as important to the success of a sales organization as strategy and coaching, Koprowski added.
“The climate is like the weather, and it’s sunny or it’s rainy,” he said. “All of us have worked for managers who create enthusiasm, [are] optimistic [and] drive a team to be successful. There are other managers who come into a room and they’re a downer; they suppress the energy and resources of the team. Climate is a key driver of sales success, and the driver of climate [is] sales managers.”