Sales Trend 11: The renaissance sales manager

Sales Trend 11 for our 12 Sales Trends report for 2016 is the renaissance sales manager.

The logic follows that senior executives determine the grand strategy for the entire business, divisional executives determine what strategy they need for the segments they service so as to make the grand strategy work, and then sales managers need to deploy, direct and control the sales resources to make the strategy(ies) happen. Sales managers should play a pivotal role in making strategy happen and delivering results.

Yet, for some time now where big data has been, and still is, a big focus for many sales and business leaders, too many sales managers have lost sight of the real purpose of their role – to lead, manage and coach sales teams to deliver better sales results.

Today, there are simply too many distractions keeping sales managers and teams from selling better and selling effectively. Our attentions are drawn to false prophets offering simplistic solutions for a complex system. Just look around at the various technology silver bullets offering sales salvation in the form of numerous apps, customer relationship management systems, and so on.

The world will never change when it comes to offering ‘salvation in a box’; this approach has plagued human kind for thousands of years. However, smart sales and business leaders know all of these distractions keep today’s sales managers from doing what they are really there to do – lead, coach and manage salespeople to deliver better sales results.

Smart chief executives and sales leaders, and their respective sales managers, are realising that too much data across too many spectrums is counter-productive to effective sales leadership, sales performance and building sustainable sales results. They know that you can’t lead a sales team from behind a desk in front of a screen crunching numbers.

This sales trend sees the re-emergence of the renaissance sales manager.

In the distant past, sales managers set the sales direction then made sure they fully equipped their sales teams to be match-fit and ready to sell. They then went out in the field interacting with their salespeople helping them succeed on a daily basis. There is a growing body of evidence pointing to smart companies rethinking the role and purpose of sales managers. This trend sees smart companies employing and/or developing the renaissance sales manager to be the standard of ‘how we lead sales teams around here’.

There are more education dollars being invested on training, coaching, developing and managing sales managers to a minimum standard of sales leadership excellence. The payback for doing so can lead to an increase of around 20-40% in sales results by only training sales managers to be competent sales leaders and coaches.

The renaissance sales manager is both analytical and empathetic, able to take the organisation’s business strategy and deploy it as a workable sales strategy that delivers results through their sales teams.

The primary role of the renaissance sales manager is to provide clear direction; focus, motivate, empower and improve the performance of the sales team; and provide useful resources to ensure that the company’s position and value proposition is best served in the respective markets and is protected in its quest for acquisition and retention of the right kinds of clients that lead to incremental profitability and sustained market-share growth.

The renaissance sales manager encourages commitment, instills discipline, maintains the focus and builds the momentum of the sales team’s effort, and contends with the constant attempts from competitors keen to encroach on hard-won customers.

The eight functions of the renaissance sales manager

To achieve all of this we need to find our focus, clear the clutter, and competently and confidently perform all of the following eight functions:

  1. Develop, deploy and manage sales strategies;
  2. Create and manage sales systems, processes and protocols;
  3. Select the right sales team members and stimulate individual talent;
  4. Develop, train and coach the sales team;
  5. Instill self-discipline and self-awareness within the sales team;
  6. Manage sales performance, budgets and targets;
  7. Stimulate and manage change within the sales team and across the organisation; and
  8. Sustain commitment to the organisation and support the sales effort within the sales team and across the organisation.

There is, without any doubt, no other management function that is as demanding, rewarding and, sometimes, as frustrating, as effective sales management.

As a leader, regional sales manager or full blown sales director, you have to be many things to many people including:

  • Leader
  • Strategist
  • Planner
  • Catalyst
  • Thinker
  • Coach
  • Mentor
  • Controller
  • Director
  • Counsellor
  • Consultant

If we are to lead sales teams effectively, we need to realise that, as sales leaders, we are all charged with leading a group of salespeople; of preparing them for competition and focusing their energies so that they can sell a larger basket of products and solutions, to more customers, at better margins, in the face of stiff competition from rivals who have the same resources (and very often, the same solutions) as we do.

That means we have to be smarter, more effective, more efficient and better prepared. We have to plan and strategise. We have to ensure that we have the right people, doing the right things; and that the people in our sales teams are well trained, highly motivated and focused.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and chief executive of the innovative and forward thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett, and the online sales education & resource platform


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