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What Do You Really Expect from Your Front-line Sales Managers? Do They Know It?

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Anyone who has climbed the ranks of a sales organisation can appreciate the complexity of the front-line sales manager’s job. It is usually the most critical position in any sales organisation and can make the difference in determining success or failure.

So, reach out to your sales managers today, and ask them this: “Name the two most important things we pay you to do.” If their answers don’t align with your expectations, then it’s time for some course correction.

Great sales managers are not always top-ranked salespeople. Clearly, the job requires an above-average level of selling skills, but it also requires a unique blend of multiple skills. It can be like wearing the hats of coach, parent, counsellor, advisor, sounding board, and psychiatrist, all at once. The job gets more complicated because of its location in the corporate food chain. A sales manager is caught between the front line, client-facing salespeople, and upper management. Many times, the view of reality on the front line varies greatly from that in the ivory tower. Successful navigation within this food chain can be challenging, even for the most successful sales managers.

So, what are sales managers’ primary points of focus? There are many things to expect from sales managers, but none are more important than these two:

  1. To drive results
  2. To develop people
Which one is more important? The right answer is both; they are equally important. A sales manager can’t have long-term, sustainable results without developing team members. A sales manager who spends too much time as the best presenter and super closer usually can’t scale; he/she eventually runs out of bandwidth. Conversely, a sales manager who spends too much time developing sub-par talent will often miss targets and fail. It’s all about balance. Drive results by engaging in the day-to-day, front-line activities. But, remember that great sales managers don’t make quota for their sales reps — they make quota through their sales reps.

The key to staffing your team with the right sales managers begins with a solid understanding of the skills and competencies required for the job. World-class sales organisations begin the staffing process by establishing a competency model that clearly identifies the attributes needed to successfully drive results and develop people.

Coach the managers to hire “A”-level players and, in the worst case, “B”-level players who are coachable and competent to reach the “A” level. Never allow a sales manager to staff the team with, or hold on to, inherited “C”- and “D”-level players. Sales managers’ time is too valuable to waste in trying to coach low-potential sales reps to achieve a level of mediocrity.

A talented sales team led by a competent, focused sales manager who drives the right activities and behaviours is a recipe for sustained growth and success. Make sure you have the right sales leaders setting the pace and culture that you desire. Front-line sales managers are often the position with the most leverage to make or break your revenue targets.

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