Training for Managers

By Lain Ehmann

“Sales managers are, for the most part, the least-trained for their jobs of any classification within the larger sales arena,” says consultant and trainer Dave Kahle. When someone is promoted to sales manager, they typically don’t receive any job-specific training; instead, they imitate a manager they’ve admired. “But that’s not always the right thing to do,” he says. To address this gap, Kahle has created a sales manager-specific training system, one that bridges the gap between the new manager’s knowledge and what he or she needs to know to be a successful manager.

Why is management so difficult? The answer lies in a salesperson’s natural optimism. “Salespeople have in their makeup a bent towards seeing the opportunity in a situation,” says Kahle. While that is a great personality trait for a salesperson, it’s a miserable one for a manager, he explains, because it can keep you from recognizing your reps’ problem areas and needs for improvement.

The good news is that in Kahle’s experience, executing well and consistently in only five primary areas will lead to excellence in management. “The productivity of the sales force can be dramatically improved by the actions of the manager,” he says. Here are the five areas Kahle says are the guts of a sales manager’s job.

1. Set annual goals with salespeople. If salespeople don’t have achievable, realistic, quantifiable goals, their productivity and achievement are going to suffer. Kahle stresses the need to use a uniform process when creating goals or quotas with each salesperson to ensure cross-team consistency.

2. Hold monthly growth conferences with each salesperson. Meeting with each rep individually helps hold them to their targets and lets managers identify and address problems. Again, a uniform approach – down to the agenda and documents used – will keep the team on the same page.

3. Train and develop the sales force. Training and development are different, and growth in both areas is needed to make your team the best it can be. Having organizationwide and individual sales plans will allow managers to make the most of their human capital.

4. Coach and counsel. Coaching and counseling are distinct activities. Managers must be fluent at both – and know when to use each.

5. Hire good salespeople. Knowing the right way to hire, including the questions to ask in an interview, will set up your team for future success.

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