What does Productivity mean for a Sales Manager?

If coaching is the single biggest lever a Sales Manager has to improve performance of a team, how do you know if it's effective beyond lagging indicators like quota attainment?

According to a study conducted by Vantage Point Performance, the impact of a Bad Sales Manager can cost $3.5M of non-realize revenue on average. I have seen many studies trying to quantify the impact of lack of productivity in Sales organizations, and most  conclude that the challenge remains in the ability of the sales manager to perform their job and their responsibility in hiring, on-boarding and guiding Sales Reps to succeed.

Think for a moment on the role of the Sales Managers. They exist because Sales reps requires a manager that can guide them in their journey to become successful and highly productive. But who is really thinking about the journey of the Sales Manager? Executives ? With increasing time constraints, they rarely focus on leading behaviors that describe how sales managers are executing their job, but rather on outcomes (i.e.  lagging indicators), because at the end of the day, you expect Sales Managers to do their job. The rational being that if they were a top producer as an individual contributor, then as a manager they should be able to replicate that to their team.

In reality, companies invest little in preparing Sales managers for their role. Most of the focus is on training and on-boarding Sales Rep in how to pitch company's product value prop.

In any given day, Sales Managers are in the middle between front line sales reps and the executives. They work hard, generally over 55 hrs. per week, managing on average 9 Sales Reps and reporting results/status to many executives and directors. As a result, they are often overwhelmed and frustrated.

That is a huge time invested, but analyzing only lagging indicators cannot tell you why the team is not performing, and how to coach the coach. How can you help your Sales Manager to be productive knowing the pressure is coming from the top and bottom of the organization?

I'd be great if they could spend more time on strategic activities like Territory Strategy, Account Planning, Sales Model, Process Improvement, etc. If you agree that the single biggest lever any Sales team has to improve performance and productivity is by executing a strong sales inspection and coaching discipline, I have two recommendations:

First, Sales managers need to master sales coaching. After participating in many webinars addressing this worn-out topic, I found the definition differs greatly from company to company and from speaker to speaker. Do a simple exercise, count the amount of hours you (as a sales manager) dedicate per Sales Rep per week. How much of the 1:1s is you asking powerful questions? How you prepare the agenda for the 1:1s?  How you know the 1:1 was effective, in other words, you empowered them vs you doing their job? Frustrating right? You need to think deeply about how to coach. Unless you have practiced effective coaching before, you HAVE to invest time to train Sales Managers in the art of coaching Sales Reps.

Second, Sales managers need to change their habits. Big challenge right? Well, the only way to change a habit or create a new one is by having a consistent and predictable way to measure how they are executing the coaching practice they learned, and how they can hold themselves accountable with the plan to improve it. Think about leading measures like type of topics addressed in the 1:1s, amount of time they spend talking vs asking powerful questions, the agenda itself, how they follow up agreed actions, how they measure Sales Rep satisfaction with their 1:1, etc. Build a sales coaching scorecard and make sure they use it to track progress and engage with Sales Reps to confirm they are following the discipline.

I know, there are many other ideas that you can implement to improve coaching and make Sales Reps productive and remove Sales manager's frustration, but focus on these two in your new year's resolution and I guarantee that not only you will achieve your goals but it will make their job a lot easier and enjoyable. DON’T WAIT until mid-year to think about it. The time is NOW.

Michele Lanzara is CoFounder of Convercio

Michele Lanzara is CoFounder of Convercio