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In many sales organisations, a few top performers tend to totally crush their numbers. While others struggle just to hit quota.

To boost overall performance, companies invest heavily in sales enablement — tools and training designed to help each salesperson up their game. However, according to conclusions  from CSO Insights, the research arm of sales and service solutions provider Miller Heiman Group, many companies may not be targeting their enablement spend effectively.

CSO Insights found that while sales enablement investment continues to grow, sales quota attainment actually decreased between 2013 and 2016.

The research group’s year-over-year survey findings highlight a strong correlation between sales team quota attainment and sales manager chops. But a full 18.6 percent of organisations said they don’t prioritise sales manager training — more than three times the number who fail to invest in upskilling salespeople.

In this post, we cover the top three areas to consider when looking to empower your sales managers.

  1. People

The ‘people’ area of sales manager empowerment concerns helping managers develop individual members of their team and improve sales performance. Coaching and recruitment are often the first things that come to mind — but it also involves developing manager interpersonal skills.

Through the 2017 CSO Insights Sales Manager Enablement Report it was established that 75 percent of participants had either random or informal approaches to coaching, with random leading to below-average win rates. Yet, by formalising their approach, win rates improved by 11.5 percent over the study’s average.

To enable sales managers when it comes to people, coaching practices should be formalised and managers should be given sufficient time to carry out their coaching duties.

Recruitment can be further enabled by the marketing department, for instance through social media content outreach and engagement, so that vacancies attract a better range of candidates.

  1. Customers

Many selling experts discuss “sales 2.0” and “sales 3.0”: concepts reflecting a sea change in how sales organisations think about their customers. Now it’s common to conceptualise the customer journey as the design point for internal processes. And it’s often the sales manager who serves as the primary driver of customer-centric behavior — by acting as a role-model for the rest of their organisation.

As Research Director at CSO Insights Tamra Schenk said, “The sales manager is the salesperson’s frame of reference… Managers directly impact what, where, how and to whom the salesperson sells.”

Consider investing in helping managers develop and improve their own selling and customer management skills. Once properly educated, they can hopefully make better strategic decisions, while mentoring their team on leading edge sales strategies and concepts.

  1. Business

Finally, many sales managers, especially those promoted from ground-level sales roles, tend to lack business management skills that make up a fundamental part of their new job. Part of the challenge is shifting their focus from themselves to their team and to the business as a whole.

Building sales processes to include a single view of prospects, including critical sales information like customer buying behavior, preferences and status, lead information and accounting information, can equip sales managers to improve results. But an improperly trained manager may find themselves lost in sea of data if they don’t have the right skills to orient themselves.

A truly holistic sales enablement strategy therefore works to equip sales managers with the right tools and also relevant business capabilities, including advanced knowledge of things like funnel management, performance management and forecasting.

There are many benefits to this approach. Not only does it lead to better planned and executed sales processes — businesses leaders stand to gain as well. With the insight and knowledge of skilled sales managers, leaders will be better able to make important strategic and tactical decisions, or to implement changes at the very top level.

Monika Götzmann is EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales and services solution provider that helps organisations adapt to ever-changing customer behaviour with its customer experience training.