So I talked with this guy the other day.

A sales rep named Ronnie. And you know what’s crazy?

Ronnie made it all gel for me.

Let me explain.

We were sitting in my den talking about how much fun it is when a tornado hits South Jersey.


(image credit: Gloucester Township Patch/Patch Media)

Ronnie was making his sales presentation and trying to put together a quote for some new windows when it happened.

You know...the price negotiation. I asked him if he could do any better and Ronnie pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. He talked briefly with someone back in the office to get approval on quoting me a lower price.

When he hung up with a “yes” (Sweet!), I asked him who he had called.  Do you know what Ronnie said? He was on the phone with the owner of his company.

So I asked him who helped him when it came to ride-alongs and one-one-one’s. He told me, “the owner.”

And that’s when it went from abstract to real-world. We’re squandering a huge opportunity.

Here’s a situation where the owner of a company essentially functions as a sales manager for nine sales reps. But it gets worse. Ronnie has a sales manager. When I asked him what his sales manager did, Ronnie explained that his sales manager acted more as an office manager.

It's time for businesses to think differently about training their sales departments. Can you imagine what would happen if the sales manager actually managed and coached the sales reps and left the owner free to focus on more strategic activities?

But Ronnie’s company isn’t an anomaly. Too many organizations make the same mistake when it comes to sales training. Maybe even yours.

Lucky for you there’s a little-discussed sales training tactic that will help you train your sales teams more effectively and get better results.

Mind the Gap

Do you ever wonder why sales employee turnover is high, or why performance metrics, goals and revenue or profit expectations are not achieved?

One reason is most companies waste the most critical opportunity they have to improve their sales effectiveness.

Think about it.

Ronnie was sharp. His presentation was polished. He came highly recommended and he knew his stuff. But let’s say he needs some help improving his sales skills. He has to go to the owner because his sales manager isn’t equipped to help him. The manager may want to help. But he doesn’t have the tools. And the truth is, the average sales rep turned sales manager isn’t armed with the tools to lead their salespeople either.

"The gap between sales managers’ skillsets and their desire to lead and coach their salespeople is a serious problem that hinders the performance of many of today’s sales teams. It’s not that sales managers don’t want to lead their sales reps to success; the problem really comes from managers not having the knowledge or tools that are needed to help their team succeed." ~The Brooks Group, an award-winning B2B sales training company

Still not convinced?

  • Drew Stevens Ph.D., a business development consultant and the author of Split Second Selling conducted research that showed 77 percent of the time managers make mistakes promoting sales reps into sales management.
  • Michelle Vazzana, co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code and partner at sales management training and development firm Vantage Point Performance notes, “when we follow their sales managers around and watch what they do, and when we survey their sales reps and ask what their managers do, we find an abject absence of coaching.
  • Forbes columnist Scott Edinger cites a study that shows without coaching, companies are wasting 87 cents of every dollar spent on formal development efforts.

Ill-prepared sales managers reporting past performance numbers instead of coaching to improve future performance. But can’t we fix that with sales training?

Yes and no.

Sales training doesn't develop champions. Managers do.

Let’s not pull punches.

It’s frustrating to see talent going to waste or managers struggling with people that don't work out. But, just like no football coach in their right mind would ever take the field without a plan, neither should a sales manager take the field without a plan.

Or if you pardon the mixed metaphor, instead of a plan, they need the skills to get the job done. Because when it comes down to it, the reason why sales rep turnover is high and performance and revenue are low is managers not having the knowledge and tools they need to help their team succeed.

Just like Ronnie’s sales manager.

If you want to get a better return on your training dollars, focus on training your sales managers, not your sales reps. That’s not to say your reps don’t need sales training. It’s just that one trained manager can coach multiple sales representatives and improve their overall performance.

Dale Carnegie blogged about the importance of preparing sales managers to coach the sales force.

"Managers need strong coaching and individual skills development abilities in order to become more effective coaches and increase the performance of the entire sales team. Sales coaching is a critical skill through which managers can help salespeople overcome obstacles and develop necessary behavior changes."

So train your sales managers on how to coach and empower sales performance and then let them do their job.

The Way to Save a Struggling Sales Team

If you want to save a struggling sales team, it’s going to take work.

But focusing your training efforts on the sales manager instead of the sales reps is a great place to start.

It’s also a more effective use of sales training resources. If you invest in training 10 sales managers and they then coach and develop 30 sales reps each, you’ve impacted 310 employees. Compare that with the cost of sending all 300 sales reps to a training event. Obviously, that’s a gross oversimplification but you get the point.

In his book Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives, sales training and coaching expert Keith Rosen observes, “most managers don’t understand...the difference between being a manager and being a coach.” Teach your sales managers the difference.

Because when you give your sales managers the skills to coach your sales reps, your sales reps get better at selling. When your sales reps get better at selling, they sell more. When they sell more, you make more money. See how that works?

And when it does work?

Don’t thank me....

Thank Ronnie.

How are you investing your training budget? Join the conversation by tweeting @HireVueSales

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