If organisations across industries hope to drive profitable revenue growth in a changing business environment, they must dedicate time, attention and resources to develop and maintain a strong team of first-line sales managers (FLMs).
This is the fundamental message in a new book by sales force effectiveness experts Andris A. Zoltners, Prabhakant Sinha and Sally E. Lorimer, Building a Winning Sales Management Team: The Force Behind the Sales Force (ZS Associates; July 2012; $29.95 Hardcover; http://bit.ly/BAWSMT).
Zoltners, Sinha and Lorimer urge management to ask pointed questions: What are the skills required for being successful sales managers? How can we factor these into our manager selection criteria to avoid the error of simply selecting those who have succeeded as salespeople? What steps have we taken to guard against role pollution or instances where our managers end up doing the job of salespeople? Are we doing enough to support our sales managers and help them adapt to their evolving roles and a dynamic marketplace?
As the first book of its kind, Building a Winning Sales Management Team offers pragmatic, actionable insights with real-world examples to guide organisations that wish to nurture successful sales managers and improve their company’s productivity. In developing the book, the authors worked closely with an advisory board of leaders from some of the world’s top organisations.
“A good first-line sales manager is worth 10 good salespeople, so a team of winning sales managers gives you an unbeatable competitive advantage,” said Neil Rackham, best-selling author of “SPIN Selling” and professor of professional selling at the University of Cincinnati. “Using practical examples, sound theory, and proven sales force wisdom, this book shows you how to develop that winning team.”
The new book continues a long lineage of pioneering thought around sales force effectiveness from sales and marketing experts at ZS Associates. Other books from the authors include: The Complete Guide to Accelerating Sales Force Performance, Building a Winning Sales Force: Powerful Strategies for Driving High Performance, The Complete Guide to Sales Force Incentive Compensation and Sales Force Design for Strategic Advantage.
Zoltners and Sinha, founders of global sales and marketing consulting firm ZS Associates, believe great managers profoundly influence sales force successes and failures. Their conviction has been reinforced over the years by directing and observing ZS consulting projects across dozens of industries and scores of countries.
“Leadership must carefully consider how the company hires, maintains and supports its first-line sales managers,” said Zoltners. “This group is a critical driver of sales performance, but role pollution, for example, can result in sales managers doing the job of salespeople or, in some instances, spending more than 30% of their time on administrative tasks. Underinvesting in this group is another key mistake. We expect sales effectiveness initiatives directed at first-line sales managers to boost corporate revenue by 10% or more in the long term.”
Sales managers are key to long term success and profitability
Co-author Sinha agrees. “Great sales managers either coach, counsel and motivate average salespeople or replace them with new talent until sales performance becomes excellent across the entire district or region. Sales managers today encounter challenges that range from more knowledgeable customers to a more substantial workload. Many companies, however, fail to equip their managers with the tools, training and support necessary to embrace, adapt and thrive in their changing roles as people managers, customer managers and business managers.”
Developing strong managers is also vital, the authors note, because even excellent sales managers struggle with change. Talented salespeople promoted to sales manager may find it difficult to direct former peers. More established managers may feel challenged to adjust to the Gen Y presence in the workplace. They could also be overwhelmed by the explosion of data, or the risks of communicating in a social media-driven, interconnected business setting.
Guide to sales management success
“Building a Winning Sales Management Team” is divided into three sections to help companies establish and sustain a strong sales management team: 1) define the FLM job to help execute the sales force strategy; 2) create a team of FLMs with talents and competencies to drive success; and 3) enable and encourage the sales management team to perform the right activities for driving sales force success. It concludes with a self-assessment tool that companies can use to determine the right priorities to start improving their first-line sales manager success drivers.
GE Corporate Officer Mark Vachon attests to the practicality and validity of Zoltners, Sinha and Lorimer’s new book. “We at GE have tested these principles and we’re believers. Ideas from this book helped us create growth and much improved customer connections.”
For more information or to order a copy of “Building a Winning Sales Management Team: The Force Behind the Sales Force,” visit: http://bit.ly/BAWSMT.