We spend lots of time and money focusing on onboarding new sellers. We provide training, tools, content to reduce their ramp time. Managers spend time helping them become productive.
Ironically, we provide very little in the way of onboarding new managers, particularly new front line sales managers. Typically, the process is: “Lisa, congrats on moving into the front line sales manager role…… I need an updated forecast by Tuesday!”
Managers are thrown into the role with little training and, too often, little understanding of their new role. As a result, it shouldn’t be a surprise they fall back to what they do know—the things they did in their previous job as a seller. They become the “lead seller” for their team, but fail to do the things that are most critical to their new role as front line managers.
It’s no wonder so many fail—and it isn’t their fault!
It is critical that we onboard new managers, at all levels. Things that are critical include:
- Clear understanding of the roles/responsibilities of the job. It’s to maximize the performance of each person on the team.
- Clear understanding of how their performance will be measured, and how the performance of their people will be measured.
- Training on performance management, coaching, developing the capabilities of people. There should be a huge focus on communication skills.
- Training on the performance management process–key metrics, forecasting, pipeline management, and so forth.
- Training on the tools they need to use to support doing the job. For example, sales managers use CRM in different ways than sellers use them. Managers need to understand how to use these tools effectively.
- Training on time management, managers allocate their time differently than sellers. In our work with managers, we’ve found time management to be one of the most critical issues they struggle with.
- Training on the recruiting, hiring, onboarding process. They will be expected to hire new people, but if they’ve never done it before, they will struggle and make mistakes.
- Training on dealing with problem performers.
- Communication/behavioral style training. In our work with managers, we find this is overlooked. We’ve seen many managers doing the right things, but they can’t connect effectively with their people.
- Clear understanding of the business strategies/priorities and how to translate these into action with their sellers. The manager’s job is to translate corporate strategy into execution with customers. But if they don’t understand this, how can we expect them to to it.
- Understanding of how things get done within the organization. A key aspect of the manager’s job is to get resources and support for their people and to help them get things done for their customers. Too often, mistakenly, we believe they can figure it out.
- And, of course, there’s overlap with what we train sellers on, the sales process, selling skills, industry/market/customer focused skills, and, of course, our products/solutions.
Finally, just as coaching is the highest leverage activity they can do with their people, managers need to be coached by their managers. The content of this coaching is different coaching people, but the process is similar. We need to coach managers on how they are coaching their people, business management, how to manage performance, time management/prioritization, problem management, and others.
And this process isn’t just for front line managers, it’s critical for all levels of leadership. Senior leaders need training and onboarding. The process may be very different at senior levels, but it is still critical for everyone in the organization.
We spend billions, every year, in training and onboarding sellers. We invest only a small fraction of this in training and developing managers–yet they are the most important in driving seller performance.
Perhaps it’s time to rethink this.