A front line sales manager has to wear many hats in the course of a week, for me the most important is to lead the execution of the sales process, and do that leading from the front. Key to that is a balance between Managing and Coaching, for a full view read The Yin Yang of Success for Front Line Sales Managers and The EDGE Framework for Sales Coaching Success.
A question that often arises, is should the front line also be training their team members as it relates to skills. Not the day to day honing of skills, or ramping up a new employee, but the type of training program Renbor or other training organizations traditionally deliver. Clearly I can be accused of having a bias, but I will try to keep that in check, feel free to keep me honest.
My personal opinion is that they should part of the training process, but should not, need not, and often cannot deliver training their teams need. This is not rooted in the negative, it is that many are not qualified, they have other priorities, and if it were already part of their routine, they would not be seeking, but doing.
I have had a number of sales leaders tell me that they know that their teams need training in one area or another, and in the same breath ask, “If I bring you in, how does that reflect on me?” This is usually put into context by highlighting the fact that “even Tiger Woods has a caddy”. This usually helps them understand that no one goes it alone, and need to rely on other’s expert input in order to attain their own objectives.
Lately the issue seems to be more economically driven, “let the manager train their teams, that’s what we pay them for”. I have seen this unfold in a number of ways, from one VP telling me each month he has one manger read a sales book and then “pass it along” to the sale force. I attended one session, it was more like someone delivering a book report rather than skills or knowledge transfer.
If in fact skills and knowledge transfer is the means to achieving sustainable behavioural change, change that is demonstrated by results, to by adopting buzz words or performing certain tasks, then it has to be structured, delivered effectively and supported through the adoption phase. This is why Renbor’s programs all include a formal “Follow Through Action Plan”.
Now we have all worked with organizations that have internal trainers, properly trained and qualified to educate adults in a range of skills and functions. With many of those organizations a Train The Trainer approach is logical and workable. But what a number of companies are asking for lately is a Train The Trainer, where the “Trainer” in question is the front line sales manager. To me this is a recipe for disaster, and this is not meant to be a knock against the managers, but I believe it put undue pressure on them and changes the nature of the relationship they have with their teams.
The reality is that many sales managers have yet to be fully trained on effectively managing a sales process and their teams. Many were good sales people who were given an “add-a-boy” and “rewarded” into management. New business cards, new office or desk, some training in diversity and dealing with sexual harassments, and bam, “you’re a manager, forecast meeting Friday”. See “Management by Osmosis“.
What’s the old expression “penny wise, pound foolish”, describes this approach well. Yes you can save a few dollars now, you can look to be creative and productive, but in the end, it is not only likely that you will not get the lift you need or the desired results, and in the process discourage both the managers and the front line team. I can understand the need to save, but in some cases it is better not to do anything over risking a step back just to be able to put a check mark next to the training KPI.
What’s in Your Pipeline?