Most CROs and CSOs (let’s call them Growth Executives or GE’s) have grown into a management position over several management roles, but most of their direct reports have not. What should a Growth Executive expect from direct reports, and how do they measure success? This article is focused on GE’s expectations from their direct reports, and also touches on what the GE direct reports expect from them.
Here is a quick sales strategy checklist. How are you doing?
This article is broken down into 5 components based on best practices collecting data from over 50 Global Sales leaders. The overall trend is that when all 5 of these are in your annual operating rhythm and measured, it will reduce Sales Manager attrition by more than 20% and will improve overall Sales AE productivity by more than 27%.
- Leadership Means Setting the Tone for the Action
- Coaching Your Team to Run the Plays
- Execution Means Process, Discipline, and Reporting
- What Is the Best Way to Manage Talent
- Sales Enablement Is the Key to Driving Productivity
1. Leadership Means Setting the Tone for the Action
Being a great leader means your sales managers need to establish the “performance conditions” and manage or coach them based on the ELT strategy. Once the top-down annual plan is created, the bottom-up execution plan gets built. Great GE leadership means working with sales managers to ensure that their team has a plan that is actionable, realistic, and well documented. Great leaders lead by example and have a playbook. Below is an example of what a Sales Manager should be thinking about in building their playbook.
2. Coaching Your Team to Run the Plays
Great sales coaching is the role managers play in developing people, improving performance, and achieving goals. Sales coaching is not a task; it is a behavior that focuses on helping team members self-assess and self-discover ways to solve problems and grow. Sales leaders and their Account Executives (AEs) talk on a regular basis with forecasting calls, pipeline reviews, and one-on-ones. But typically, what is missing is the process of coaching. A recent survey shows that 89% of all AEs stay with a company for 4 reasons: Boss, Leads, Territory, and Compensation. Boss success is a direct result of good coaching. Sales Managers blame turnover on things out of their control, but it is usually the manager’s fault. Coaching takes time, effort, and skill.
There will always be other priorities, but making the important initiatives successful requires reinforcement and coaching. Sales Managers bring the sales strategy to life and can only do this by coaching people to excellence. Click here for 5 secrets to great sales coaching.
3. Execution Means Process, Discipline, and Reporting
Sales execution is a combination of people and processes that guide the customer journey through the sales funnel and ultimately closing the deal. Some of the high priority items focus on process, discipline, and reporting. A recent blog on the 8 Disciplines of Sales Execution shows where you might focus on your next QBR or team meeting.
What leads to the biggest gaps in execution: tolerating below average attainment, below average pipeline, or AEs not running the sales process? Execution gaps need to be closed. How do you choose which ones to go after?
Execution Gap 1 People—Sales Manager Tolerating Below Average Quota Attainment
Solution— Replace the bottom 10% Sales Managers in the next 30-days. Complete a stack rank with your sales managers. And then stop coming up with all the reasons why you can’t. They will thank you. Put them back in a sales territory and let them thrive. Our research continues to show the bottom 10% of sales managers are actually great AEs; they are just miscast.
Execution Gap 2 Performance Condition—Tolerating Below Average Pipeline
Solution—Implement a disciplined Sales Management cadence. The single reason why a low pipeline happens is sales managers are not paying attention to it on a regular basis. Things happen slowly, then suddenly. All of a sudden, you realize the only discussions your managers have been having with their AEs are late-stage opportunities. Starting in your next quarter, drive a weekly or bi-weekly cadence into your sales management team. A critical component of this is the 1 on 1 between the sales manager and AE. 5 items to always cover:
- Mid and late-stage pipeline is reviewed
- Amount of net new pipeline created since the last meeting
- Developmental items from time spent observing them in field
- Longer-term development issues for a career path
- Internal struggles/challenges the AE needs coaching to resolve
Here is a great blog on Sales Manager Meetings to use as a best practice guide.
4. What Is the Best Way to Manage Talent
Talent is hard to recruit and hard to manage. Successful sales managers manage talent from sourcing to succession planning. It is always hard to decide when to make talent decisions. A recent blog on upgrading talent talks about 3 key things: is low performance my fault, are the sales AE completing the proper activities, am I coaching the AE according to their strengths and weaknesses? One of the key elements of talent is your ability to attract and retain A-players. How good are you at it? The pressure to fill the position sometimes outweighs good judgment. There also needs to be good qualitative and quantitative evaluation criteria in place to measure talent.
5. Sales Enablement Is the Key to Driving Productivity
Sales Enablement is the second component of AE success. Remember, it is always a combination of skill and performance conditions. Sales enablement creates performance conditions and starts with an overall charter, program design, and skills assessment. It then creates a sustainable program that includes process, playbooks, training, certification, and coaching. Great sales managers know the gaps in their teams and implement a sales enablement program for each of their AEs.
Attached is a great article by Ray Oram from IBM talking about transforming the selling experience. In the article, he talks a lot about the enablement engine, but remember the GE needs his managers to drive the process.
The bottom line is CROs and CSOs should expect their sales managers to execute and manage the people and performance conditions with discipline and rigor. Here is a checklist that could be useful.
No matter what, it is all about execution. If you don’t feel like you have the best practices in the 5 areas mentioned in this article, send me an email, and let’s spend 20 minutes together discussing your strategy.