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4 Ways to Supercharge Your Sales Managers

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New sales enablement products and platforms seem to pop out of the woodwork every day. They all promise essentially the same things: that they will help sales reps articulate value, stay on message, close more deals and stick around longer.

But what about sales managers? In the marketplace as in the workplace, they can be a bit of an afterthought. Never mind the fact that sales managers must monitor goals and metrics, help reps hit targets, manage deadlines, and make sure reps are following the proper sales process. In addition, managers must put people over process and make time for things like coaching, mentoring, training and creating a positive team culture.

A great sales manager can be the difference between a high performing rep staying or going. They can also be the difference between an average performer moving forward, backward or walking out the door entirely.

With all that said, lets set the sales reps aside for at least one blog post. Let’s talk about strategies that will (pardon the hyperbole) supercharge your sales managers.

1. Get your training right

The training sales reps receive is much more likely be effective if sales managers reinforce it. But what if the training stinks to begin with? Many organizations spend time perfecting their competency models, then fail to provide training that is designed to optimize the learning experience and help reps actually perform those competencies.

If we expect sales managers to support and reinforce this training, we can make their jobs easier by making the training better.

2. Make it easy to spot knowledge gaps

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Sales managers already have too much data to look at. The CRM is full of it and it can be hard to find the most meaningful metrics. When it comes to supporting the professional development of sales reps, there are far fewer metrics to pull. Most training only tracks completion, and most it can be hard to observe sales reps enough to see behavior change without coming off as Big Brother.

Make sure at least some of your sales enablement and training tools measure knowledge acquisition and retention. For example, the ability to see a specific learning objective that sales reps are struggling with can help managers provide support on the right topics to the right people.

3. Provide tools that enable coaching at scale

How many sales reps are your managers responsible for coaching? No matter what the number is, there are still only 24 hours in a day.

In the long run, coaching is more impactful and meaningful to sales reps than the training they will receive. Unfortunately, today’s spread out sales teams make coaching difficult. When considering what learning technologies to incorporate into your sales enablement program, make sure a virtual coaching tool and/or asynchronous video role play are on the list.

4. Automate processes and remove roadblocks

What do sales managers really want? How about one less portal to log into, or one less task to remember to do? Sometimes, trainers launch a new big idea that sounds good in theory but just creates a lot of work for managers in practice.

Wherever possible, look for ways to trim down the amount of steps it takes for managers to perform value-added tasks. For example, we recently added a feature to Knowledge Guru that allows managers to receive automated reports on their sales reps’ progress at regular intervals. This way, managers receive data on what their reps know and don’t know that they can use for coaching without having to go to an app or website to access it.

Is Your Sales Enablement Sustainable?

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Most sales training professionals will tell you they are working within a “new normal” these days. The products they must train reps how to sell grow increasingly complicated. Customers are savvier than ever and often do most of their research before even engaging with a rep. Procurement departments aggressively look for ways to cut costs. Marketplaces grow more competitive as new players enter the fray. And for many industries, the regulatory landscape is harder to navigate with each passing year.

Want to learn more about sales enablement? Access a recording of our webinar: Sales Enablement & Beyond: Using Games and Smart Implementation to Drive Performance.

The end goal of sales training should be to equip sales reps to be a trusted advocate for their customers. When sales reps partner with their customer and invest in their shared success, the buyer and seller both win. This is obviously a tall order; it demands a high level of dedication from the sales rep and requires that they truly care about their customers’ outcomes. It also demands a lot from the trainers who must prepare sales reps to sell.

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With such high expectations placed on sales professionals, it’s no wonder that sales enablement has become a bigger focus for trainers. What training and resources do sales reps need to be able to become the trusted partner that customers want? How can important product information, and knowledge of the competitive landscape, be sustained and built upon long after a product launch event or national sales meeting?

Unfortunately, many of the sales enablement solutions and strategies organizations use today fall short of their intended goals. They are either unwieldy to access, focused on the wrong information or unresponsive to new regulatory changes. If trainers hope to increase knowledge retention after an initial learning event and engage sales reps with ongoing skill development opportunities, sales enablement tools must be carefully designed and implemented.

If your sales enablement tools and strategies have one or more of the following characteristics, they may not be sustainable practices going forward:

1. They are not connected to reps’ daily workflow

If your sales reps spend most of their time away from a computer, creating sales enablement tools that are only available on a desktop or even a tablet is a huge miss. Designing tools that are “mobile friendly” is no longer enough: sales enablement tools and strategies must be specifically optimized for the mobile experience.

If your sales reps work in a call center environment, the opposite may be true and they will prefer to access tools from the computer they use all day to sell. No matter where your sales reps spend most of their time, connecting sales enablement tools and resources to the CRM system is ideal.

2. They only teach basic features and benefits

Some sales enablement only focuses on the basic features and benefits of a product. However, customers increasingly need sales professionals to understand their unique pain and partner with them to find the right solution. If you only teach reps how to recite a list of product facts, you really have not prepared them to sell at all.

3. They don’t drive uniform messaging

The marketing department will, of course, tell you that uniform messaging is very important. When a product is complex and highly regulated, it is absolutely critical to ensure that sales reps are saying the same things, in the same way, around the world. This is where learning reinforcement stands out as a sales enablement strategy.

4. They don’t adapt with regulatory changes

Many of our clients work within highly regulated industries where the marketplace changes overnight. For example, the Affordable Care Act has caused health systems and hospitals to shift their focus from a volume-based model to a population management model where quality and risk reduction are king. Sales reps who are still carrying around the features and benefits of yesterday are unprepared to meet the needs of their customers, who now care less about volume and more about patient outcomes and reducing readmissions. For this reason, sales enablement content must be continuously audited and tweaked to make sure it encourages the correct behaviors and teaches the right messages.


Want to know about using games for sales enablement? Our Primer on Spaced Repetition and Feedback Loops shows how the spaced repetition and feedback in a game like Knowledge Guru can be great for knowledge retention.