A competent sales manager is one of the most important components in your organization when it comes to the creation of growth. The sales organization is a direct reflection of the sales manager's competetence and ability to coach and develop their team. Despite this, sales managers get none or little support for their own professional development.
Able and competent sales managers are investments with direct return. With their insight in technology, strategy and leadership they can create an advanced sales culture. They can also coach their sales reps to perform better and develop their sales capabilty. The opposite - a sales manager that stops developing - will just be a supervisor that maintains the status quo and in the long run a liability for the sales organization and the enteprise as a whole.
Despite this, sales managers' professional development is often a Do-It-Yourself project. Many organizations invest little or nothing in professional development for sales managers. Some sales managers manage to secure their professional development themselves, by staying alert and acting proactively. But most of them have trouble identifying what new insights they need, and where they can get them.
Sales management is not equal to sales
Many organizations invest in competence development for their sales reps but forget the sales manager. A study of 286 newly appointed sales managers show that as much as 57% were left without further professional development after assuming their new position . Many sales managers are promoted from a previous career as a sales rep. A common assumption is that top performing sales reps also have the right competence to become a top performing sales manager. Unfortunately, the sales competence they have developed during their sales careers is not sufficient. Successful sales managers need to develop a completely different set of competence if they want to lead a successful sales organization :
- Ability to think strategically: Sales managers who develop their ability to think ahead, use resources effectively, make good decisions, and plan effectively can also create a dynamic and high performing sales organization.
- Ability to identify talent: To recruit the wrong sales reps or miss the potential of existing sales reps may not only be costly but also decrease the effeciency of the whole sales organization.
- Performance management: The ability to manage deviations in performance clearly and quickly prevents them from escalating and becoming large problems.
- Target-oriented leadership: A competent sales team require leaders who set a vision, promote growth and development and knows how to communicate and inspire.
- Coaching: The ability to coach not only helps sales managers to share their insights and vision, it is also determining for the professional deelopment of each member of the sales team and one of the most important determinants of sales force performance according to ProSales' research .
Universities do not grow sales leaders
The share of sales managers with higher education is increasing, but this does no guarantee that they have aquired the right sales management competence. Most universities offer neither compulsory nor optional courses in sales management. According to Harvard Business Review only 101 out of 479 american business programs have sales courses in their curriculum, and only 3% offer an MBA specialized on sales management . Sweden's top business school, The Stockholm School of Economics, completely lacks sales courses in their curriculum. The probability is low that a sales manager, despite a bacholor or master in business, has got any additional development of their sales management competence.
Competence development for sales managers pays off
With this in mind, it is maybe not so surprising that investing in sales manager competence development has a positive effect on their level of performance. But you need to reach a "critical mass" in your investment. Most enterprises (23,8%) invest between 1.200 and 2.000 Euro per sales manager in competence development. However, there is a large difference between the outer limits of this range. Those who invest more than 2.000 Euros per sales manager and year have 9% higher win rates and 18% higher quota fulfilment than the average. On the contrary, those who invest below 1.200 Euros per sales manager has 9,5% lower win rates than average . Thus, not investing at all, or investing too little in competence development will not help you beat the average.
No matter what tool is used for competence developent (courses, mentors, networks, coaches or change programs) there is a safe return from these investments in the form of better performing managers and sales organizations. It also sends a clear message to the sales organization as a whole, which strengthens leadership and commitment. Organizations who continue to see their sales leaders as a cost or expendible resource will never reach their full potential. Those who see them as an ongoing investment will get a safe return.
 Cates, M. (2015). 7 Steps to Success for Sales Managers. Pearson Education.
 2016 STAR Sales Manager Report. Star Solutions.
 ProSales Institute (2014). Nordic Sales Capability Study.
 Fogel, S., Hoffmeister, D., Rocco, R., and Strunk, D. P. (2012). Teaching sales. Harvard Business Review, vol. 90, no. 7/8, pp. 94–99
 CSO Insights (2017). Sales Managers: Overwhelmed and Underdeveloped. Sales Manager Enablement Report.