The Scalable Sales Manager: The Key to Unlocking Your Sales Teams’ True Potential
by Howard Brown, CEO of ringDNA
The role of Sales Manager has always been one of the hardest jobs in sales. Tasked with recruiting and hiring, overseeing large teams, providing guidance and training, building culture, setting quotas, creating sales plans, analyzing data, forecasting, assigning territories… the list of responsibilities is as diverse as it is long. To say that sales managers have their work cut out for them would be a massive understatement.
As businesses today look for ways to improve their sales team’s performance, a lot of emphasis has been placed on finding tools that help increase the efficiency of their reps. With the assumption that sales is a numbers game, companies think that being able to increase the number of calls, demos and leads will invariably mean better sales. To a degree this strategy can help, but it misses a very crucial component of sales – improving effectiveness. This is where great sales managers come in.
Onboarding and training reps is a massive undertaking for any sales organization, but one that every organization knows is critical to their success. Sales managers must train up new reps on products, talking points and value propositions, objection handling, sales operations, and much more, and do it as quickly as possible so they can begin hitting quota and contributing to the company’s bottom line. Of course, they must also do this effectively so they can be confident that when these reps hit the phones and get in front of prospects, they are representing the company well. To be successful requires a level of personalized training and ongoing engagement that can eat up most of a sales manager’s time.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most incredible sales managers in my career, and they are often some of the hardest working people in any organization. However I’ve also seen in companies around the world how often sales managers are spread too thin, asked to do so much without the systems and tools in place to make them as effective as they need to be.
For a role that impacts revenue so directly, the question becomes – how do we get more out of a role that already gives so much. Unfortunately, technology has not found a way to increase the number of hours in a day, but what it has figured out is how to scale the capabilities of one person so they can make the most out of their time.
Managing At (Impossible) Scale
The potential and promise of Artificial Intelligence has long been a debated topic, but in recent years we have started to see how AI can really impact the sales industry for the better. This ranges from AI-powered Chatbots that can help increase real-time engagement with prospects to AI-powered conversational intelligence that can help reps understand how to have better conversations. An area less explored however is how AI can actually help scale sales managers.
In a traditional sales organization, sales managers have to listen in live on calls (when they even have time to listen at all) to be able to give feedback to their reps or help them address tricky questions from prospects like competitor differentiators or pricing discussions. The problem is, sales managers can only be on one call at a time. That was until AI came around.
Helping sales managers know when and where to focus their training efforts at ridiculous scale is one of the biggest promises of AI in today’s sales industry. With the power of AI, sales calls can be recorded and automatically transcribed and analyzed for key insights that help improve sales reps and entire sales organizations. These AI-powered insights can also be plugged into training documents and onboarding materials that help managers train new reps faster by showing the techniques that actually move the needle.
Imagine a world in which every sales call had a manager listening in for guidance and feedback in real-time. With the rapid evolution of sales technology, and the growth of AI, this dream is becoming a reality for companies all over the world, and sales managers are reaping a lot of the benefit in their own roles.
An Up-To-Date CRM – No Longer a Pipe Dream
Another area of frustration that has plagued sales managers forever is getting their teams to input all of their customer data and feedback into their CRM. I once spoke to a sales manager who talked about dedicating an entire day (they dubbed it Salesforce Fridays) to getting their teams to update all of their data in Salesforce. Not only is this an inefficient process that would drive even the most organized manager crazy, it actually hurts a company’s bottom line by keeping sales reps from doing what they do best – selling.
This is another area in which sales technology is rapidly changing the lives of sales managers for the better. Many companies today are leveraging Sales Engagement Platforms (also called Sales Enablement Platforms) on top of their CRM as a way to make the jobs of sales reps easier. What these platforms also deliver is processes by which reps no longer have to manually upload data to CRM.
That loud applause you just heard is sales managers everywhere celebrating no longer having to hover over their reps to get them to upload important data so they can properly track campaigns or forecast revenues.
The Sales Manager of the Future
So as technology continues to help improve the role of sales managers and scale their capabilities, what does that mean for the transformation of the role? What does the sales manager of the future look like, and what will they do?
First, sales managers will be able to spend a lot more time with their reps, getting to know them better, understanding what motivates them, and learning their strengths and weaknesses. Sales managers have always played an instrumental role in the recruiting process, but now they can lean in further and spend more time nurturing the talents within their organization. Sales managers know as well as anyone, finding the right people to join an organization is crucial to its growth, but so is keeping those people around. As their roles evolve, sales managers will be able to build even more meaningful relationships with their teams and spend time helping each rep grow within their organization and in their own career.
Second, sales managers can focus more of their time on making sure sales and marketing teams are truly aligned. By being able to work with marketing and customer success teams to better understand what customers are looking for and what campaigns are producing the best leads, sales managers can turn this level of insight into real dollars by routing highly targeted leads to the reps who are best trained to manage each type of inquiry. This highly targeted approach would have never been possible in the past when managers had to spend so much time focused on trying to make each rep better as a whole rather than being able to focus on individualized training that enables each rep to do what they do best.
Finally, sales managers of the future will begin to play a more prominent role in the high-level strategy of a company. The role has always been uniquely positioned to understand and impact many levels of the revenue process, but day-to-day tasks have often made it difficult for them to impact results and ideas outside of the sales team. As processes become more efficient, and sales teams become more effective with the increased usage of sales technology platforms, sales managers will be able to spend more time analyzing the insights gathered along each step of their sales funnel and help executive teams better understand where to allocate resources or how to develop product strategies.
It’s truly an exciting time in the sales industry as technology is opening up new opportunities for sales teams to deliver increased value and create more human connections with customers. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the role of sales managers, even as this important role somehow still flies under the radar in many companies. I have no doubt however that the power of the sales manager will only grow, and the spotlight will only get brighter on what this important role can achieve with the right systems and tools in place to allow them (and their sales teams) to reach their full potential.
Author Bio: Howard Brown is the founder and CEO of ringDNA, where he fosters an innovative, fast-growing and collaborative culture. A three-time entrepreneur and former clinical psychologist, Howard’s thought leadership on sales, entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence has appeared on Bloomberg TV, FOX Businesses, Forbes, and Entrepreneur Magazine, and he is a frequent speaker at industry conferences such as Dreamforce and AWS Reinvent. Howard has been listed as one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2019 by Goldman Sachs, and a top CEO according to Comparably.