Why Sales Managers Also Need Sales Training

There’s been increasing attention given to the need to train sales reps in a business environment that features customers who are far more informed than ever before. This is certainly true. And yet, lost in that emphasis and focus is the other crucial element – the need to train sales managers in addition to reps.

It’s a void that becomes apparent when one notes that despite the investment in sales enablement at the rep level, fewer and fewer sales reps are achieving quota – a fact supported by several studies. One of the reasons for this downward trend may stem from a lack of sales training that managers receive. As CSO Insights notes, almost 40% of organizations spend $500 or less annually on sales manager training. The Association for Talent Development similarly found that only 11% of companies offer their sales managers extensive training and 22% don’t train them at all – compared to 66% of those same organizations that train sales reps at least annually.

In that same study, ATD found a statistically significant positive correlation between trained sales managers and direct reports meeting quota. The reverse was also true – untrained sales managers led to worse sales performance.

Different Types of Training Are Needed
Much as sales reps are often differentiated in the type of training they need, dependent on vertical, industry, and role, so too it goes with sales managers. If managers oversee account managers, that’s going to require different training from a manager who oversees frontline sales reps, and the same is true for managers who largely handle sales development specialists and those who work with more inside sales reps than outside ones.

While the majority of sales manager training is in leadership and coaching, there’s a need for more practical, day-to-day localized training related to the types of reps managers have under them. All the leadership and coaching ability in the world will do little good if a manager doesn’t know how to develop to the particular skills of an account manager, for example.

Low Demand, Short Supply
Part of the larger issue lies in the fact that there’s comparatively little demand for sales manager training. It’s something we project will change as companies start to realize that the disconnect between their investment in rep training and quota results often lies within the need for sales managers to also be trained.

ATD also notes that accompanying a sluggish demand for sales manager training is a lack of viable vendors to provide that training. When sales managers do receive practical training, it’s usually in the form of an additional coaching class geared to reinforcing the skills and knowledge taught to sales reps in a larger concurrent training event (The sales managers in this scenario will often attend the training event with the reps). Full disclosure: We offer train-the-trainer courses.

The Old and New Sales Worlds
Another reason sales managers are in need of training is because many of them thrived and were successful in the years prior to the informed digital age customer. Thus, the tactics and strategies that worked in the pre-global Internet explosion won’t in this new age, where transactional sales are giving way to automation via AI and clients are hungry for sales through consultation and strong relationships.

In consequence, today’s sales managers have to refresh and update their selling knowledge and acquire the skills to be able to teach that knowledge to their team. Even those who have current market and customer knowledge still often require training in how to pass along that information. It’s a bit like when you were in class and wanted to study. Asking the smartest person in the class often wasn’t helpful – the course came naturally to them and if they didn’t have teaching skills of their own, they wouldn’t be able to explain what was innate. We strongly believe sales people are taught rather than born, but there are admittedly certain personality traits that make adapting to the career much easier.

With a changed marketplace, more knowledgeable consumer, and falling quotas despite sales rep training investment, it’s clear that there is a huge opportunity in ramping up sales manager training. Educating and developing your sales managers will strengthen the top of your sales teams and trickle down to more effectively improve your sales reps – thereby generating the sales results you seek.