Sales managers have historically been viewed as the workhorses of the sales organization — critically important to the success of the territories they manage, but constantly distracted by putting out fires and fighting internal battles for their sales reps. As one chief sales officer (CSO) recently described, the frontline sales manager role has frustratingly become the “junk drawer” of the sales organization.
However, Gartner research reveals that high-performing sales managers disproportionately focus more of their discretionary time on customer-facing activities geared toward near-term commercial wins and don’t allow themselves to get bogged down by internal processes and requests.
“ Sales leaders must give managers air cover to focus on the activities that help them scale commercial impact”
“High-performing sales managers have a laser-like focus on helping sales reps get deals done. They’re not heads down in a spreadsheet running yet one more report, nor are they in internal meetings sorting out cross-silo conflicts or time-consuming requests for support,” says Brent Adamson, Distinguished Vice President, Advisory Gartner. “Instead, they focus on the activities that help reps help customers move deals forward.”
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Too few, however, are in that position. Gartner research shows that 58% of sales managers report they struggle to accomplish all the tasks they have been given in the time allotted. And 52% state they have to work around organizational processes to get their work done. This process burden can negatively impact a sales manager’s overall quota attainment by 18%.
Scale commercial impact
If sales managers are to deliver on the objective of scaling commercial impact, CSOs and other sales leaders must implement organizational changes to help relieve the burden of internal, low impact activities.
“Boosting manager effectiveness isn’t just an individual challenge, it has to be an organizational initiative at the same time,” says Adamson. “Sales leaders must give managers air cover to focus on the activities that help them scale commercial impact.”
“ Only add tasks to the sales manager role as a last resort; exhaust all other options first”
A Gartner survey of more than 300 sales managers shows that high-performing sales managers focus on activities such as adapting commercial messages to local markets, helping advance deals, negotiating for sellers and deal-focused problem-solving with sellers. These activities, geared toward more near-term deal execution, are often prioritized over longer-term skill and territory development by high-performing sales managers.
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Redefine the role
CSOs should consider these organizational design principles to help relieve sales managers’ internal burden and enable them to focus more discretionary time on activities that drive commercial impact:
- Reevaluate daily tasks. Step back and reevaluate sales managers’ daily tasks to identify those that truly belong in the sales manager role. Make sure that past precedent doesn’t determine current responsibilities.
- Disqualify low-impact tasks. Only add tasks to the sales manager role as a last resort; exhaust all other options first.
- Exercise caution. If you offload tasks, make sure to preserve critical responsibilities.
- Automate processes to protect discrete tasks. Processes are often easier to automate than discrete tasks. When possible, make sure to drive tasks into clear, efficient processes.