As a sales manager, you’re constantly juggling. You have to close deals, coach and develop direct reports, put out fires and explore new sales opportunities — to name a few. With all the competing priorities, it’s no wonder sales managers don’t always have the time, resources or energy needed to develop each direct report. Today the average manager oversees nine direct reports. If a “ball” has to be dropped, it’s likely the direct report’s coaching that loses out, as it’s thought to have the lowest impact on the commercial organization.
42% of managers say they lack the confidence to develop the skills that employees need today
According to Gartner research, based on a comprehensive study of more than 7,000 employees and managers across 18 functions and 25 industries, as well as qualitative interviews with learning and development and sales leaders, the average frontline sales manager has seven direct reports but devotes just 9% of his or her time to developing them.
Managers are expected to coach and develop direct reports continuously, but 42% of managers say they lack the confidence to develop the skills that employees need today. This deficiency is borne out in responses from reps. Only 38% say their manager helps them develop the skills they need for their role today, and just 34% say they are being prepped for their future.
“Managers significantly influence reps’ intent to stay, so between the underperformance of direct reports and the cost of replacing sellers who leave, a single ineffective sales manager can cost a company as much as several million dollars,” says Cristina Gomez, Practice Leader at Gartner.
The Connector manager drives a clear, outsized positive impact on frontline performance
Why do some sales managers drive higher sales rep performance, and how can that be cascaded across the organization? Our research shows that different types of sales managers score differently on coaching effectiveness.
Types of managers
From Gartner’s analysis of nearly 7,000 employees and managers across functions and industries, four distinct approaches to employee coaching emerged:
When comparing these approaches to coaching, the results were shocking. The “Always-On” manager degrades employee performance, while the Connector manager drives a clear, outsized positive impact on frontline performance compared to the other three coaching approaches.
How do Connectors drive sales employee performance?
Connector managers improve employee performance by up to 26% and make their direct reports three times more likely to become high performers. They realize that in today’s world there’s an overabundance of information and it is impossible for one person to know it all. As such, they tap into resources across the enterprise when developing sellers. This includes leveraging product leaders, resident subject matter experts, finance or procurement teams, and peer managers with relevant experience. And, Connector managers tap into sellers’ peer networks.
Connector managers also scale their coaching by bringing their teams together to solve common challenges or work through specific scenarios. This enables all to benefit from the answers, coaching and guidance provided.
“In our sample, only 26% of sales managers took the Connector approach,” Gomez says. “Sales organizations must hire and develop more Connector sales managers.” Success requires organizations to support Connectors with the tools, training and resources necessary to help them harness the power of the entire organization in developing their direct reports.
Learn more: Develop sales managers who drive performance
This article has been updated from the original, published on July 13, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.