Why Sales Manager Motivation Needs A Makeover

This guest post was written by Jonathan Palay, Co-founder of CommercialTribe.

Why Sales Manager Motivation Needs A Makeover

Use new levers to improve performance

Previously, we explored the core drivers of motivation in the sales organization and why our traditional coin-operated, compliance-driven sales culture may finally be ripe for disruption in Why Seller Motivation Needs a Makeover.

Conventional wisdom suggests that we place more training and development emphasis on the seller. Look no further than the budget spent on training sellers vs. managers. In this article, let’s explore why the frontline sales manager is actually the key to change, their current sources of motivation, and how to disrupt the status quo to build a sustainable revenue generating machine.

Sales Managers’ Complex Task List

Most sales managers started as great sellers. Then, they are promoted into a management position where we expect them to gain a completely new skill set than the one that made them a successful seller overnight. Here are just a few of the common tasks sales managers are expected to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis:

  • Field Travel or Joint Calling
  • 1on1s and Team Meetings
  • Forecast Reviews
  • Pipeline Reviews
  • Deal Reviews
  • Account Plan Reviews
  • Territory Plan Reviews
  • Win / Loss
  • Quarterly Business Reviews
  • Performance Reviews
  • Hiring and Recruiting
  • Rewards and Recognition
  • Training

The sales management hierarchy uses Core Drive 8: Loss and Avoidance to drive compliance and ensure these tasks are happening on schedule. Are our reps doing effective discovery? Join the sales call. Forecast needs to roll up. Better vet it. Is a key deal we’re forecasting to close qualified? Deal review time.

We expect managers to perform these tasks. But doing them well…that’s another story. Try sitting in a forecast review and you may be less confident about the forecast, but you will learn more about that particular seller’s upcoming weekend plans!

Don’t Miss Your Quota

Managers, like sellers, are on a variable comp plan. But, instead of being responsible for one quota, managers are responsible for a team quota. The average sales manager gets about 50% of his sellers to goal, but that is not going to cut it. So how do sales managers make plan? Most managers have a couple stars they can count on to overachieve and maybe they even sell a few deals themselves.

The quota system relies on Core Drive 6: Scarcity and Impatience as managers race to capture their earnings opportunity for the time period before it evaporates. It’s no wonder busy sales managers feel justified abandoning some of the tasks we previously explored that don’t help them draw a straight line toward delivering their number this quarter. For everyone in the sales organization, the short-term pressure to hit quota can feel overwhelming. What’s a sales manager to do?

Overreliance on Black Hat Core Drives is Fatiguing

Core Drives 6 and 8 are Black Hat, making us feel obsessed, anxious, and addicted. While they are very strong in motivating behavior, in the long run they leave us feeling fatigued because we feel like we have lost control.

For the sales manager, this often means managing their team feels more like a game of Survivor than a successful career. When half of your reps are underperforming, you have open headcount and one of your best sellers is threatening to quit, it can feel like the job never ends. It’s no wonder managers are left feeling overwhelmed and underdeveloped. As a result, the tasks we expect them to perform to help their team hit quota are either sub-optimized or abandoned entirely.

Getting More Of Your Sales Managers To Plan

The sales manager role has gotten far more complex over the years, but we are still using the same motivational drivers to try to achieve our goals. With today’s millennial-minded sales manager who is looking to be developed and not just hit a number, these forces threaten to either burn people out or churn them out of your organization entirely.

Sales and enablement leaders need a thoughtful plan to counteract these forces that drives long-term engagement and skills mastery. These are known as White Hat drivers. White Hat drivers make us feel powerful, fulfilled and satisfied. It may sound obvious, but consistently getting more managers to plan relies on getting more sellers to plan. And the only reliable way to get more sellers to plan is to develop your sales managers into coaches.

Light The Coaching Fuse

We’ve all had a coach at some point in our lives. When effort meets opportunity it feels like anything is possible. That’s what it feels like to be coached. On the flip side, coaching has its own rewards. Phil Collins said: “In learning you will teach and in teaching you will learn.”

Use Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling, to help your sales managers realize their higher purpose beyond just delivering their team quota. The best way to tap into their inner Tony Robbins is to coach the coach. Observing sellers in action to provide coaching is commonplace through joint calling or even field travel, but for some reason we don’t apply the same philosophy to our managers. Help them realize their calling by sitting in a one-on-one between manager and seller. Don’t talk, just listen, and then use this observation to coach the coach. Coaching your managers to become better coaches will light the motivational fuse that reminds them why they became a sales manager in the first place!

Give Your Sales Managers A Choice

To many, coaching is one of those disciplines that is way more art than science. But if you are going to democratize coaching for all your managers, you will need to demystify what the best coaches in the world do intuitively.

Use Core Drive 3: Empowerment and Creativity to not only get all your managers on the same page, but also make them feel enfranchised in the process. To do so, look no further than the list of activities expected of sales managers we discussed above. I’m sure you have a point of view on what should happen during those activities. Build a list of criteria.

Now here’s the magic: Put those criteria in front of your sales managers and let them choose which criteria matter to them. What they choose may be different than what you intended but by giving them a choice, they are FAR more likely to use them to coach their teams.

Time for Your Motivation Makeover

The Black Hat core drives that motivate sales manager behavior aren’t going away anytime soon. And even the White Hat techniques discussed won’t be sustained without becoming part of a larger system that makes managers feel like coaching isn’t such a deadlift each time.

Think about what drives motivation for your sales managers. Do you feel like the shoe might drop any quarter? Is it time for a sales manager motivation makeover? Try integrating these white hat techniques into a quarterly plan focused on improving one interaction within the teams workflow. For your sales managers, the goal is to establish a system that puts sales team development on auto pilot.

Jonathan Palay is Co-Founder at CommercialTribe, a SaaS platform to onboard, develop and coach sales professionals.  Read more of Jonathan’s work here.

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3 thoughts on “Why Sales Manager Motivation Needs A Makeover”

  1. This is such a helpful article, I am developing a gamified sales platform and I had not taken in consideration the manager’s role as a key part of productivity… I would love to maybe have a 15 mis talk with you sometime to see what you think of our work. Thanks for the good reading!

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