Every survey we see continued declines in sales performance–across all industries and across every dimension. In response to these declines, organizations invest millions in technology oriented to helping improve the efficiency of sales people. They invest millions in training, hoping to provide the skills to help sales people. They invest millions in content and other programs, hoping to provide that stuff which, somehow, is supposed to help sales people perform.
All those are important investments, but, again, they don’t seem to be moving the needle. Yet we tend to pour millions into providing more and more of these things.
Ironically, perhaps the single most important investment we can make in driving sales performance, has little attention and significantly smaller investment. That is, sales management—particularly front line and middle management.
What would happen to performance if we started paying attention to management–both who we put into management roles, how we coach and develop them, and how we drive performance through them?
Gallup* has run a comprehensive study across millions of employees in several hundred thousand business units. The research was conducted across all parts of organization, not just sales, but I believe the results are indicative of what we see in sales performance.
The conclusion is, the single biggest impact to driving superior performance among teams is the quality of its management. That is, over 70% of the variance between high and mediocre or worse performance was directly tied to the quality of management. No other factor in the study came close.
Gallup’s survey focuses on engagement, finding only 34%, 53% dis-engaged and 15% actively disengaged.
Within sales, we continue to see data that mirrors this. Turnover in sales organizations is skyrocketing, average tenure in sales and sales management roles is declining t0 15-19 months.
The manager is the most important individual in driving that engagement. They create the environment in which people work every day. They translate the strategies, goals, priorities, values, and culture of the company to every one on the team. They are accountable for helping each person on the team perform, not only in the current job, but helping them grow in the organization.
It’s these front line managers that have the most impact in creating places where people want to work, where they feel they can have an impact, where they can contribute and grow.
Sadly, we do very little to help managers fulfill that responsibility. First, too often, we put the wrong people into management. People who may have been superstars as individual contributors, but have none of the attributes critical to leadership.
Then, we do little to coach, train, develop those people so they can perform as leaders, maximizing the performance and engagement of each person on their team.
Sadly, the investments we make impact less than 30% of what separates top performers from all others. It’s understandable, both high and low performers are spending money on similar things—technology/tools, training, content, and programs. Those don’t tend to be the differentiators–or possibly those aren’t as impactful absent great leadership.
If we want to drive consistent top performance in our people, the single best investment we can make is in management. Getting the right people in place, developing, coaching them and assuring they are working with each person maximizing their own performance.