Sales Managers as Agents for Change

Sales Managers are critical change agents who can help your organization overcome the pains of technology adoption. Unfortunately, this pivotal role is frequently the most underdeveloped component of the change management process....
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Have You Considered Adoption?

When you invest in a new process or piece of technology for your sales team, you’re asking your reps to embrace change. And even when change de-hassles, increases output, or improves efficiency, change comes with its fair share of challenges.

The promise of future gains doesn’t always offset the immediate pain of forgoing what’s familiar, i.e. exchanging that cheeseburger for leg day at 6 am. Making healthy lifestyle choices stick requires desire, discipline, and dedication. The same goes for innovations in your sales team.

While some reps will be able to tap into their internal motivational drive to make the necessary adjustments to their routine – weighing the choice and determining that the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs of change – others will put up a fight. Luckily, you have a staff of personal trainers available to help them over the hump. We call them Sales Managers.

Sales Manager as Change Agent

Sales Managers are critical change agents who can help your organization overcome the pains of technology adoption by reinforcing the importance of the mission, providing ongoing guidance and support, and driving accountability for reps and leadership. Unfortunately, this pivotal role is frequently the most underdeveloped component of the change management process. 

When a new piece of sales technology is launched, most of the attention is focused on training and enabling end-users. Sales Managers are often consigned to the margins of the project, their role limited to passively monitoring adoption and usage – or lack thereof. This is a mistake and a primary reason that promised returns on technology investments fail to materialize due to anemic adoption and underutilization.

Your managers need to be directly involved in the change management process to ensure the success of your sales technology launch. Positioned correctly, they will drive alignment and rally support for mission objectives. They will provide post-training reinforcement and support to help reps overcome obstacles to adoption and utilization, and they will hold both their teams and leaders accountable for the overall success of the project.

Winning Hearts & Minds

Your decision to invest in a particular piece of sales technology likely didn’t include a significant amount of input from your reps or their managers. The organizational objective driving the purchase decision might be several steps removed from the everyday concerns of those in the trenches, and yet their buy-in is essential for the success of the mission.

Sales Managers can play a key role in helping you win the hearts and minds of the end-users, which is where your success ultimately lies. Start with a clearly articulated mission statement that identifies the objective of the investment, the specific challenges it will address, and the role each member of the team will play in its success. This mission statement will serve as a guidepost to ensure all parts of the organization are tracking towards a common goal, while also driving unity and alignment amongst your teams.

Winning hearts and minds also requires empathy. Sales Managers are uniquely well-positioned to provide insights into potential sources of friction or frustration prior to launch, to listen for signs of discontent after rollout, and to proactively respond so that rep concerns are acknowledged and addressed. Since many of these concerns will involve changes to familiar workflows and processes, Sales Managers will also be well-suited to offer compromises and accommodations to minimize disruptions. 

Providing Guidance & Support 

Training and enablement in support of a new sales technology are rarely (read: never) a one-and-done proposition. A couple of live training sessions and a link to online resources aren’t enough to get the job done. Behavioral change doesn’t happen overnight. Driving adoption and consistent utilization requires ongoing guidance and support. 

Sales Managers are the first to detect adoption challenges, utilization issues, and performance shortfalls that undermine the success of technology initiatives. They function as an early warning system that can help you head off problems before they become a full-blown crisis. Clearly defined KPIs and success metrics allow them to track progress toward goals, identify training gaps, and provide the necessary interventions to get things back on course.

Sales Managers are also your direct line of support to front-line reps. Team meetings and one-on-one sessions provide opportunities to correct problems, reinforce positive behaviors, and ensure reps have everything they need to be successful. Managers can provide insight into the pervasiveness of a problem to determine if you’re dealing with isolated issues that require individual attention or team-wide deficiencies that call for additional training and resources. 

Driving Mutual Accountability

If the mission statement defines the overall objective of your technology initiative, success metrics are the waypoints that signal how well your team is tracking toward the goal. Paraphrasing Peter Drucker, management and measurement are inextricably linked. Success is the shared responsibility of front-line reps and leadership alike and Sales Managers are the key to driving accountability at both ends of the organizational spectrum.

Sales Managers hold reps accountable for success by monitoring adoption and usage, incentivizing positive behaviors, providing remedial help to overcome potential problems, and ensuring they have the support they need to do the job. Accountability is more than just measuring the delta between expectations and actual performance – it requires an accurate diagnosis of the underlying causes of deficiencies and timely corrective interventions to close the gap.

Sales Managers hold leadership accountable for success by pushing back against unrealistic performance expectations, providing early detection of potential problems, and lobbying for additional resources and support as necessary. Accountability is a mutual obligation shared by all members of the organization, and Sales Managers are the connective tissue between leadership and the front lines. 

Enabling Sales Managers

The best way to ensure the success of your technology initiatives is to empower your Sales Managers to be change agents. Equip them for success by:

  • including them in the decision-making process – their proximity to the end users can provide valuable insights into potential obstacles to adoption and utilization that can only be managed if anticipated;
  • inviting their participation in training and enablement planning – their understanding of workflows and behaviors can help you minimize disruption and find accommodations that lessen the impact of change;
  • training them to use the tool and monitor its usage – managers who understand what their reps are being asked to do will be able to answer questions and provide guidance, as well as monitor utilization and performance to track progress and identify problems;
  • empowering them to solve problems – whether that means addressing performance shortfalls at an individual level or calling for organizational support to address systemic deficiencies;
  • providing opportunities for feedback and assessment – schedule regular check-ins with managers to report back to leadership in order to detect problems early, intervene appropriately, and ensure success.

While some of your sales reps will embrace the change that comes with new technology and new ways of doing their jobs, many will feel the same dread they associate with that 6am leg day workout. Just as having a personal trainer can help them summon the determination to make it to the gym, having an engaged and empowered Sales Manager can help them make the changes necessary to deliver the expected results from your technology investments. To learn more about optimizing your sales team, click here.

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Sapper's sales prospecting team becomes a natural extension of your existing sales efforts, helping you find new leads that are a great fit for your business.

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