Over the last two weeks, two prospective customers have approached me with different ideas they had for their businesses.

The first company wanted to hire a Director of Social Selling who could develop their social selling skills inside the business—almost like a train-the-trainer model, who could sell social selling to their team.

The second company told us they were struggling to understand how a multi-week training program (which could be a virtual, instructor-led training program with e-learning assignments) can actually transform a sales organization.

Both prospective customers were missing a key ingredient with their above ideas: that missing ingredient was frontline managers.

I’m here to tell you that frontline managers are critical to social selling success. In fact, 51% of the success of a modern, digital sales force is determined by the coaching and accountability driven by frontline sales managers.

“51% of the success of a modern, digital sales force sits inside the coaching and accountability driven by frontline sales managers” – Jamie Shanks.

The reality is that without frontline sales managers, no marketing department, sales enablement department or sales operations department has the competency or can drive the right accountability to ensure that the shift to modern, digital skills are learned and absorbed and transformed into real behavioural change—and ultimately into sales action.

Let’s look at the example of our prospective client who wanted to understand how a multi-week training program could transform a sales organization.

What they didn’t understand was that a multi-week program isn’t in and of itself the value driver – instead, the multi-week program is the kick-starter to injecting learning into the minds of the sales organization so they can start the motion of behavioural change.

Behavioural change only comes with coaching, and this is the role of the frontline sales manager.

The infographic below illustrates some ways the frontline sales manager can coach sales reps using the sphere of influence to segment accounts.

sphere of influence

Account Segmentation

How to measure success

The key is to increase the skills of frontline sales managers so they will ask the right questions, look for red flags and green flags, and help the seller understand where they’re they going wrong and what next steps and actions they should take to highly influence sales objectives.

3 Steps You Can Take to Ensure Success

Buy-in. You must get buy-in from your frontline sales managers. Without frontline sales managers believing that change is necessary, it doesn’t matter what tools, skills, and competencies you provide. If they believe the plays they’re running today are the only plays they should be running, you’ve got a completely different problem you need to solve. They need to get the team to buy in that change is good and healthy, and adopt the mindset of what are the things that we can do to highly influence sales objectives? They need to be bought in to whatever idea you have that is going to align with their sales objectives.

Train frontline sales managers. There is a definite lack of learning and development in the global sales performance space for frontline sales managers. They’re typically converted ex-sales people. They work with accountability coaches. So using the infographic above, they need to understand:
1) What is the sales play that will highly influence their sales objective?
2) What should they be looking for as an activity that is aligning or misaligning to that sales objective?
3) What are they going to do about it? How can they alter the course of that behaviour?

Accountability. The frontline sales manager will often report to secondary sales managers or leaders—they are often divisional presidents, chief revenue officers, SVP of a continent or country. These individuals need to hold the front line sales managers responsible for 1) running weekly one-to-ones; 2) injecting sales plays; and 3) giving feedback to the sales leaders (Chief Revenue Officers). They need to give feedback as to which sellers are applying the right behaviour, and which sellers aren’t.

All of these steps mean the difference between success or failure. They’re not multi-week e-learning programs, or a bunch of virtual instructor-led training sessions, or having one person develop this skill (like my first customer who wanted to hire a social selling director). None of those plays are strong enough to make change in the business without skilling up your frontline sales managers.

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Jamie Shanks

Author: Jamie Shanks

Jamie Shanks is a world-leading Social Selling expert and author of the book, "Social Selling Mastery - Scaling Up Your Sales And Marketing Machine For The Digital Buyer". A true pioneer in the space of digital sales transformation, Jamie Shanks has trained over 10,000's of sales professionals and leaders all around the world.

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