Virtually everything one reads about driving sales performance and productivity focuses on the sales person. 1000’s of books and articles provide endless advice to help improve sales people skills. Billions are spent in training and skills development—all focused on the sales person. Billions are spent on tools–again all aimed at the sales person.

Increasingly we are recognizing the impact that managers have on individual and team performance. There’s a lot of data about the impact of disciplined approaches to coaching on sales performance. Win rates are much higher comparing those managers having a disciplined approach to coaching versus those that provide no or informal coaching.

Likewise, revenue attainment, quota attainment, virtually any measure we have shows how front line sales managers have huge impacts on sales performance.

So much of what we look at in sales enablement focuses on enabling sales people—but there is scant discussion about this for sales managers–particularly frontline sales managers.

There seems to be a feeling that just because they have the title of “manager” they must know how to do the job.

Recently, I conducted a roundtable discussion with managers from a number of companies. Some were experienced managers, some were relatively new. None of them had any training on their roles as managers, all had been tossed in and expected to learn through osmosis. Few had any coaching from their managers–most discussions focused on forecasting (is there anything else that managers ever talk about?). There were discussions about problems–problem people. Discussions about overall organizational performance, and programs du jour to get performance back on target.

When I asked the group if they had any coaching from their managers, less than 20% replied they had.

Frontline sales managers represent the highest leverage we have in driving individual and team performance. We know all our money invested in training is wasted unless the front line sales managers is coaching and reinforcing things on an ongoing basis. We know unless they are recruiting and onboarding the right people, unless they are setting and managing performance expectations, the organization won’t perform.

But how do managers learn about these things? Where do they learn about why this is important, what do do with who, and how to be most effective?

Just because they have the title of “manager” doesn’t reduce the need for training, development, and ongoing coaching. Even as a top “C-level” exec, I’ve always learned from the training I may have gone through and actively sought coaching from my manager–in a few cases, this meant members of the board.

For front line managers this is even more important. If we expect them to maximize the performance of their teams, we have to do everything possible to help them be successful–maximizing their own performance.

Front line manager training, development, coaching has a huge payoff–it enables these managers with the skills, knowledge, and tools to drive performance in the organization.

It’s time top sales execs started to recognize this. It’s time to start focusing on the development of these managers.

If we aren’t making these investments, how do we ever expect to have the investments we make in our sales teams pay off?

What are you doing to develop and coach your front line sales managers?