The #1 Differentiator In B2B Sales

Strong sales management capability is the most important piece when assembling an industry-leading sales force, and it may be the #1 differentiator in all of B2B sales. Stay with me for a moment while I explain why and what you should be doing about it.

Why is it that some sales forces succeed and others fail when they have roughly the same kinds of products, draw from the same talent pool, pay roughly the same compensation to sellers, and have nearly the same structures? The answer becomes clearer when you dive deeply (like my team does week after week, month after month) into what makes sales forces tick. The answer has little to do with highly differentiated products or low prices.

We’ve found that the difference maker is the sales management team and how well they execute their craft. Think about it. Sales managers set the pace and the focus for the sales organization. They play THE PIVOTAL ROLE in making sure that sales tactics align with and support the sales strategy, which is linked inextricably with the business strategy. They work to make sure that salespeople are focused on the right opportunities. Within the context of those opportunities, sales managers ensure that salespeople are talking to the right people about the right issues and opportunities at the right time. They ensure customer focus when the gravitational pull toward seller focus becomes too great for a seller to resist. They play the role of coach, cheerleader, and head trainer all at the same time.

These are the things that sales managers are supposed to do. Are they not?

Let’s consider that question with respect to your sales management team. How do your front-line sales managers spend their time?

  • Are they taking responsibility for keeping salespeople focused on the right opportunities and pursuing them in the right way?
  • Are they making the development of sales talent their highest priority? Are they investing time regularly into sales talent development, or is talent development often overcome by events?
  • What do they do to hone their craft as leaders and coaches in the time they have to develop themselves? Do they make time to develop themselves at all?

Rather than bludgeon you with ten more questions about sales management capability in your business, allow me to make a suggestion for today.

Check out the Table of Contents (pictured to the right) from, The Cadence of Excellence: Key Habits of Effective Sales Managers right now. Consider where your sales management team might have opportunity to improve, to lead more effectively, and to drive better sales results. Which of the fundamental areas highlighted in that Table of Contents resonates most with you as you think about your sales management team’s current capability?

Then, consider what you are doing to address those areas of sales management capability. Where are you missing the mark, either in your own development as a sales leader or in the development plan you’re developing or executing with others?

Next, jot down the really important business and sales outcomes you want to achieve over the next year or two on the top of a sheet of paper. Below that, write out where you are now with regard to achieving that outcome (e.g. current sales, current sales practices). Next, write down what your sales management team will have to do to achieve your desired outcome. Will they have to lead differently? How? Are there gaps between what your sales managers are capable of today and what they will need to do next year or the year after?

You’ve just begun the process of assembling both a short and a long-term development plan for sales managers, albeit at a high level.

This type of planning is essential to assembling and sustaining an industry-leading sales management team… your #1 differentiator. Put your draft sales management development plan in writing. Then, consider the questions: Are we investing sufficiently into the people who are most closely connected with our sales organization’s success? What investments might we need to make now to ensure that our most important competitive differentiator is developed and battle-ready for the foreseeable future?

Industry-leading sales organizations have sales management development nailed already. If you’d find value in learning more about how industry leaders look at and execute sales management development, we hope you’ll contact us to have a conversation.