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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Biggest Sales Challenges for Sales Managers in 2021

Biggest Sales Challenges

Building trust virtually, finding qualified leads, getting in front of the decision-makers — these are all challenges that salespeople face. And as a sales manager, you’re finding innovative ways to address these issues.

However, to become more effective in your role and provide a better overall direction for the entire team, it’s important to know the current challenges that sales managers face as well.

To help narrow down the current sales challenges facing sales managers, we asked our experts to weigh in. Here's what they said.

5 Sales Challenges Facing Sales Managers in 2021

  • Changing Workforce
  • Negotiations
  • Building a talent bank
  • Effective Communication
  • Accurate forecasting

1. Changing Workforce

“Many managers are grappling with how to successfully transition their team to a new workforce structure,” explains Beth Sunshine, VP/ Talent Services. “Those allowing hybrid work are concerned with how to maintain a strong culture and high levels of engagement when some people will not be physically present. Others are bringing all their employees back and facing resistance from those who were happier and more productive working from home.”

“Still others have decided to go to an entirely remote structure, and find they are dealing with pushback from those who need to physically interact with people during the workday,” she continues. “Although most employees were forced to adjust to a new work environment during the lockdown, each person experienced it differently and came out on the other side with a unique perspective on how they work best. That's exceedingly difficult for people leaders who are tasked with doing what is best for the company as a whole.”

Back in Office, Remote Work, and Hybrid Workplace – Tips on Making It Work

Of course, returning to “normal” isn’t just a challenge for sales managers.

"For salespeople, they've become accustomed to working from home and having virtual meetings. This was great when everyone was staying home, and it's still a nice option when meeting in person isn't possible, but now that we can meet again face-to-face, we should,” states Trey Morris, VP/Senior Consultant. “In-person meetings are better.  We’re able to connect more easily, keep people's attention, and gather a lot of non-verbal communication that you just don't get on a Zoom or Teams call.”

“We need to encourage our sales reps to ask for in-person meetings and be willing to take the time to do them. We, of course, will continue to have Zoom calls, but they shouldn't become our primary meeting venue, especially for first-time new business meetings."

2. Negotiations

"One of the biggest challenges that I see in sales organizations is the difficulty with raising rates,” states Morris. “Last year, too many companies lowered rates to keep clients spending in the midst of the pandemic. Today, those same clients expect to keep their lower rates. Account Executives need to be able to increase rates by demonstrating that the economic situation has rebounded and there is value in their products.”

“And sometimes, that requires AE's and companies to be willing to walk away from a deal if it means discounting their products," he states.

3. Building a Talent Bank

“We are having a tough time finding talented and experienced salespeople,” states Managing Partner Jim Hopes. “Given all the disruption of the last 15 months, you’d think this would be easier, but it’s not.”

“One of the biggest challenges I see managers facing today is the need for a stronger talent bank,” adds Stephanie Downs, VP/Senior Consultant. “Positions are staying open too long, which is costly to the organization, or we aren’t moving on non-performers quickly enough.”

“With the ongoing war for top talent, there’s a good chance that recruits are either currently employed or they have many strong options. Take the time to sell them on what it is like to work for you and your company. Finding superstar talent must be intentional, and that starts with blocking time on calendars each week.”

Talent Bank Status Report Worksheet

VP/Senor Consultant Emily Estey adds, “Recruitment is always a challenge and especially more so when the unemployment rates are low. It really takes a concentrated effort to build your company brand and promote it in a way that makes prospective employees pay attention.”

VP/ Senior Consultant Kurt Sima also feels that the biggest challenge sales managers face is hiring talented salespeople. “This has always been difficult, and it appears tougher now because many managers stopped recruiting during the COVID era,” he states. “The lack of ongoing recruitment depleted talent banks, causing most managers to restart their recruiting efforts from ground zero.”

4. Effective Communication

In addition to the challenges of a changing workforce and building a talent bank, Managing Partner Matt Sunshine also includes a challenge he’s seen among managers, which is holding sellers accountable without micro-managing.

“Two-way communication is key,” adds Beth Sunshine. “More than ever, employees need to feel informed and understand where the company is headed. Heightened communication and increased transparency can help them feel anchored and secure.  Also, leaders need to make sure they’re clear on how their people are feeling and what they are individually working toward.  Every employee has goals and expectations for their future, and it’s imperative that their manager knows what those are.”

“What I see as the biggest challenge AE’s face today is the fact that they’re having to learn how to communicate, build trust, and add value in a virtual world,” adds Senior Consultant Susan McCullin. “AE’s have been doing it out of necessity for the past year, but I believe it’s going to be important to hone this skill as it’s a new way to meet with a prospect or client.”

“Virtual makes it possible for more new prospect meetings in a day/week/month. Clients are desperate to find ways to bring their businesses back to life. The one who increases their expertise connecting with clients virtually will have greater success in the future.”

Maximizing Virtual Selling for Prospects and Clients

5. Accurate Forecasting

“Many managers are caught between re-opening plans and new restrictions given the COVID surge,” states Hopes. “It’s making it tougher to get them to plan and commit.”

Accurate forecasting has long been a problem for sales managers due to:

Salespeople lack sufficient knowledge of specific deals or fail to use a CRM system to help capture, report, and analyze facts and figures.

  • A lack of personal accountability.
  • Failure to clearly define or enforce standards.
  • A general inability to understand or calculate the realistic probabilities and closing dates for current deals.

How to Address Current Sales Challenges

“Managers need to think about what they’re doing to strengthen their culture right now and remember, what worked in 2019 probably won’t work now,” states Beth Sunshine. “Those bringing all employees back to the office will need to create a culture that feels good to everyone – especially those who would rather be working from home.”

“Those settling on a hybrid structure will need to create a strong sense of a purpose for all their people so that while they may not be physically together, they all feel connected to the same mission. And those moving to an entirely remote workforce will need to strengthen the bonds they share with every employee and activate a proven strategy to create a culture in a remote workplace.”

In addition to strengthening company culture, “You have to step up your recruitment work and look at new ways and new avenues to find talent,” add Hopes. “Personal networking seems to be the most productive right now.”

“At The Center for Sales Strategy, we’re trying to help our clients work through uncertainty by focusing on the needs they have in the business right now and allowing them flexibility in their commitments to us.  We find ourselves communicating more frequently these days, which has turned out to be a good thing.”

What are the biggest sales challenges you’re facing right now?

2021 Talent Magazine - Button

Topics: sales performance hybrid work