Sales managers aren’t really cloud people. They’re focused on more ground-level matters—like directing salespeople and hitting sales goals. So who could blame the honest sales manager hoping to sit out the cloud craze? After all, we pay Marketing and IT to manage these items, don’t we?

It turns out that the cloud’s already-significant impact on sales organizations is hardly ethereal, and is in fact reshaping sales management practice. The Sales Management Association’s recent web panel on Managing the Cloud-Enabled Sales Force offered fascinating insights on how this is happening.

Panelist Dustin Sapp, president of TinderBox, pointed out that cloud-based consumer services (like music or photo storage) are resetting employees’ information consumption appetites within enterprises. Salespeople expect immediate access to information—and assume management will communicate with them in a similar, real-time fashion. Training, content delivery, performance management, and coaching are evolving from episodic, one-to-many interactions to a steady stream of highly relevant, tailored communications, delivered at the optimal moment. These changes necessitate a manager being capable of adapting action plans to rapidly-evolving information, and accommodating complexity.

Cloud-related changes are also getting sales managers out of the nannying business. Knowing where salespeople are and what they’re doing used to burn plenty of sales manager cycles—cycles better allocated to higher-value work. For that matter, getting salespeople to input CRM data—management’s antiquated preoccupation—no longer suffices as a technology adoption measure, or as a justifiable investment of salesforce effort. Firms are automating (or greatly simplifying) salesperson data capture, and shifting focus to how information gets applied versus how it is collected.

Bob Sanders, CEO of AXIOM Sales Force Development, suggests an often-overlooked impact of this phenomenon: technical aptitude is now an essential competency required of salespeople and their managers—even those in low-tech industries. Job candidates without fluency in cloud-enabled applications are already a tough sell to prospective employers. Managers who are uncomfortable adapting new cloud-enabled applications arrive at the table with no assurance of getting a seat.

Overwhelming the sales organization with data and technology risks undermining productivity. Avoiding this unintended consequence has everything to do with coaching, suggested panelist Adam Gilberd, Senior Area Vice President of Commercial Sales at As Gilberd points out, “Account Executives who are coached well are 30% more likely to hit their number.” Management coaching alleviates salesperson “analysis paralysis” by connecting information to productive activities, in the context of skill development.

Cloud technology’s impact will be reflected in managers’ increasing adaptability and technological fluency, by distributed decision making and faster decisions, and (somewhat counterintuitively) by improving salesperson productivity through coaching and development–human interactions enabled by the automation of lower-value activities. For those managers, the cloud is more silver-lined than dark, and certainly more substance than hype.

About the author: 


Robert Kelly is Chairman of The Sales Management Association, a global, cross-industry association for sales management and sales operations. The Sales Management Association serves members in 35+ countries with research, content, workshops, and peer networking. Continue this discussion with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and at the 2014 Sales Force Productivity Conference, 15-17 September.



Learn how cloud-based CRM systems can grow your business with our free e-book. Download your copy by clicking the button below.

CRM ebook