Sales Coaching Feed

The Business Case for Sales Coaching

Norman BeharToday’s post is by Norman Behar, CEO and managing director at Sales Readiness Group, an industry-leading sales training company that helps industry-leading companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales-management training programs. Follow Norman on Twitter @NormanBehar.

 


Sales coaching empowers sales reps to improve selling skills and close more business. Industry research backs this up. For example, CSO Insights has uncovered the relationship between companies that have coaching programs that exceed expectations and the percentage of sales reps achieving quota.

Reps-Achieving-Quota-Chart

Despite the compelling research, most managers spend the bulk of their time on other activities (e.g., selling, preparing forecasts, attending meetings) and neglect to develop the one skill that can have the biggest impact on sales.

At Sales Readiness Group, we’ve typically found that managers have four responses when we ask why they’re not investing more time in sales coaching: 

  1. They don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching.
  2. They don’t feel they have enough time.
  3. They’re concerned about hurting a sales rep’s confidence.
  4. They’re not sure how to coach.

These are all legitimate concerns.

Response #1: “I Don’t Understand the Benefits of Sales Coaching”

Industry data is compelling, but it’s clearly not enough to prove the impact of sales coaching. Sales managers need to understand why coaching has such a high return on investment. Let’s start by defining sales coaching: Sales coaching focuses on helping reps develop the skills, knowledge, and use of strategies that improve sales results.

Based on this definition, the reasons why reps benefit from sales coaching are straightforward. Those who are well coached have better selling skills and strong industry and product knowledge. They also know how to think strategically about sales opportunities to generate higher, more profitable sales.

Response #2: “I Don’t Feel I Have Enough Time”

Sales managers work extremely long hours, especially when you take into account traveling, preparing forecasts, and attending internal meetings.

In most cases, however, a significant amount of their time is spent in their role as chief problem solver, as opposed to “sales enabler.” They often find themselves responding to sales reps’ requests for assistance to resolve client issues and opportunities. While this may have great short-term benefit in terms of closing more business, it undermines what should be their longer-term objective, which is to help sales reps learn to solve many of these problems on their own.

For example, a sales manager may be able to tell a sales rep what he or she should do to advance a stuck opportunity. In doing so, however, that manager has lost the opportunity to allow the sales rep to explain what he or she thinks are the best options, consider other options, and discuss how to best proceed given the alternatives.

While coaching will require more of the sales manager’s time in the short term, it ultimately leads to a more productive, empowered, and motivated sales team. In turn, that frees up the sales manager’s time.

Response #3: “I’m Concerned about Hurting the Sales Rep’s Confidence”

This concern is warranted if the company lacks a coaching culture and uses coaching as a way to critique bottom performers.

First and foremost, coaching needs to be genuinely helpful and focused on rep development. Second, coaching is rarely successful with reps who have a history of poor performance. Sales coaching is best when focused on middle and even higher-performing reps who have the capacity and desire to improve. The following chart illustrates where sales coaching can have the greatest impact and where other management actions are required.

Sales-coaching-diamond

Coaching is about moving the middle and, ultimately, improving sales rep performance and increasing confidence levels as reps develop even better selling skills.

Response #4: “I’m Not Sure How to Coach”

While some sales managers may have natural coaching instincts (i.e., a desire to teach and help others succeed), there is no reason to expect that a manager will know how to coach without coaching skills and a coaching process. Fortunately, there are a number of great sales-coaching programs that sales managers can take advantage of, including SRG’s High Impact Sales Coaching program.

Becoming a great sales coach requires time and dedication. It is, however, not only worthwhile in terms of business impact, but also in the satisfaction the sales coaches feel as they see their reps’ selling skills and confidence grow.

If you’re looking for more insight on sales coaching, I encourage you to get this free guide on High Impact Sales Coaching. Download it now to access expert advice on essential sales-coaching skills.

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Four Warning Signs of an Unstable Sales Team

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global.

 

 


Usually, we can tell a lot about the stability of a sales organization by asking both leaders and direct reports one simple question: “Do you have a clear and compelling sales strategy in place?”

When we ask sales leaders this question, they almost always answer yes. When we ask their direct reports the same thing, they almost always answer no.

What’s the disconnect here?

It is vital that sales leaders tie the daily activities of salespeople directly to the larger goals of the organization. If your employees can’t easily make this connection, you are trying to steer a ship without a rudder. Over the years, we have learned to look for four big warning signs that a sales organization is drifting off course.

Warning sign #1: People in your organization believe that priorities shift a lot.

In many organizations, people either don’t know what to focus on, feel they’re constantly being pushed in multiple directions, or just feel overwhelmed by conflicting and ever-changing agendas. These perceptions translate into an overall sense of confusion, frustration, and disengagement. As a leader, shifting priorities might be a sign that you are making it too difficult for your people to say no and spend their time in the most productive way. It is also a sign that your strategy is not as clear as it needs to be. 

As a leader, make sure that you clearly communicate the top two or three priorities for each team, and make it easy for people to take lower priority items off their plates.

Warning sign #2: People have a laundry list of long-term goals they’re trying to meet.

Leaders at the very top are thinking about all kinds of problems day in and day out, but your managers and salespeople don’t always have the luxury of looking at the big picture and identifying the critical few priorities; that’s what they rely on you to do. When you ask people what they’re trying to accomplish in a given fiscal year, they should name no more than three big goals. 

As a leader, make sure that you help them identify the critical few moves that will make the biggest impact.

Warning sign #3: People are quick to point fingers and blame each other for problems.

The blame game is a common symptom of a directionless organization. If your team is highly focused on assigning blame for mistakes, screw-ups, and failure to meet goals, they’re treading water. You never want to get to the level at which people are more invested in the politics of running a business than actually engaging in business activities. You need to step in and get your team thinking about solutions and collaborations, rather than divisive political maneuvers.   

As a leader, hold people accountable for results and act decisively to quell overly political maneuvers.

Warning sign #4: People are unclear about how their success is measured.

Left to their own devices, people will often pursue either the most urgent items or whatever activities will lead to the highest personal gain, rather than pay attention to the strategic goals of the business as a whole. Salespeople should always be crystal clear about the criteria on which their performance is based.

As a leader, make sure that you measure and incentivize your team to pursue activities that align with your larger strategy. 

Staying vigilant about these four warning signs can save sales leaders a lot of headaches. Strategic clarity can create enormous performance leverage. For example, over a recent four-month period, we helped a high-growth client decrease internal conflicts by 38 percent by simply increasing goal clarity by 6 percent. 

Most sales leaders make assumptions that employees understand far more than they actually do. Make sure you find out what your team really thinks.

Read more in our white paper, "Top 5 Warning Signs that Your Performance Environment May Be in Trouble."


The Plight of a Sales Manager

LaVonKoenerLaVon Koerner is chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Join Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, 2014.

 

 

No other role has undergone more change and is under more pressure to achieve greater results with fewer resources than that of a sales manager. Sales managers receive less support, training, and pragmatic tools for managing their ever-increasing number of direct reports and are expected to hit ever-increasing revenue targets in shorter amounts of time. 

The plight of a sales manager is intensified by the following:

  • Most sales managers have never been properly trained for the jobs to which they have been promoted.
  • Most sales managers have been revenue heroes but are unable to replicate their personal approach.
  • Most sales managers fall into the trap of closing business themselves because they do not have the time, methods, or science to develop such skills in their own people.
  • Most sales managers live a hectic life of reactively running from person to person and from pursuit to pursuit in hopes of finding a way to make their numbers.
  • Most sales managers have no coach, no coaching process, no developed coaching skills, no coaching governance, and work for a company that has no coaching culture.

Given these points, is it any wonder that sales managers are experiencing one of the highest turnover rates of any position in the corporate world? Here are two seemingly counterintuitive principles that aspiring managers should practice, although the principles may be both uncomfortable and unconventional. 

Be in the Game but Not on the Field

If you’ve watched or played sports, you may know that, when the manager of a sports team crosses into the field of play, you will immediately see a flag or hear a whistle signaling that a foul has been committed. In the business world, there are no flags or whistles to identify the violation of an important business-management principle. This judgment is left to the self-policing of a disciplined manager.

Generally, sales managers fall into one of two camps: the Post-Game Clips Manager, who focuses on the post-game analysis, or the Star Player Manager, who runs onto the field to ensure that the big plays are successful. While these two types of managers may seem very different, they both make the same mistake: trying to achieve short-term results rather than develop their people for repeatable gains. Both of these management styles are doomed to failure in the long term. Their misguided plans, no matter how well intended, will eventually come up short. 

In order to be in the game but not on the field, one has to be committed to the value of coaching. Coaching brings you into the game while not being on the actual field of play. If the manager does not have frequent and consistent coaching sessions built upon a well-designed and healthy coaching culture, then the chances of this principle being implemented are slim to none.

Following this principle allows the manager to advance the pursuit while still advancing the talent. Only coaching can produce both short-term and long-term sustainable results.

Be in Touch but out of Reach

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It enables managers to increase their span of control while reducing their time of control. Managers who feel constant panic from being behind and overwhelmed covet immediacy. 

As with all good things, however, too much can turn bad. Our marvelous new technological capabilities must be used with restraint. Immediacy and speed can become the adversary of intimacy, and quickness will be the enemy of quietness. Managers who deliberately make themselves unreachable by turning off their cell phones for set periods of time will be better positioned to develop their team and strategize for success. In our fast-paced, plugged-in world, there is no substitute for deliberate contemplation of people and issues.

Managers who spend quality time one-on-one with their people will reduce time to performance. How long does it take a manager to transform a new hire from a “cost center” to a “profit center,” which is when the new hire achieves increased self-sufficiency and role proficiency? This simply cannot be accomplished without uninterrupted, dedicated time focused on helping an individual overcome his or her personal challenges and skill deficits, so he or she can break through to the next level of performance. 

Leadership is not possible without vision, and vision is not possible without careful and thoughtful consideration. Stop the noise and think about the big picture. Take the luxury of dedicated time and apply it to a specific situation until breakthrough thinking is attained. Then, turn the technology back on and lead with the courage of your newfound convictions. 

Faithful adherence to these two simple but profound principles is key to raising your management proficiency.


Turnover: The Silent Sales Killer

TroyHarrisonToday’s post is by speaker, consultant, and sales navigator Troy Harrison, author of Sell Like You Mean It! Email him at Troy@TroyHarrison.com, or visit www.TroyHarrison.com.

 

 

I answered the phone this afternoon, and an earnest voice said, “Hello, Mr. Harrison? This is Chris, and I’m your new representative with Company X.  I’m calling to introduce myself and see if we could set up a time to chat so I could learn about your business, and we could see if Company X could do more for you.” 

Company X is a vendor with whom I have done business for six years. I’m loyal to this company because it provides a service that helps me. I spend quite a bit of money with this company, and I’m sure that when Chris looked at my account, he figured he had a pretty solid customer and a good sales call. That’s why I’m sure that my response was a huge surprise to him (and it might be to you, as well).

“I’m sorry, Chris, but that wouldn’t be a good use of my time or yours,” I told him. Chris seemed shocked, so I decided to explain fully. 

“You see, I get a call just like this every six months from your company. About every six months, more or less, I have a new rep who wants to spend time being a resource to me. I’ve had several of these conversations, and I just don’t have the time for another. I’m already buying what I need from your company, so there’s no up-sell potential for you. I wish you the best. I have your contact information, and if I need you, I’ll call.”

He said, “Well, I do appreciate your candor.”  

I told him, “I’m not trying to be rude. I’ll tell you what, call me on your one-year anniversary, and I’ll give you all the time you want.” 

Chris was disappointed, but I meant what I said. I doubt, based on past experience, that I’ll get that call on his one-year anniversary.

Turnover in sales is a sales and relationship killer. Sooner or later, customers get tired of hearing, “I’m your new salesperson.”  For those salespeople who jump jobs and are saying, “I’m now with a new company,” your customers get tired of that, as well. In both cases, credibility and relationships are the victims.

The reason I wouldn’t speak with Chris was exactly as I told him: it wouldn’t be a good use of my time. By the time he’s getting it figured out, he’ll probably be gone, and I’ll be getting a call from yet another new salesperson. I like to train salespeople – but only when I’m paid to do so.

Here are the raw facts: there is a learning curve for salespeople in any job. Stats show that salespeople reach basic competence in six months, become profitable for the hiring company between month 12 and month 18, and don’t reach full productivity until year three or year four.  When salespeople change jobs within that three-year window (or worse, the one-year window), that tells me that they don’t know what it’s like to reach full productivity.

Ultimately, excess turnover is a problem for our profession, but there are a few things that salespeople, sales managers, and company owners can do to curb it.

For Salespeople

Stand and fight. There are many stated reasons that salespeople short-time a job; however, the main reason is that things get a bit tough, and the salesperson bails. Sales isn’t always an easy career, but the best, most successful salespeople fight through the problems and emerge victorious. 

Stop chasing shiny objects. One of the biggest reasons for turnover is that salespeople chase.  What do they chase? Shiny objects. To put it another way, they chase the new opportunity that seems so much better than the current job – more money, better technology, different territory, etc. I recently interviewed a guy who said that he was a “chaser of the best technology in [his] space at any given time.” This was to explain six job changes in the last 10 years, none of which produced significantly better results or income. Don’t get me wrong: I know that there are times when the only way to advance your career is to make a change, but those changes should be infrequent and well thought out.

For Sales Managers

Hire smart. Too many hires are simply future turnover in the making. Sales managers, lacking a good basis or tools for hiring, simply make “gut hires” that don’t produce results. Lower turnover is the result of good hiring practices.

Coach before firing. Once you have hired someone, you owe it to yourself, as well as to your hire, to give him or her every reasonable opportunity to succeed. That means termination should be a last resort, not a first. The first resort is to troubleshoot and coach your salesperson. You should terminate only when you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you gave your salesperson a shot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that both hiring and coaching are well covered in my Unconventional Guide to Sales Management audio course.

For Company Owners

Take a long-term approach. Building a quality sales force isn’t something that happens week by week or necessarily quarter by quarter. It happens over the long haul. In the case of the sales rep who contacted me, I’m sure that ownership or upper management has established a set of standards that basically wash out new sales reps after about six months, hence my frequent calls from new reps. 

Hire a quality sales manager. Quality sales managers coach and improve sales performance; they are drivers of the sales effort, not the passengers. If that’s not your sales manager, it’s time to invest in coaching or training for that person – or rethink who you’ve put in that managerial position.

Turnover has many costs, but it doesn’t have to be a sales killer. The right approach to building a sales force can greatly reduce turnover – which puts profit on your bottom line.