Today’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.
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:
- They don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching.
- They don’t feel they have enough time.
- They’re concerned about hurting a sales rep’s confidence.
- 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.
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.