Today’s post is by Mike Esterday, CEO of Integrity Solutions, the sales performance, customer service training, and coaching firm based in Nashville.
Sales leaders and managers: Before you read further, pause for a moment and reflect on a couple of questions:
- How much did you coach your sales team this week?
- How much last week?
- More to the point: How much have you coached your salespeople at all?
If your answer to one or all of those questions is “not much” or “hardly ever,” you’re not alone. In fact, you’re pretty much in the mainstream, according to new research that we conducted in partnership with the Sales Management Association (download the full report here).
In a nutshell, here’s what we found in our survey of hundreds of sales managers: 76% say coaching is strategically important. Yet most admit that they don’t do it.
Our survey also showed that nearly everyone defines coaching differently. And here’s the kicker: Managers who coach regularly—even if not particularly well—have teams that perform better. What’s more, managers who are really good at coaching—and stick with a consistent routine—have teams that perform dramatically better than others.
Our research findings are also clear on what people say about why managers don’t coach. The biggest reason given by most sales managers? They say they simply don’t have the time. But we see that as a convenient dodge.
As we all know, we find time to do what we value and what we believe will drive productivity. And here our research findings provide important direction: The average manager spends about seven hours a week coaching, if he or she coaches at all. But we found that those who coached at least 10 hours a week see a significant increase in their employees’ productivity—in fact, up to a 9% boost.
This isn’t about working more hours each week, though; it’s about working those hours differently. And for good reason. Coaching more drives better performance.
Our new research results confirm what many of us have known for some time: Sales coaching provides important leverage in an organization. But too often it is seen as a reactive activity—something to turn to when a salesperson has a problem or a set of challenges that need to be addressed.
Sales coaching might also be considered when someone’s at risk of quitting, or when you have a new employee who needs coaching to get up to speed or build confidence around your products/services. But coaching’s most important function is proactive, and it’s particularly powerful when it’s targeted at building motivation, purpose, and drive. The best of coaching is to build people—to get them to see a higher definition of their own abilities and empower them to strengthen their performance.
As we know, most people do more of what’s expected of them by their managers. And because only about 40% of the managers we surveyed said they are coached by their leaders, the message internally is loud and clear: “If I’m not being coached, and I’m not being held accountable to coach, then I’m not likely to do much of it.”
Of course, if everyone from sales leadership to managers to the front lines saw how valuable coaching is in its ability to improve performance and help the best get even better, sales coaching would be elevated and prioritized. In fact, that’s the way it’s already viewed in the top-performing organizations, which overwhelmingly tend to have excellent, established coaching cultures.
To join the ranks of the top performers, follow this six-point plan for building a more robust sales coaching culture.
- Define sales coaching. Clearly state what your organization believes sales coaching is and what it isn’t. (It’s building and developing people, not performance evaluation.)
- Implement a coaching system. Create a simple, structured approach that anyone can use, so that they’ll actually make time to do it, which will yield concrete results. The system doesn’t have to be time consuming to be highly effective.
- Build accountability. Make sales coaching a part of everyone’s performance evaluation. Senior leaders must coach managers and hold them accountable to coach. It needs to be clear that everyone is responsible for coaching, and that the role is proactive vs. reactive.
- Coach to motivate. According to our study, this can lead to a 15% increase in performance.
- Focus on everyone, including high performers. The biggest performance, business, and talent retention lift often comes from coaching people who are already good at what they do.
- Share best practices. This will maximize the impact and develop more coaching ability.
For more information, download the full Sales Coaching Practices Research Brief.