As sales managers, our main objective is to influence the future behavior of our sales teams to achieve sales targets. Period.
This is done by:
- Setting high—but reasonable—expectations
- Providing guidance on how to achieve those expectations (i.e. sales playbooks, sales processes, strategies, and tools)
- Providing effective sales training (outsourced or in-house) to enable the team to achieve those expectations
Once these three foundational elements are in place, we need to actively manage our teams with a formal sales management cadence to effectively:
- Coach the team
- Motivate the team
- Inspect the team
Though this may sound simple enough, there’s a catch.
The Challenges of Sales Management
We constantly face everyday challenges that prevent them from achieving our goal.
Our three key stakeholders (customers, CEOs, salespeople) have ever-expanding expectations. The pace of change is relentless and every once in a while, the economy/ environment kicks us in the tail to ensure we don’t get too comfortable sleeping well (see current turbulent times).
As a result, our coaching programs can suffer and so can our sales teams.
According to research from BlessingWhite, only 23% of people being coached thought that the coaching had a “significant impact on their performance or job satisfaction.” Amazingly, 10% even suggested that the coaching they were getting was having a “negative effect.”
On the other hand, statistics also show that coaching matters and is directly related to sales performance. According to the Sales Executive Council, sales managers that were rated as highly effective coaches outperformed sales managers who were rated as ineffective coaches by 19% in revenue production.
This means spectacular coaching is a crucial sales management responsibility and strategy if we want to build and sustain a top-performing sales organization that can yield exponential sales growth.
How to Improve Your Coaching Program
Here are three strategies to improve your coaching program as part of your sales management cadence today.
- Scheduling coaching events
- Stop giving advice and start asking better questions
- Understand the six types of sales coaching
1. Schedule coaching events
One-on-one meetings and time in the field with your salespeople are the opportune times for sales coaching.
When coaching in the field, ensure you reserve time to review the client call/ presentation after the activity. According to Michael Bunga Stanier in his excellent work the Coaching Habit, “People don’t learn when you tell them something. They don’t even really learn when they do something. They start learning, start creating new neural pathways only when they have a chance to recall and reflect on what just happened.”
We suggest reviewing a customer call or event by asking the sales rep to identify three things she liked and three things she would do differently next time. Then we (as the sales leader) share our opinion on the same. This allows the salesperson to first self-diagnose, thereby creating the learning moment.
2. Stop giving advice and start asking better questions
You may think you know the answer to the issues and challenges that your salesperson is facing. If you give them the answer today, you can guarantee that they will be back for a similar answer next week.
This creates a dependency cycle—they come to you for all of the answers in the future. The kind of people you want on your sales team are intelligent, driven, and humble. They want to develop and learn. You need to give them space to allow for this.
Try this as a process for your next coaching moment:
- Assess their situation
- Create great questions to help them come to the same assessment
- Align on your go forward plan together
- After the coaching event, ask them to send you an email summarizing the go forward plan or the key points of what you discussed
It is tremendously difficult to stop yourself from giving the answer when this issue seems so obvious to you. You want to be helpful, you want to show value, and you want to feel like you made a significant contribution as a sales manager. You think the best way to do that is to tell them the answer.
However, when you do this, you are missing out on an opportunity to develop your employees. It is your duty to make people who work for you better. Too many sales managers believe it is the salesperson’s duty to enable us to hit our numbers.
Remember, when you tell them the answer, they don’t always internalize it or commit to it.
3. Understand the six areas of sales coaching
When coaching your sales team, be intentional and work with them to ensure they understand and are aligned on the following areas:
- Mindset (extremely important during the isolation of these turbulent times)
- Skills and capabilities
- Territory management
- Sales process
We can either coach a situation or we can coach the person. One fixes an immediate problem and the other creates someone who will fix these problems without us in the future. Both are necessary.
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