To compete in the marketplace today, companies must first identify the sales coaching needs of their managers and the strengths and weaknesses of the salespeople they coach. We know that in order to differentiate in business today, salespeople must be consultative, have great interactions with clients, provide solutions that solve their problems, and also create revenue for the company. Their sales coaches play a large part in their success.
How does a company create an effective sales coaching program? Experience tells us that most companies are good at setting sales goals and measuring results, but the statistics around frequent, one on one coaching tell a different story.
Weaknesses of Sales Managers as Coaches
Let’s look at the weaknesses of most managers as coaches:
- Do not consistently coach and debrief.
- Ineffective at joint sales calls.
- Do not ask questions.
- Have a need for approval from salespeople.
- Rescue salespeople.
- Do not have a sales process.
- Ineffective at getting commitments.
- Beliefs do not support coaching.
- Do not have goals and a plan.
- Do not know what motivates salespeople.
Less than two percent of managers are adept at identifying sales coaching needs and coaching those needs. There are many reasons for this, but among them are: they themselves were not coached or they had a bad experience with coaching; they were elevated to a team lead or manager position based on their sales success and not their coaching performance; and they have not had any coaching training, either formal or informal.
There are some simple, concrete steps managers can take to initiate an effective sales coaching program. It begins with managers developing an understanding of what motivates their salespeople. Less than seven percent of sales managers know the personal goals for their people. Since most salespeople today are intrinsically versus extrinsically motivated, this is key in the manager-salesperson relationship as well as the salesperson-client relationship.
Effective coaching occurs when a manager is proactively asking questions of their team members, giving feedback on a regular basis, and showing a genuine interest in the development of the salesperson.
Effective Sales Coaching
To get started, managers should:
Set time aside for a personal goal discussion
This should be done in-person or via a video conference call so that there is eye “contact.” Salespeople are motivated first by their personal goals. The goal is the find out what drives the producer and what is important to them. Encourage them to dream big and free think about their life goals, including family and personal aspirations. No goal should be too big or too small. After that, goals should be translated into SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based) goals.
Set professional goals
Begin by asking the salesperson to consider how meeting their professional goals can help them reach their personal goals. Working with the salesperson, set professional goals that not only include targets for sales, cross-sell, and retention, but also what the salesperson has shared is important to them.
Set weekly check-ins
Establish a rhythm for follow-up and discussion about both the salesperson’s personal and professional goals. These check-ins should include managing activities identified in the plan, holding salespersons accountable to activity levels, helping to identify choke points, coaching how they are doing what they do, and asking for the opportunity to observe sales calls and encouraging de-briefs.
Developing an effective sales coaching program is ultimately about developing a meaningful human connection, a relationship. This has to begin with the sales manager and the salesperson before it can translate into a salesperson and client relationship. When this is accomplished—and it’s not a one and done proposition, but an art that requires regular attention—companies can develop a service to sales career path for its salespeople that leads to success for all.
Founder, Anthony Cole Training Group