Whenever I speak or write about what makes a truly excellent sales leader, I always end up talking about coaching. That’s not because coaching is the only thing that makes a great sales leader. It’s just really, really important.
Coaching is something that eludes a lot of sales leaders, and most training efforts fail to reach their objectives. Why?
The answer lies partly in what’s expected of sales managers in the eyes of senior leadership.
Most sales cultures lead a sales manager to believe that reporting numbers is their top priority.
It’s obvious that their top priority should be improving numbers – what’s often not so obvious is how that is accomplished.
Improving a sales organization’s ability to consistently hit its number is accomplished through coaching each representative up to a higher level of sales performance, which results in increased sales.
When all that is asked of a sales manager is to create pivot tables and reports, sales managers become inspectors and not coaches.
Pivot tables and reports are nothing more than exercises of examination, and constant inspection of them creates a false sense of security among sales leaders because they are working under a common false assumption: that results will improve with higher levels of inspection.
Ironically, the opposite is true. Just ask any sales professional or manager how many hours they have spent presenting data and what observable difference it made in their ability to improve revenue.
Actually, don’t waste your time; the answer is virtually none.
For an outside-of-sales example, just imagine a football coach whose team is trailing at halftime.
Once in the locker room the coach attempts to inspire his team by shouting, “I looked at the scoreboard. You didn’t score enough points! You need to score more points!”
How is that helping his team improve? It’s not.
He’s just stating facts about numbers -- numbers his team already knows. He’s inspecting, not coaching, and the second half of the game will be much the same as the first.
So, if inspection of numbers doesn’t move the needle on revenue, what does?
Coaching. Focused skills, tactics and strategy development through one-on-one coaching of sales professionals with their managers is the answer.
When I find organizations steeped in introspection and short on coaching, it’s usually because of a lack of understanding of how to coach up or an unwillingness to invest the time and effort.
I am here to assure you that you can learn to be a good coach and doing so won’t be incrementally more difficult, time-consuming, or onerous than what you’re doing now.
In fact, done well, effective sales coaching will save time by replacing many of the counterproductive activities you’ve likely taken on.
Here our top 3 tips for effective coaching:
1. Use motivation other than money.
We tend to think that salespeople are only motivated by money and that they’ll do anything to get more, but the data suggests the opposite. Most sales reps today are intrinsically motivated.
When coaching your sales team, you must remember that each person is unique, and likely motivated by different things. Think outside the box with competitions around a specific goal -- a prize for the winners -- or rewards of extra vacation time. Conduct a formal evaluation of your sales force to help you determine the source of their motivation.
2. Clarify your expectations.
For ongoing coaching sessions to really move the performance needle, everyone must begin with a common goal. Clarifying your expectations upfront is, therefore, essential.
Hold each other accountable to a schedule, create clear goals, and focus on building and nurturing your relationship. A deeper connection will improve your results.
3. Share a Common Way of Tracking Progress
No one is more accountable for the team reaching its goals than the sales manager, therefore, the manager needs to create a clear, effective way of tracking progress.
In theory, the path to your goal should be clearly outlined in your CRM, but, for the most part, the truly valuable and actionable information will be found in the story the data tells.
Most salespeople use their own subjective criteria when reporting on their pipeline to managers and themselves, which leads to inaccurate forecasts and missed goals. A shared way of tracking progress is essential.
When it comes to sales coaching, there is no magic wand to wave, and there are many more characteristics that make up a great sales leader and a great coaching program.
When you’re ready to implement a coaching program that will produce a dramatic difference in the output of your sales organization, give us a call.
Sales management expert Duane Cashin has lead award-winning sales organizations and trained sales teams for companies of all sizes. He’s earned membership in Presidents Club and Circle of Excellence, successfully built and sold his own multi-million-dollar business, and enjoys sharing his passion for sales.