Effective sales manager coaching is one of the key levers that leading sales organizations utilize to achieve their revenue targets. Sales manager coaching is the #1 sales management activity that impacts performance.
Study after study has shown that sales manager coaching has a significant impact on performance. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- CEB Coaching Effectiveness Survey Findings:
- Coaching effectiveness: 19% improvement in performance
- Time in the field: 17% increase in performance
- Coaching improves sales rep engagement
- CSO 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study:
- Formal coaching process: 17% improvement in sales win rate
Organizations that have a team of strong sales coaches will significantly outperform their competitors who have weak sales coaches.
Imagine my surprise when I read Jim Dickie’s Sales Mastery post that showed that 1/3 of sales executives surveyed, said that sub-optimal sales manager coaching is one of their top 3 barriers to achieving their objectives in 2018.
Sales leaders acknowledge the positive impact of sales coaching. Only 53% of sales organizations are investing in ongoing coaching training and development of their sales managers. Only 44% of sales organizations have a highly effective and well-understood coaching process.
As a result, very few companies realize the gains promised by these studies. If you have figured out a way to recognize sales gains from sales manager coaching, please share what you are experiencing and what you are doing right.
Are you concerned that your sales managers coaching is a barrier to achieving your revenue objectives in 2018?
What can you do?
- Do nothing.
- You can train your sales managers on coaching.
- Or you can continue reading and benefit from 25 years of research in which I have learned that the best way to get the most out of your sales managers coaching is by implementing the following elements.
The reality is that to reap the benefits of impactful sales manager coaching is more complicated then meets the eye.
5 Ways to Develop a Successful Sales Coaching Program
1. Make Coaching a Critical Success Factor
Sales organizations that view sales coaching as just a sales tactic are missing the boat. Chances are, sales coaching will fall into the bottomless pit of priorities the sales organization is attempting to execute.
On the other hand, if the sales organization views sales coaching as a Critical Success Factor (CSF), then and only then will there be sufficient attention and importance put on sales coaching.
Successful sales organizations narrow down their focus on 3 CSFs. Focus is key to successful execution. Sales organizations that have prioritized sales coaching as a critical success factor need to create metrics, accountabilities, and cadence to ensure that they stay on track.
2. Develop Master Coaches
Sales managers find coaching to be very challenging. They tend to be rated poorly by their salespeople regarding coaching skills.
Using traditional classroom training does not create skill mastery. Within 30-days, 90% of learnings not reinforced are lost. This means that the 1-2 days you pull your sales managers out of the field for training are in practical terms ineffective.
Sales managers who are very keen will attempt to utilize their new skills, but once they hit a roadblock when trying their newly acquired skills, they revert to what they traditionally do.
To master coaching skills, the sales manager needs continuous reinforcement regarding coaching and mentoring. This helps them work through challenges they are finding in mastering their coaching skills.
Sales management training with no follow-up or reinforcement is just an event, nothing more nothing less.
In “The #1 Reason why Leadership Development Fails” sales leadership expert Matt Myatt states, “This may be heresy to some – but training is indeed the #1 reason leadership development fails ….. Don’t train leaders, coach them, mentor them, disciple them, and develop them, but please don’t attempt to train them”.
The Bottom Line:
If you are considering investing in developing your sales managers to be effective coaches, don’t use a traditional 2-day in-class training program. You need to take a more comprehensive approach which is based on ongoing coaching and mentoring. That is the ONLY way to ensure skill mastery.
3. Follow a Formal Coaching Process
All successful sales organizations have been able to develop and train their sales reps on a formal selling process. The best-selling method is the one that is used and understood by a majority of your salespeople.
Why is coaching any different?
If you are leaving coaching up to your sales managers’ discretion or you are using an informal process, you are not going to get the results you expect. Sales managers who use a formal coaching process get better performance than those who use an informal process.
Coaching is not a one-time occurrence or event. It is a process of helping your salespeople develop by improving their skills and behaviors. To improve, it means you need to do things differently. That requires change. Change is challenging. It takes time, commitment, focus, and reinforcement.
Without a formal sales coaching process to grow your salespeople you are going to get suboptimal results.
In fact, by breaking down a complicated skill like coaching into a step by step process, it makes skill mastery much easier.
4. Provide Sales Coaching Enablement Tools
Several sales coaching tools are key to support your sales managers coaching. The key is to have them align with your sales coaching process, selling model and other critical success factors.
Sales Coaching Plan
Sales coaching starts with a plan. Sales managers need a formal sales coaching plan document to capture individual sales rep coaching plans.
Field Coaching Report
A standard field coaching report that covers what sales managers should be coaching. It is critical that organizations are clear on what sales managers should be observing and coaching. Usually, the field coaching report covers the steps to the sales process and the components of your selling methodology.
Other areas can include product knowledge, territory management, and key behavioral competencies.
Coaching Day Planner and Tracker
Your sales managers most important yet finite resource is their time. It is critical that your sales managers build a plan as to how often they will coach each sales rep by month. Most sales managers will fit sales coaching around other priorities such as meetings, calls, and administrative work. Wrong. Watch the Frequency of Sales Manager Coaching video to get a better idea of how to efficiently plan your time.
5. Build a High Level of Accountability/Business Cadence
Most sales organizations give lip service to the importance of coaching. The sales managers are not held accountable for sales coaching. There is no formal review process of the quantity and quality of sales coaching. Without the POWER of accountability, how can any sales leader expect to see performance improvements due to sales manager coaching? Failure to do so will result in the failure of expected sales performance gains.
It is essential that sales leaders establish a high level of accountability and business cadence around their sales coaching. All levels of sales management must be held accountable for the quantity and quality of sales coaching. Senior sales management must be accountable for reviewing that sales coaching is happening.
We know that people respect what you inspect. That is accountability 101. When your sales managers know that their boss will be reviewing their coaching reports, it takes on a different meaning. The sales manager will take the time to ensure that they are doing a good job documenting their feedback. Secondly, it provides senior sales management the opportunity to coach their sales managers on how to improve their coaching.
Metrics for the days in the field coaching need to be established and agreed upon. Track and review KPIs quarterly. To maximize the impact of sales coaching, it is incumbent on the sales management team to determine the standards for sales coaching. This includes establishing the number of expected days spent coaching and setting periodic coaching review meetings between senior sales management and their sales managers.
Sales coaching is the #1 sales management activity that drives sales performance. As such, sales coaching should be a critical success factor for any sales organization that wants to crush their sales numbers.
The problem is that to see the sales performance improvements of sales coaching it is much more than just a coaching training program or a technology fix.
To achieve exceptional sales performance through sales manager coaching, this requires focus, a revolutionary development program, a formal coaching process, sales coaching tools, and a high level of accountability to coaching.