article | September 17, 2011
Sales Process: How Managers Become Coaches
A study by the Sales Executive Council confirms the importance of coaching – first-class sales organizations. achieve 107% of target while others simply fail to reach their plans – putting the jobs of sales leaders in jeopardy.
In our practice, we find that ineffective coaching regularly thwarts the sales process. Here are 4 places you can look to find the most common root causes:
1. Failure to Fund
Effective coaches modify the behavior of their players through direction, instruction and training. This improved behavior increases the likelihood of success. However, new-to-position managers often learn simply by making mistakes – they are never taught how to be a coach. Even seasoned managers can learn new ways improve their coaching skills.
Without guidance, managers struggle to add value to the sales process and allow e-mail, reporting and human resources issues to consume their time. The lack of coaching skills dooms sales managers – the best ones will never reach their full potential and replacing the ineffective ones is costly.
Trouble Spot: Look at your budget and see how much you invested this year in improving the coaching skills of your sales leaders. Was it enough?
2. The Job Aid Bookshelf
Managers must know how to follow the sales process, but what separates coaches from supervisors is the ability to show someone else how to do it. World-class sales organizations use job aids – the essential tools of the sales process. They not only have tools like Opportunity Maps, Call Plans and Compelling Event Assessments, but the sales managers regularly use them as teaching instruments to improve sales performance.
Trouble Spot: Look at the job aids that your sales team uses – not the ones in the binder on the bookshelf, but the ones with handwritten notes about your customers and prospects that are the focus of conversations between reps and sales managers. Are there any ink or pencil marks to show that the job aids are being used? Why not?
Selling is a process, not an event. It takes daily discipline to follow the methodology and conscientiously use the tools. Critical knowledge transfer takes place during one-on-one coaching sessions, customer sales calls, and de-briefing sessions. Effective managers make these a priority. You can spot an effective sales coach simply by looking at his or her calendar – the prime selling hours are blocked with customer calls surrounded by planning and review sessions. Sales managers devote time to coaching – using the job aids together with their sales reps, sharing best practices.
Trouble Spot: Ask to schedule a mid-day appointment with your sales managers and see what commands priority on their schedules. Top performers will have customer and coaching appointments that are too important to postpone.
4. The Org Chart
Top sales coaches improve the performance of their teams, but only when they spend time together. A common mistake is to invest in the tools and training to field a team of “A Player” coaches, but then keep them from spending enough time with the individuals on their team. The most common culprits are large spans of control. A 2010 report by the Sales Executive Council recommends that the right number of direct reports is 8.
Trouble Spot: Look at your organization chart and see if your sales managers have enough time for coaching. Effective coaches spend 3+ hours with each individual per month. Multiply the number of reps on the team by 3 to quickly see if there is enough coaching time in a month to enable success. If the number is over 24, coaching is being compromised and you have a sales force structure problem. Do the math.
Key Take Aways: Look at your training investments, job aids, calendars and org chart. Let me know if you find any other coaching “Trouble Spots.” It’s worth the time to look. World-class sales organizations are distinctly different. Our clients have proven that effective coaching can unleash the revenue-maximizing power of a sales process.