Coaching Ruts and How to Get Out of Them

Every sales manager we talk to says, "I coach my team all the time."  But their idea of coaching often means quick hallway conversations or phone calls, pipeline reviews focused on opportunities that can close right away, or ride along coaching calls where the manager dominates the conversation and the salesperson just watches.  Rarely do sales managers have structured, focused, consistent coaching conversations focused on development rather than production.  That’s where we step in to teach them a better coaching methodology.  And the sales managers who implement our coaching methodology can make tremendous progress almost immediately.  They get better at asking coaching questions and the whole sales team starts gain momentum as a better coaching rhythm is established.  And then - usually around three or four months into establishing that rhythm - they hit a wall.  Usually we hear something like, "I think we're losing momentum. It's not working as well. "

Almost always, it turns out coaching ruts photothat the manager has fallen into a rut. They've become predictable. They're going through the motions and their sales team knows it. What happens is, they start to ask the same handful of questions and use the same format week after week. They start every coaching conversation the exact same way, the salespeople know what they're going to ask before they ask it, and they're absolutely sure which direction the manager is going to go. Your sales team can just go through the motions and think, "Okay, he's going to ask about this, this, and that. I'll have those answers. We can be efficient." When that happens, the manager will say to us, "We're losing momentum. The coaching calls are getting shorter."

The way to avoid falling into a coaching rut is to make sure your sales managers mix it up. Change up what they're asking. They've obviously got to cover similar topics week to week. For example, in a weekly, structured coaching conversation, they know you should take a look back and say, "Tell me about the week that just passed. Tell me what's going on with your sales pipeline. Tell me about your calendar. Tell me about any challenges you have." A lot of sales managers will ask the same backward-looking questions instead of mixing it up, so coach your sales managers to be more intentional and change the question focus. Have them try asking more specific questions such as:

  • Tell me about the call that you were most excited about that didn't turn out like you expected.
  • How about a call that you had no hopes or expectations for that actually turned into gold?
  • Which meeting are you most excited about from last week?  And why?
  • Tell me about a call where you met another key decision maker or influencer.
  • Tell me about the call that was an absolute disaster.  What did you learn that you can apply going forward?

In these examples the sales manager is still looking back at the week that just past. They're asking the salesperson, "Hey, tell me about your week," but instead of being generically predictable they're keeping the salesperson on edge by asking very specific questions about their week and what they learned.  And when your sales managers do that consistently, slightly changing the focus of their questions from week to week, the coaching conversations stay fresh and the team keeps making progress.

If your sales leaders ask generic "how did your week go?" questions they'll get generic (and unhelpful) answers like "pretty good."  Instead, the coaching conversation should explore potential areas where a salesperson may struggle and make mistakes.  And speaking of mistakes, if you have salespeople who aren't making mistakes fairly regularly, they're probably staying in their comfort zone. They're probably not trying new questions or new techniques. They're just going through the motions. When your sales managers have regular, consistent coaching conversations that discuss mistakes salespeople make (and lessons learned), disastrous sales calls (and lessons learned), calls that the salesperson thought would be easy that turned out to be quite hard (and lessons learned) as well as calls they expected to be difficult that turned out great (and lessons learned) they create an environment where making mistakes (and learning from them) is not only acceptable but regularly encouraged. 

The second part of that conversation - the "lessons learned" part - is crucial.  It has to be, "Tell me what you learned from it. Tell me what you're going to do differently next time. Tell me how that made you better as a salesperson." Then, if it’s a good example and your salesperson is comfortable with it, "Hey, would you mind sharing that at the next sales meeting?" is the next step.

A great way for your sales managers to reinforce the "lessons learned" in their coaching conversations is to ask about future goals as well.  It sounds like "Tell me about the week or the last two weeks, and then let's look forward a week. Looking at your calendar, what call are you most nervous about, and how can I help you?" Or, "Looking at your calendar, what are you most excited about next week, or what deals absolutely have to move forward next week?" Mixing up your conversations in this way does a couple of things. First, it makes it more interesting for the sales manager. You're going to explore different areas and find different weak points in what that salesperson is doing or not doing. Second, it's also going to keep it fresh for the sales person. If they come into a meeting and they're not exactly sure what direction the sales manager is going to go, it's not predictable for them. They have to stay on their toes a little bit, and they have to be ready to go whichever direction the sales leader takes them.

If your sales managers are getting in the habit of establishing a consistent, structured, coaching conversation – which every sales manager absolutely should do – ask them how they're mixing up their questions and what they focus on from call to call.  Make sure that they're not just following the same agenda week after week after week, because you will absolutely find them in a sales coaching rut and they'll be less effective as a sales leader.

Need help?   Please reach us at Intelligent Conversations by taking a moment to complete the form below.  We'll give you a call to discuss whether or not you're a good fit for our program to raise your sales team's performance and drive remarkable revenue growth.

Goals-Based Coaching

GJAvXzIwDo your sales leaders keep it simple when it comes to setting goals for their team?  One of the common mistakes we see sales leaders make is burdening their team with too many goals or setting overly complex goals. Like many things, the manager's ability to simplify and help the team focus on two to three meaningful goals, rather than 10 or 15 goals, will have a major impact. These significant goals should be above and beyond what is expected of each salesperson in the normal course of business. Obviously, each sales team will have expectations in terms of pipeline volume (number of opportunities), pipeline movement (opportunities moving from stage to stage) to reach sales goals.  

On every sales team there are going to be expectations in terms of moving opportunities through the pipeline, documenting in the CRM, and certain activity levels that need to be hit. In this case, we’re focusing on goals above and beyond the regular order of business, without making them too complicated.

An example of a way to approach setting a goal may be mentioning to your team, "Hey, I noticed that the last couple of quarters you've been really focused on deals of this size. One of the things I'd like you to do is balance your pipeline by introducing opportunities of varying sizes." For example, some salespeople have nothing in their pipeline but small opportunities. That can be great, but you need to work quite hard to reach a big sales goal. That team member might benefit from their sales leader saying, "Hey, I'd like you to look at a few bigger targets as well. Keep doing what you're doing with the small deals, but let's get some medium and large deals in there as well." What you'll find is that your salesperson will have a better-balanced pipeline.

A good way to keep track of and measure your team’s goals is to meet once a week for coaching sessions and make adjustments or course corrections along the way. Lets say your sales person’s goal is five new opportunities per week, and since there’s 13 weeks in one quarter they’re really adding 65 opportunities over the course of the quarter if they stay on track. The reason you want to meet with them every week is because if in week one of 13 they only booked two new opportunities, that means they’re three in the hole right now. Their goal at the end of the quarter is still 65, so they're going to have to have a couple of weeks where they have to book six or seven to make up for that deficit.

A good formula to stick to is three business goals to one personal goal. It’s important to include one goal that's significant to the individual sales person such as a fitness goal, family goal, community service goal, diet goal, and the list goes on. When you include a personal goal, you’re investing in your team as people, not just coworkers. Your sales team will also be able to see your company as part of their path to completing personal goals on top of their business goals.

As you're doing your regular check in weekly, make sure you're asking them about their progress toward those personal goals. You'll find that over time everyone on your sales team will be a little more focused, execute a little more crisply, and good things will happen in and for your company.  

If you're looking for ways to raise your sales team's performance and drive remarkable revenue growth, please reach us at Intelligent Conversations!  Please take a moment to complete the form below and we will be in contact.  Thank you!

What Makes Your Sales Team Likable, Knowledgeable, and Memorable

Salespeople and sales leaders often ask us: "What can  I do to stand out?" This is particularly important when selling in a highly competitive market or facing strong resistance and fierce competition. There are a handful of things that salespeople can do to stand out from the competition to be a little bit more likable, demonstrate their knowledge and expertise, and most importantly, be memorable.

One of the things you can do to be a more likable salesperson is learn to be agreeable. Something as simple as smiling and nodding, even if you're disagreeing with the client, will make it hard for the client to wLa7SDhxgant to argue with you. Just listen to them as they're questioning your product or challenging you in some way. They're going to find it difficult to stay angry if you're open and seemingly agreeable.

Another thing you can do is simply ask questions. Find ways to genuinely appreciate them as a person, find things to compliment, give them strokes, and smile even in the face of challenging questions. 

Think about the energy you're bringing into the meeting or conversation with your client. Leave any negative calls, rejection, anything going on in your life that's going to hold you back at the door. Put that aside, and be enthusiastic. Your energy will influence your client’s feelings towards you and your company. Remember, sales is a transference of emotion, and you've got to get the prospect as excited and as passionate about your product or service as you are.

You need to understand how your product or service may impact your customer. The best way to appear knowledgeable isn't by showing up with stats and figures you've memorized from the technical manual of your product. It's about asking good, thought-provoking questions. If you can lead the prospect through a conversation they haven't had before,  shining a light into areas of their business where you can create value or efficiencies, you're going to come across as much more knowledgeable than the competitor. 

Don't be the salesperson who just shows up and starts talking. Make it about the prospect, and ask questions that make them say, "I'm not sure. I'd have to look into that. I've never really considered that." These are the things that make you memorable. You'll stand out from the competition, who just shows up and shows them a brochure, or walks through a PowerPoint deck.

If you're a sales leader looking to coach your sales team to differentiate themselves and sell more effectively in the field, or are a salesperson wondering what might give you an edge on the competition with your customers, please reach us at Intelligent Conversations!  We have several approaches to personal and professional development in these areas!

 

Creating a Healthy Coaching Environment in Sales

One of the barriers sales leaders encounter when trying to establish a consistent coaching rhythm with each salesperson on their team is they have not established a healthy coaching environment.  What does that mean? There are several components that go into creating an atmosphere that is conducive to coaching. 

1. Mutual Respect.  First, there has to be a certain level of mutual respect. The salespeople have to respect the sales leader, or they won't listen to the advice or coaching they get. The sC4o8SJsgales leader needs to feel like their advice is being followed and that they're respected, so there's a healthy coaching relationship. The manager needs to earn it, and the salespeople need to give it, but if in its absence, the coaching experience is going to be negatively impacted. If the sales leader doesn't feel like he or she has that respect, their coaching will be more tentative and less effective.

2.  Trust.  What's the level of trust across your sales team? Do your sales people feel like they can share everything with the sales leader and really come to them when they need help? Does the sales leader feel like he or she is trusted by the sales people? Part of a sales leader's job is creating a culture of accountability, managing agreements, and making sure that they hit their numbers, but when a sales person is struggling, do they really feel safe? Do they feel they can go to their manager when they're behind on their plan or not moving deals forward (or do they hide and hope nobody notices)?

The irony in this is when a salesperson's pipeline is stalled that's when they need coaching the most, yet it's also when they're least likely to ask for help if they don't trust their manager.  One of the ways a sales manager can establish trust is to take the time to get to know each individual on their team at a personal level.  The sales coach/salesperson relationship should go beyond a conversation about metrics and pipeline movement.  Your sales managers don't have to know everything about a salesperson’s personal life, but should have a general understanding of where each salesperson on their team is in their career, what their career goals are, and what their personal goals are, what's important to them, etc.  When sales managers take the time to show they care about and take an interest in each individual (beyond the numbers) salespeople are more likely to ask for help when they need it.

3.  Coachability.  Another element is how "coachable" are your sales people? If you hire salespeople who feel like they have nothing to learn because they already know everything, their willingness to implement whatever suggestions your sales manager makes will be pretty limited. Of course, that's going to be frustrating for the sales leader when they have good ideas and they're ignored. Having a team that's open to input and willing to try a suggestion even if they disagree with it is an important aspect to the coaching environment as well.  Ask questions about growth goals, what they're working on, and where they want to improve during your interview process to make sure you're hiring "coachable" salespeople.

4.  Time Coaching.  One of the biggest factors that a manager absolutely can control is the amount of time spent on coaching. We recommend about 50% of a manager's time should be spent coaching their sales people. Some of that will be in formal, structured, weekly conversations where you go through their pipeline, review their calendar, look at upcoming calls, and debrief on calls that have recently occurred. The focus should be on making incremental progress each week with each sales person, giving them that coaching. The other part of that comes from informal coaching conversations that happen throughout the week.  When a manager spends about half of their time coaching their team and being there for them, they create a really strong coaching environment.  Most sales managers say they coach all the time, but in reality they are pulled in other directions and when they do finally sit down with a salesperson the meeting agenda defaults to a pipeline review conversation focusing on what can close right now instead instead of on mid-to-long-term development objectives.

5. It's Not All About the Sales Manager.  Finally, it's not all about the sales manager. Being a sales manager is really about having a servant mindset.  They are their to help each salesperson on the team succeed. It's a bit hard if your sales manager used to be the "alpha” sales person who loves getting the win and celebrating their victories. It's difficult for that type of person to take a backseat role.  What often happens is that type of sales manager simply functions as a more productive salesperson by using their team to extend their reach and set up closing conversations.  The salespeople line up closable deals and the sales manager swoops in and mows them down.  This can be productive in the short term but ultimately limits growth as high-potential salespeople get frustrated and leave, and the ones who stay never learn how to close.

Make sure your sales manager has the right mindset and remembers it's NOT about them, it's all about helping the team win. When they do that, they'll create a strong, healthy coaching environment rooted in trust.

As a reflection, think about your sales managers and the relationships they have with their salespeople.  How strong is your coaching environment?  In which of these five areas do they need to improve?  In your next conversation with a sales leader, ask them, "When you ask a sales person to come into your office, is their reaction, 'Oh boy, what have I done? I'm in trouble,' or is it, 'Oh great, he's going to help me.'"  The answer to that question will tell you all you need to know about your coaching environment.  

Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

Two Great Sales Lessons From the Film Free Solo

A few weeks ago I was flying across the country, and was able to watch the Oscar-winning film Free Solo. Watching it in an IMAX theater would have been a lot cooler than on a four by four screen on a Delta airplane, but I enjoyed the movie nonetheless. There were two awesome sales lessons hidden in the film, and in no particular order, I'll share them here.

The whole movie is centered around Alex Honnold and his desire to “free solo”, or climb without ropes, El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. El Capitan is probably the most famous rock wall in the world, and it had never been free soloed. The thought of free soloing El Cap is truly insane. It's a monumental accomplishment. After he climbed it, somebody on the film crew asked him, "Well, what are you going to go do next?" And he just said, "Well, I'll probably go do some hang boarding." He'd been working toward this goal for years and years, thinking about it, staging it, doing similar climbs, trying to prepare for it mentally, overcoshutterstock_280705463ming all of the fears and doubts that he had, and then after this pinnacle achievement what does he go do? He goes back to fundamentals. The sales lesson here is you can win the big deal, you can close the big sale, you can get the biggest sale in company history and just be humble and go back to the fundamentals. 

The best time to make a cold call is immediately after closing the big deal.  Go make some cold calls. Go practice your next pitch. Go think about other questions you can ask. Let that momentum of a big goal accomplished be a slingshot to carry you toward your next goal rather than an opportunity to rest on your laurels. Don't rest on your laurels!  Accomplish something and then think, what can I do next? Go back to the fundamentals.

As Honnold was going through his prep work to do that ascent of El Cap, he went through and rehearsed key sections. There were four or five critical sections that he wanted to dial in on and really practice every single move he was going to make. He did this with a rope so that when he was without a rope, when it was showtime so to speak, the muscle memory would kick in and he would be able to climb without hesitation. There was one particular stretch called 'the boulder problem' where he had two options: He could either leap from one tenuous ledge and grab onto another more substantial ledge, but he'd be totally out of contact with the wall, or he could do what he calls the karate kick, which is a little bit more complicated, but he would stay in contact with the wall. He went back and forth between these two moves, really thought it through and decided to do the karate kick.

The lesson we can take learn here from a sales perspective is how much time is your sales team using to prepare for a phone call, meeting, sales pitch, etc.? Are they really thinking through every option, looking at it from every angle, and thinking through who's going to be in the room? Who's going to be on that call? What are their primary objectives? What are their concerns about our product or service? You have to go in the sales call, just like Honnold had to go on the climb, prepared and able to react well in the moment.

There's probably no better example of being in the moment than when Honnold is free soloing, but that relentless preparation and rehearsal made it possible for him to just glide through the climb without hesitation. So, a few valuable lessons from Alex Honnold's successful free solo of El Capitan are: Don't rest on your laurels, and relentless preparation will help your team perform well when the moment comes.

As a sales leader, how are you enabling your sales team to 'free solo' on their cold calls or in the field? Are you tracking whether your top performers are resting on their laurels after a big win, or if they're using that momentum to exceed their targets? Next Tuesday, June 25th we're going to have a live Webinar on Sales Enablement Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. To join us in conversation on Sales Enablement best practices, click HERE TO REGISTER. 

How to Retain High Performing Sales People

Top Performing Sales People, sales coaching, sales management, high performer, Intelligent Conversations, Mike CarrollOver the years you may have noticed a difficulty in keeping your highest performing sales people on your team. You may have asked yourself, "What do I need to do to make sure I can keep my top performers engaged?" The most important thing you can do as a sales manager is take the time to understand what's important to each person on your team. What are their personal goals? How can you help them see your company as the vehicle through which they can achieve their personal goals?

It is important to take the time to understand what's important to each sales person on a personal level, not just their business goals. Business goals will happen along the way but understanding what's important to them first is key. Do they want to spend more time with their family? Do they want to save for retirement? When you as a manager take time to understand each individual employee’s personal goals, you can then go the extra step of translating that to, "Here's what you need to do as a sales person to achieve that goal."

For example, years ago we had a high performing sales client who was a young, single mother and frustrated that she couldn't save enough money to buy a house. Even though she was making a lot of money as a high performing sales person, she couldn't organize a budget to purchase a home. Her sales manager sat down with her and said, "What neighborhoods are you interested in? Here is what you need for a down payment. Here's what the mortgage would look like." Once they had mapped it out, they found that she could have a down payment in six months if she increased her sales by 10 to 15 percent. Because of connecting that personal goal to business performance, her sales manager was able to hold her accountable and she ended up having the down payment ready in three months.

The single most important thing you can do to retain your employees is to take the extra time and understand what's important to them. Understand their personal goals, and then map their personal goals back to their business activities. When employees see your company as the means through which they can achieve their personal goals, they're not only going to be more motivated and loyal, it also becomes easier for your managers to hold them accountable. In terms of keeping your high performing sales people, that’s the number one thing you can do for them and your company.

Are Your Sales Managers Having the Right Coaching Conversations?

Most sales managers believe they’re already having coaching conversations, but when we dig a little deeper it’s easy to learn that what they consider a “coaching conversation” usually is more focused on updates and administrative tasks than development and growth. The conversations we observe from sales managers tend to fall into three categories: 

  • Administrative – reviewing the sales forecast, discussing key performance indicators, checking progress against the plan for the month/quarter/year, updating the forecast, reviewing progress against a specific marketing initiative, discussing the territory plan, making plans for an upcoming trade show, reviewing expense reports or mileage, etc.  Typically, this should be about 10% of a coaching conversation – or six minutes during an hour long meeting.  It should be a quick discussion to review and confirm information that is already available somewhere else (in the CRM, reviewing calendars, etc.).  Too often we see sales managers focusing 95% of their conversation on these types of administrative topics.  Certainly you can fill a 60-minute coaching conversation going over these items, but is that the best use of time for two valuable team members?
  • Strategic – identifying new markets to pursue, updating a “top target” list, sharing market intelligence, reviewing pricing strategies, exploring different ways to solve a problem, planning a negotiating strategy, reviewing market coverage statistics, etc.  Typically, this should be about 10% of the coaching time, but not every week.  These are the types of conversations that should occur once a month or once per quarter where you may devote most of a meeting to a strategic topic.  Most sales managers who are focusing 95% of their time on administrative topics will balance the rest of the call with this type of discussion.  We’ve observed some managers who love “being strategic” and spend an inordinate amount of time developing “new strategies” to take sales to the next level.  But they never stick with anything long enough to execute these strategies and top sales professionals grow tired of the ever-changing directions and simply leave to find a job where they can do what they love to do – sell.
  • Situational Coaching – this is where the rubber hits the road.  In our opinion, 80% of a sales manager’s coaching conversation should be focused on what we call situational coaching.  This is where learning can occur.  What is it?  It is taking the time to review a recent call or make plans for an upcoming call and really diagnosing what happened or what needs to happen. 
    • Looking back at a past call, it’s about reviewing what happened, what could have happened differently, as well as how and why the sales person got to where they ended up.  Did they miss an opportunity to ask a question?  Why?  Were they distracted and not listening?  Why?  Did they gather the information they needed?  Why not?  Did they build a stronger relationship?  How?  What could they have done better?  Why didn’t they?  And so on.  A call review should look at both the underlying issue and the outcome.
    • When looking ahead it’s about talking through all the “what if” scenarios.  If a sales manager has been doing a good job reviewing past calls, they probably know what patterns to look for and can help the sales person think through how to avoid past pitfalls.  The best managers will role play the scenario, first demonstrating the right behavior (here’s how to position it, here’s how to ask this question, here’s how to keep them comfortable with you as you ask tough questions, etc.) then it’s about testing the sales person by having them role play.  Share feedback and observations, offer helpful tips, etc.

Here is a chart of the conversations we often see sales managers having during coaching conversations. How many of your sales managers are in the far right column? 

chart_2-1.jpg

For another good article on Sales Management check out Dave Kurlan's post from today, if for no other reason than the great title: Why So Many Sales Managers are So Bad 

Driving Growth through Goals-Based Coaching

How much do your managers know about the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of every member on their team?  How much do you know about the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the folks you lead?  Too soft?  Who cares?  You should – and here’s why. 

The job market has shifted dramatically in the past 6 months.  We are now in a candidate-centric job market, which means if you’re not engaging your team members and helping them connect the dots between what they do at work and why they’re working in the first place, you may soon find yourself scrambling to replace key team members.  sales_coaching

It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Make the decision to get started and then focus on making incremental progress.  Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  1. Weekly Coaching Rhythm – our practice has traditionally focused on the coaching rhythm between sales managers and sales people (although that’s changing with the addition of our new partner and rock star Topgrading expert Jenny Rodriguez-Vargas), but establishing a weekly coaching rhythm is a best practice for nearly every department.  Most managers will fight this, saying they “talk with the team when needed” and that “they always have an open door.”  Don’t give them a pass.  They should continue the ad hoc, got-a-minute coaching they’re already doing - and they should also add a brief, 30-45 minute structured coaching conversation with every team member.  Ideally this would be every week, although circumstances may require a bi-weekly rhythm.  It can be face-to-face, on the phone, or Skype.
  2. Weekly Priorities – nearly everyone in your company is keeping some type of weekly “To Do” list.  And more often than not these lists focus on activities rather than results.  And many of the items listed get dragged from week to week with little actually being accomplished.  Change this to instead focus on the 6-8 “Big Accomplishments” a team member will prioritize.  Think outcomes and results, NOT activities.  For example, an outcome would be “have 3 CEO conversations by Friday” and an activity would be “make CEO calls.”
  3. Quarterly Progress Goals – most teams we work with have some high level goals defined.  For sales teams that might include revenue growth targets, account retention targets, net new account targets, additional sales targets to existing customers, etc.  More often than not these targets are established during an annual budget planning session, quickly forgotten, then measured at the end of the year.  What would happen if your managers broke these targets down to quarterly progress goals (i.e. where should we be by the end of March, June, etc.)?  What corrective actions could they take if team members were falling short?
  4. Personal Goals – when managers take time to learn the personal goals of their team members, it becomes much easier to engage and retain them.  When your team members see your company as the means through which they can reach their personal goals (rather than just a job) the conversations between your managers and their team members change dramatically.  People work for their reasons, not ours.  It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget.  Nobody is going to push harder so you can increase EBITA by 2% year-over-year, but they’ll work their ass off when managers understand what they’re working for (more time with an aging parent, the ability to coach their son or daughter’s team, taking the vacation of their dream, saving for their child’s education, etc.).

While this may seem like a long list to begin with, as you start to utilize these each week it will become second nature.  We’ve recently built a custom platform, Intelligent Coaching System, which makes this easy.  This dashboard allows your sales people to track everything in an accessible format – and allows your sales people to keep their notes in one place (accessible by you).  For more information, send us an e-mail at info@intelligentconversations.com.

Why Managers Struggle When Holding People Accountable

Now That's AccountabilityCreating a “Culture of Accountability” is the cornerstone of building an over-achieving sales team.  And really it’s fundamental to building over-achieving teams in general.  As a CEO, President, or Business Owner you probably understand this and chances are most of your leadership team understand this concept as well.  And yet, many sales managers (and managers in general) struggle when it comes to holding their people accountable.  Why is that?

Here are five issues and barriers we have observed through our consulting practice over the years.  There are many more we could list, but this will give you a good place to start if a lack of accountability has been a challenge in your organization.  How many of these apply to your managers? 

Unclear Goals

If your managers don’t have a clear line of sight to your company’s goals and a clear understanding of what their team needs to do to help achieve them, how can they possibly hold their team accountable to the daily activities and behaviors that will get you there?

No Coaching Rhythm

We recommend sales managers hold a regularly scheduled “formal” coaching meeting at least every two weeks (weekly is better).  This is in addition to all the “informal” coaching conversations that happen around the office or driving back from a joint sales call.  Without a regular coaching rhythm where your sales manager and each individual sales person review progress toward the goals, activities driving the goals, as well as potential barriers and challenges getting in the way, it’s very difficult to hold people accountable and keep them on track.

Too Much Complaining

There are a couple of ways to look at this issue.  In some cases, your sales manager is the whiner (“we don’t have enough resources….operations is letting us down….the competition is killing us in a price war….” and on and on).  In other cases, they are too sympathetic and tolerant of the whining and excuses they hear from their team.  When someone on their team is complaining about a challenge they have, strong managers ask questions (“What can you do to change the situation?” or “Are you telling me this because you want me to do something or are you just letting off steam so you can focus on solving it yourself?”).  Most managers join in and simply add gasoline to the fire.

Too Friendly

While it’s important that your sales managers build a strong rapport with their team and establish a high level of trust, many managers go too far and become too “buddy-buddy” with the people on their team.  Or worse, they become buddy-buddy with some members of the team but not all.  When that happens they start treating people differently and it breeds tremendous resentment across the team.  The key is to establish clear goals, review them regularly, stop accepting excuses, and manage agreements about what needs to happen each week/month to reach the goals.

Too Aloof

Some managers go too far the other way.  They don’t invest the time in getting to know each team member, what their goals are (both business and personal goals), and they really don’t know them as people.  These managers become unapproachable and come across as inauthentic when they try to be friendly.  When your managers can get to know the personal goals of each member of their team and help them see your company as the means through which they can reach that goal, it becomes much easier to hold team members accountable to the daily/weekly/monthly activities need to reach their goals (both business and personal).

Which of these examples rings true to you?  CEO Coaching Tip:  select one for each of your direct reports and during your next one-on-one discuss your perspective on how it is impacting their ability to hold their people accountable and ask them what would happen if they focused on getting better in that particular area.  Alternatively, if you see something on the list that applies to all (or most) of your managers, discuss it during your next leadership team meeting.  What would happen to your results if you focused on these barriers to creating a culture of accountability?  When will you start?