Coaching Drives Greater "Sales-Awareness" and Stronger Results
"What would happen to your revenue and profit margin if your sales organization became a coaching-centric group that got better and better every month?"
If you are a regular reader of our blog or if we have had the pleasure of working with your sales team, you know that we believe sales managers should invest significant time (ideal target is 50%) coaching their sales people.
And this sales coaching should take place on a regular basis, both in a structured formal coaching session (regularly scheduled, ideally every week) and in more informal ways during joint calls, during morning huddles, during pre-call planning sessions, and during post-call debriefs.
"What is the main goal of these frequent coaching sessions and how will you know if your sales manager is making progress?"
Of course the best way to answer that question is in the context of each individual on the sales team.
Not everyone needs the same coaching and the type of coaching your sales managers provide will depend on several factors, including:
- The experience level of the sales person and where they are in the progression through their sales career (by the way, years in sales doesn’t always mean progress – a 20-year veteran could need more coaching than a relatively new sales person if they’ve had the same year of experience 20 times versus having 20 years of steady, continuous development and improvement).
- The sales person’s familiarity with your products, service, markets, customers, competitors, and other company and market factors.
- The sales person’s strengths and “hidden weaknesses” that may get in the way when they are on a call or in front of a prospective customer.
- A sales person’s openness to coaching and acceptance of their manager’s feedback.
- A sales person’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to get better, even if that means pushing past their comfort zone and failing at a new approach or tactic until they get it right.
With all of these factors considered, your sales manager’s focus for every coaching interaction with their sales people should focus on answering two simple questions:
- What did you just do on that call (or in that meeting) that went really well and that you should repeat on future calls?
- What did you just do on that call (or in that meeting) that didn’t go as you expected and that you should avoid on future calls?
That’s it. If after every single sales interaction your sales people had a conversation with their manager where they could discuss these two questions, what would happen over time? Would the quality of the conversations your sales people have improve? Would they get better at asking questions, creating urgency, identifying compelling reasons for prospects to move forward, disqualifying non-prospects or prospects that don’t fit your business model? Would the quality of your proposals improve? Would you win more proposals? At higher profit margins? With better customers?
That’s the power of consistent, structured coaching. But of course even when a sales manager spends half of their time (50% or about 20 hours per week) conducting both formal and informal coaching conversations with their sales people, most organizations will have a difficult time having this type of conversation after each and every sales interaction your sales team has. So then what?
Ideally over time each sales person on your team should increase their "Sales-Awareness" and should be able to have this conversation on their own. A few moments of reflection after every call or every meeting can make a huge difference over time if they really focus on these two questions. In some environments, such as a call center or where inside sales people sit near one another in a bull pen set up, peer-to-peer coaching can also be very powerful. And when this happens over time and with consistency, the quality of the formal coaching sessions will get better and better because the sales people will come to the meeting prepared with specific ideas of where they need help and what they need to work on to get better.
Consistent coaching should lead to greater sales-awareness and increased self-reflection across your sales organization. Is that happening with your team? Are your managers having the right coaching conversations? Are they asking the right questions? Do they invest enough time with each team member? Do they do it consistently and effectively? If not why not? Lack of skills? Are your sales leaders too busy? Are your sales leaders too lazy? Are they disengaged?