Bad news, sales leaders: Great salespeople are slowing dying out, and we only have ourselves to blame.
Reps do exactly what we ask, yet performance decreases while turnover increases. Where’s the disconnect? Sure, you can develop a more effective hiring plan, give your reps better technology or even develop your own sales methodology.
The type, frequency, methodology and implementation of coaching directly impacts the behaviors of our sales reps. These processes develop technical skills, address behavioral impacts, teach critical thinking and lead to a more effective sales team.
How much of your time did you dedicate to coaching this week?
How much of your time should you be spending each week?
In his book, “Sales Manager Survival Guide,” David Brock recommends spending 50 percent of your time with reps. This includes:
- Team training
- One-on-one personal and professional development
- Reviews (performance reviews, call reviews, deal reviews, pipeline reviews, etc.)
- Time to reflect on your team
Coaching is an ongoing activity, and you must dedicate time to this if you want to succeed as a sales manager and leader.
The Success and Failures of Sales Management
Data from the CEB Sales Leadership Council shows that teams who are given less than two hours of coaching per week attain 90% of their team quota. However, teams with more than three hours of coaching attain 107% of their team quota.
Consider the potential impact of one or two additional hours spent coaching per week. This could equate to the difference between $18 million and $21 million in sourced pipeline over 12 months.
Companies spend $20 billion worldwide on sales coaching and training each year. However, when tested 120 days later, 85-90 percent of sales training fails. Here are three major reasons:
- No assessment, responsibility and continuous development: We’ve all seen well-intentioned executives pass along a new flavor of the month sales training only to be replaced or forgotten the next month. You and your sales leadership must assess skills, hold reps (and each other) responsible and develop ongoing programs. Otherwise you’re wasting time, reps’ precious selling hours and your organization’s money.
- Inability to turn knowledge into action: It’s not enough to have reps read material or sit in a sales training once a week. Even if it’s ongoing training, reps will never learn how to apply what is being taught to an actual selling situation. Along with training, you must have an implementation plan, the ability to measure its effectiveness and means to provide valuable feedback to each rep.
- Failure to deliver engaging training: People learn best by hands-on, active engagement. Yet, most training is passive. Think back to when you were in school — did you learn more in the classes where the professor stood at the front of the room talking at the students? Or did you learn more in the classes where there was discussion, interaction and application?
The best sales managers know that training is more than telling reps what to do. It’s about guiding reps to become more effective team members. Though some would argue that certain training (like messaging alignment training) is part of a successful sales enablement program, you can’t rely on sales enablement to know what your team needs or how to best deliver it. You must take full responsibility for this as a sales leader.
4 Simple Steps to Sales Coaching for Better Performance
Here’s a 4-step methodology for coaching that will have an immediate and lasting impact.
1. Define your objectives, goals and metrics: Coaching and training shouldn’t be done to check off a box on your list of duties. It’s vital that you have a specific reason for what you’re doing. After you’ve defined your why, define your goals. Keep your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (SMART).
2. Develop a plan: There are plenty of sales programs that have day-by-day and week-by-week plans, but this is only a starting point. Customize and personalize your plan. Aligning the desired outcome with learning needs will help determine what content need to be part of the training and how frequently training must occur. Remember, this is not a one-time event. If you want skills and knowledge to stick, spaced repetition and reinforcement is key.
3. Deliver the training: A mentor of mine used to tell me that two things are required for behavior change, whether it’s personal or professional in nature: You must start now, and do not deviate. Sure, you can (and should) make small tweaks and changes along the way, but your overall strategy shouldn’t change.
4. Get feedback: I’m a fan of testing and quizzing along the way. This let’s you know how your program is working (or not working). Furthermore, studies show that by simply knowing there’s going to be a quiz, people will retain learning better. Don’t make the mistake of not turning knowledge into action: The sooner your reps can start implementing what they’re learning in their coaching and training session, the better. This way, you don’t have to wait until the end of the program to measure performance. You’re able to detect early signs of success and failure, then tweak your coaching and training sessions accordingly.
There’s one last piece of advice to offer around creating your program, and it comes from Trish Bertuzzi of The Bridge Group: Keep it interesting and fun.
Coaching and training may not be as sexy as developing a new sales stack or having culture-building sessions, but it’s the one activity that can have the biggest impact on your organization.
As a sales manager and leader, this is one of the most important skills to develop. I’ll close with a quote from David Brock: “As much as coaching is viewed as a developmental or learning activity for the person being coached, it is also a developmental and learning activity for you, the coach.”