Is your sales manager able to coach your sales team to success? This is one of many questions I ask when qualifying a prospective customer. Most often than not, they immediately say yes. I know how I would have answered that question when I was an executive sales leader. I would have said yes as well.
But, think about it. You were a successful sales person in the past because you were good at doing. But now that you are in sales management, are you good at coaching?
Being a sales manager is one of the hardest jobs in the sales profession. You have a million plates in the air. You need to manage up the chain, and manage your sales team to get the results the business needs. What does it take to coach your sales team to success? Three truths come to mind.
You’re faced with tons of administrative reporting and meetings that require your attendance. But make sure you ask yourself if you’re taking enough time to coach.
What percentage of your time do you spend on coaching? Sales and Operations research has shown that 3-5 hours per month is optimal for performance coaching. Think about it. Are you spending that amount of time per sales rep, or overall? Are you merely telling them what to do? Or are you testing their critical thinking and empowering them to come up with options, solutions and improvements on their own?
Are you focusing all of your coaching on poor performers? Do you spend any time coaching your top performers? Or do you leave them be, assuming they are good to go?
Personally, the only time I focused on low performers was to identify if they had a will problem or a skill problem. If someone was a low performer with a will problem, then the sooner they moved on, the better it was for everyone. But if they were an under-performer who was truly in need of some additional skills and coaching, then they needed my help.
It may be a surprise to you, but top performers actually love coaching. They know a lot, but they don’t know everything. And therein lies the key: willingness to always listen and learn. I’ve coached many a top performer to help them get out of the weeds and see things a bit differently. This ultimately gave them the opportunity to adjust, improve and be happier in their jobs.
The only way to coach your sales team to success is to properly assess and diagnose your team’s sales competencies and skills, and create a joint improvement plan to help them get there. You’ll want to use your coaching hours wisely. Spend too many hours coaching, and you end up suffocating your reps, which can actually hurt performance.
Once you agree on a coaching plan, break it up into bite-sized chunks to get small, frequent wins and successes. Create team ownership and accountability by having each rep identify what they will do in one week or two, and then report back on what they did, changes they made and results they attained. Ask open-ended questions to challenge them to think differently. Nothing is better for morale than seeing a big smile on someone’s face when they realize they are better today than they were the day before.
If you are a sales manager, do you know how to coach your sales team to success? Do you dedicate enough time to it? Do you coach in a way that makes them better at their jobs? Or are you still the super sales rep – taking over and making things happen?