The Case for Hiring a Full Time Sales Coach
Anyone who has been in sales management for any length of time knows that the key to retaining salespeople and transforming average sales performers into top performers is sales coaching. Yet the roadblocks and reasons for sales managers not being able to consistently engage their salespeople in sales coaching is endless. Sales managers are crazy busy running from one meeting to the next trying to help their people close deals, they're reviewing sales activity and performance reports, interviewing candidates, reviewing their P&L, attending rep-rides and sitting in on management meetings and doing a half- dozen other activities simultaneously. As a result, engaging in sales coaching activities feel like extra work. Getting sales managers to take ownership of sales coaching and doing the necessary groundwork required to develop people is difficult.
In this blog post I'm going to make the case for hiring a full time sales coach.
Facts and Statistics About Sales Coaching
- According to research from CSO Insights, companies with a dynamic sales coaching program achieve 28% higher sales win rates. That is HUGE! Imagine if your fill ratio when from 25% to 53%. That would make a MAJOR impact on your top line and your growth trajectory.
- Research from Dr. Jack Zenger and Dr. Joe Folkman show that as much at 60% of sales reps say they're more likely to leave their job if their manager is a poor coach. For sales managers who have a turnover problem, the first step to sales coaching is gaining an understanding of the basic fundamentals of sales coaching.
- CSO Insights Sales Management Optimization Study showed that companies with a formal coaching process see 91.2% of overall quota attainment. Imagine if 91% of your people were meeting quota!
- According to the Bridge Group, companies waste on average $10,000-$15,000.00 per year on bad hires yet only spend on average $2,000.00 on professional sales coaching.
What Exactly Does a Sales Coach Do?
A sales coach operates as part of your sales leadership and sales enablement team and their sole responsibility is ensuring the 'readiness' of your salesforce through sales coaching and training. Unlike a front line sales manager who is typically responsible for their own book of business, reporting sales forecast numbers, operational duties and handling internal processes, your sales coach is focused exclusively on helping sales reps develop the skills, behaviors and self-confidence required to be a top producer. Your sales coach is responsible for ensuring your sales reps and recruiters are "conversation ready," and that they can execute in the heat of the moment, every time.
Sales coaches are responsible for improving the effectiveness of your salespeople. Day-to-day duties of the sales coach include building and managing skill development plans and ad hoc coaching, coaching reps to their sales pipeline, engaging in data driven coaching, modeling the desired behaviors to show sales reps "what good looks like," engaging in sales role play practice, listening to and analyzing recorded calls with prospects and customers, attending sales rep-rides, providing positive reinforcement, and collaborating on the best approach and strategy for prospects and opportunities.
You're probably thinking, isn't this what my sales manager is suppose to be doing? Historically, yes, but with today's sales manager being responsible for their own book of business and having a handful (or more) of direct reports and all of the other responsibilities mentioned previously, it's just too difficult. The reality is there just isn't enough hours in the day. Besides that, your sales manager is probably your best salesperson which means they are most likely not the best person to be coaching your sales team. And sales management isn't what it was in years past. The market has changed, buyers have become more informed and educated. For these reasons salespeople need a full time sales coach mentoring and developing them.
The Value of Practicing with a Sales Coach
Sales training is no substitute for sales coaching. For sales reps to become "conversation ready," the the skills, knowledge and desired behaviors need to be practiced and reinforced on a recurring basis.
For example, I play golf, or I try to play golf. I'm about a 20 handicap, not very good. Let's assume I decide to take golf lessons and also hire a swing coach. For 60 days I play twice per week, go to the driving range twice per week and I work with my coach twice once per week. Now imagine in month three I have a heavy travel schedule for work and I fail to make it to the range to hit balls or play a single round of golf. My clubs sit in the back of my car frowning at me. When I return to the course to play my new swing and everything I have been working on is rusty. I don't feel comfortable, I lost confidence in what I was taught and I fall back to my old bad habits. My handicap, which was improving regresses.
This is what happens with salespeople who receive no sales coaching or inconsistent sales coaching. Salespeople and recruiters will never incrementally improve their performance without recurring practice and sustained sales coaching. Sales reps need to be coached and held accountable to practicing on a consistent, recurring basis. But most front line sales managers don't provide this level of sales coaching either because they they don't know how to structure their sales coaching or they don't possess the essential sales coaching skills
Sample Sales Coaching Reinforcement Plan
Below is an example of a sales coaching reinforcement plan we at Menemsha Group provide for salespeople who participate in our objection handling course.
AFTER the seller has:
- Completed our online objection handling course (videos to watch, documents to read)
- Passed our certification exam
- Passed our certification missions where they video record themselves practicing their objection handling skills
The salesperson and the coach engaging in the following sales coaching reinforcement activities to sustain skill and behavioral adoption.
- The sales rep documents the 3-4 most common objections heard
- The sales rep creates flash cards for each objection
- The sales coach role plays with the sales rep daily using the flashcards
- Weekly the sales coach and salesperson meet in a formal 1:1 meeting to collaborate on each objection and rebuttal to ensure the rep understands the customers motivation behind each objection.
- Sales rep records and sends to his or her sales coach real, live recorded prospecting calls the sales rep had with their prospects for review. The sales rep and sales coach listen to and analyze each recorded call to reinforce positive behaviors and identify areas for improvement.
Could your salespeople benefit from this level of sales coaching? Absolutely, who wouldn't? The challenge for many sales managers convincing themselves to dedicate enough time to sales coaching. They're simply too busy.
Why Sales Coaching is Valuable for Your Salespeople
For the sales coach, sales coaching is about creating a safe environment in which salespeople feel sales and comfortable making themselves vulnerable by opening up and sharing with their sales coach where they feel they're struggling and why, and what they need help with. The sales coach accomplishes this by leading with questions rather than looking at past performance and making judgmental comments and simply providing manager feedback. A true sales coach understands the difference between sales coaching and manager feedback. This level of dialogue is what establishes trust. This is invaluable for the salesperson because the sales coaching is what provides them with a safe outlet, one which is hard to get from a front line manager running from one meeting to the next with their hair on fire.
Another element of sales coaching that is valuable for salespeople is the sales coach and sales coaching makes the salespeople aware of their blind spots. For example, many sales coaches either audio and/or video record role plays and take notes detailed while listening to a rep's sales call or attending a rep-ride. The detailed feedback is designed to point out for the salesperson their specific messaging, behaviors and tonality to provide them with self awareness. Self awareness would they not have without the sales coach.
By working hand-n-hand with each sales rep, whether it’s via role play, rep rides, 1:1 coaching or through skill development plans, structured coaching and ad-hoc coaching, a sales coach can help salespeople reach their true potential. That is something today's crazy busy sales manager doesn't have the time for.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.