Three Reasons Why Managers Should Dedicate More Time to Sales Coaching
There are sales managers who coach, mentor and develop their salespeople and there are sales managers who don't. Sales managers who fail to coach are not necessarily bad managers, but they are neglecting an amazing opportunity and the most effective management practice for improving sales performance. In this blog post I’m going to share with you some of the key differences between sales managers who coach and those who neglect sales coaching. I’m also going to share with you three reasons why managers should dedicate more time to sales coaching,I've worked with hundreds of IT staffing sales managers and recruiting managers over the years and I’ve observed what distinguishes managers who actively and consistently engage their people in sales coaching and those who don’t. In addition to the essential sales coaching skills, the biggest difference is attitude and mindset. Sales managers who dedicate time to sales coaching simply believe in the value of sales coaching. They think of their role more as a coach in which their goal is to increase the value and self-worth of their employees, and less about closing their own personal deals or managing the day to day business operations of their branch or market(s). In short, they make the success of their people their priority, everyday.
Keep in mind that these sales managers are not professional sales coaches. I’m talking about sales managers who are managing a group of sales reps and/or recruiters who are also managing their own book of business. These managers are responsible for territory management, compensation and commission plans, customer segmentation, sales strategy, revenue forecasting, goal setting, performance management and more. So why do they consistently dedicate time to sales coaching? Below are three reasons why sales managers should dedicate more time to sales coaching.
Sales Coaching is Scalable and Repeatable
Top performers or "A" players are extremely hard to find and even harder to hire. Coaching managers know that recruiting and hiring “A” players is not a scalable solution to growing their business. There simply isn’t enough “A” players. Coaching managers understand that the key to achieving scalable revenue and sustaining growth is having a solid sales coaching framework to work from in which they can consistently coach and develop their people. It’s their proactive and systematic coaching that they provide for their people that enables their people to consistently produce which enables the manager to achieve scalable and sustainable revenue growth. Their sales coaching is their “secret sauce.” Their sales coaching, not manager feedback, is why their teams are consistently successful.
It’s akin to a Major League Baseball organization building a team. They understand you can’t get a top 10 pick in the draft every year and it’s too expensive to pick up the top free agents every off season. The solution is to invest in their farm system in which they develop kids from a young age. It is their farm system that enables them to compete year after year, not their checkbook and ability to sign free agents.
Finally, coaching managers know that if they are known as a sales manager who helps their people thrive and flourish that their people will never want to leave them. Understanding the basics of sales coaching including the what and why is how they retain their people. No monetary rewards can compete with a sales manager who truly and genuinely cares about the well-being of their people and invests the time and energy in their professional development.
Coaching Managers Know Even Top Performers Need Coaching
Coaching managers assume that their people, even “A” players won’t show up ready to excel at the job. Their expectation is their people will need time to learn and grow within their culture in order to reach their full potential and maximize their talent. Coaching managers don’t assume that because a salesperson was successful elsewhere that they will be successful in their organization. As a result, coaching managers see sales coaching as an essential part of their job. They believe that those with the highest potential, who can often contribute the most to a business, will need their help to realize their goals and ambitions. This includes top performers. These managers make comments like, “helping my people to be more successful is one of my core responsibilities as a manager" and "it is my job as the manager to ensure my people continuously show improvement and make themselves more valuable to the organization. If they don't show improvement, that is a negative reflection on me as the manager."
Coaching managers also understand that as the manager they (not their people), must adapt their coaching and leadership style to meet the needs and learning style of each particular employee. This of course takes a good deal of work on the part of the manager, but again, this is perceived as being part of the job, not a "nice to have." They do this because they know the return is hundreds of times greater than their investment of time.
Sales Coaching, Not Managing, Builds Personal Bonds, and Long Term Trust
One coaching manager I worked with years ago once said to me the following.
“I think the reason why my people listen to me is because they know I genuinely care about them as a person and they also understand what my intentions are as their manager. They know I'm here to truly support them and not judge them. I also make it a point to make myself vulnerable by sharing with them when I make mistakes or don’t have the answers and as a result they're comfortable opening up and sharing with me how they're feeling about things. I'm empathetic which I think helps."
The point this manager was making is sales coaching has been the vehicle for enabling her to build strong personal bonds and long term trust. The reason is effective sales coaching requires both the sales manager and the salesperson to make themselves vulnerable and to show or express empathy. Sales coaching is about tapping into the DNA of an individual and seeking to understand their viewpoint, motivation, goals, aspirations, skill sets and new ways of thinking.
Sales managers who never engage in coaching miss out on this opportunity. They don’t engage in the level of meaningful dialogue with their people.
Sales managers and recruiting managers contemplating the transition to sales coaching should consider the following questions:
- Is my current team under performing? If so, why? What can you do to improve the performance of your people? How can you make them more valuable to the organization?
- Are you team members delivering their best work, day in and day out? If not, why? What can you do to change that?
- How “in tune” are you with the challenges (skills, behavioral, personal and otherwise) your people face? What can you do to support them and coach them through it?
For managers who want to start coaching, one of the first steps you can and should take (after answering the above questions) is to seek out someone who is already a good coach in your organization (or elsewhere) and ask her or him to mentor you. How do they do it? What specifically do they do? What don't they do and why? Listen and learn.