From our experience, there are four keys to create this capability in your sales managers.
In the sections below we'll go into more detail on each of these keys.
Success leaves clues and smart sales leaders are always on high alert for these clues. Your model of success will come to life when you define and activate a consistent and repeatable sales process, leading to successful outcomes. Using metrics and key performance indicators helps in knowing how the sales person is performing. They can also identify coaching opportunities for sales managers to proactively assist sales people who are falling short, offering advice to get performance back on track.
If you do not have an understanding process and measurement in your organization, then adopting this culture should be a priority for you. Many sales managers don’t coach because they simply don’t recognize coaching opportunities. Without standards and objective metrics coaching conversations are avoided by sales managers because of the risk of becoming too emotional and personal.
You want to have metrics on what a good deal, good funnel or pipeline look like. This will help your sales managers focus on coaching in areas that will drive the best impact for the sales person. For example, your sales managers should know how many sales calls a sales person requires each week or month, as well as the conversion rate on those calls. If a sales person is behind on any of these metrics, then the sales manager can work with them to close these gaps.
Defining success in terms of process, key performance indicators and goals provide sales managers with a more substantial foundation for quality coaching conversations.
From our experience, we see too many sales managers coaching to outcomes as opposed to processes. In this situation, sales managers harp on sales people to achieve quota and provide little guidance about how to be more successful. This approach creates frustration and undermines the sales peoples’ loyalty to your organization. We believe that if you coach to the processes, the proper skills and outcomes will take care of themselves.
When you have bad process and bad outcomes, you get what you deserve. However, when you have good processes but bad outcomes, that’s a sign to be patient. You’re not going to win every deal. Sometimes you are unlucky or the deal just isn’t meant to be. Sometimes you’re early in the process and you need to be patient because the sales process is long and a customer needs time to internalize their decision. Don’t stop doing the right things.
Sometimes outcomes are good even when your process is bad. If so, count your blessings because you probably got lucky. Celebrate these wins but don’t get too comfortable because these successes won’t be sustainable. There are also situations where your process is good and good outcomes follow. When this is the case, congratulate yourself because your success is well-earned and sustainable.
Sales managers should use process-based coaching, rather than outcome-based coaching. This way they empower their sales people, as opposed to making sales people more dependent on them. Establishing processes, goals and standards also enables sales people to self-correct because they know what’s expected. They also know that their sales manager is inspecting the criteria that lead to success.
It’s not enough for you to know when but also why your sales people are winning. When this level of transparency exists across your sales force, you have a built-in self-correction system. Great coaches help sales people self-correct so that they don’t self-destruct.
It is important to provide your sales managers and sales people with tools to help identify skill gaps, especially gaps that have the greatest impact on sales success. These tools can take the shape of formalized assessments or guides that enable sales managers to identify deficiencies.
When a sales manager recognizes and addresses a gap as a high priority, there is a much greater likelihood that the sales person will take corrective action. Some sales managers want to be accepted personally by their teams and avoid providing honest and critical feedback. However, the sales manager can keep personalities out of the process by working with the sales team to identify gaps, figuring out what to do about them.
The sales manager and rep should be focused on identifying opportunities to improve and work together to close these gaps. One reason why broad-based sales training doesn’t work is because it’s just too general and doesn’t address the unique needs of the individual sales person. Sales skill development should be an ongoing process, not a single event. A capable sales manager with good coaching skills can help foster a mindset of continuous improvement.
Sales people need to have predictable coaching moments. There is not much that sales people are entitled to, but they are entitled to know that they are going to have preplanned, one-on-one and focused coaching sessions. Without established coaching sessions, the notion of receiving coaching can be perceived as a negative for a sales person. They may believe that coaching is something they receive when they aren’t living up to expectations.
You need to establish a pattern of regular meetings between your sales managers and their sales people. Each meeting should have a specified format and outcomes. Your sales managers must also be held accountable for running their scheduled meetings, while simultaneously exhibiting strong coaching skills.
Sales managers should meet often with their sales people to hold them accountable and to identify, then prioritize topics for future sales coaching sessions. This approach ensures that sales coaching becomes more predictable, scalable and successful in your organization.
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