The Challenger Customer
by Norman Behar, CEO of The Sales Readiness Group
Norman Behar, CEO of Sales Readiness Group, teaches us about Effective Sales Coaching.
Watch this exclusive 29 minute video by Brent Adamson now.
. . . Behar with the Sales Readiness Group, and I want to welcome you to today's session on Turning Sales Managers into Great Coaches. For those who aren't familiar with the Sales Readiness Group, our company focuses on working with sales organizations on customized sales training programs at both the foundational and advanced selling skills levels. The fastest growing segment of our business is around sales management training programs, and in particular, coaching programs, which brings us to today's topic.
Best athletes don't always make the best coaches, and we're in the midst of NBA Playoff Season right now. And I'll just bring up a quick example. So we have Isiah Thomas. He played 13 seasons, 11 of those as an All Star -- a phenomenal player -- and we take a look at his coaching record, and really not all that outstanding. In fact, it wasn't even at 500 level. And then we take a look in contrast to that of Phil Jackson, someone who played also 13 seasons, never an All Star, and yet arguably the greatest coach of all time. And the point I'm making is that coaching and selling are different skills. So we're not saying that a star athlete or a star salesperson can't be a great coach. What I'm simply trying to acknowledge here is that it's a different skill set and a different mindset. And one of the challenges for star athletes is they have to recognize that when you move from a sales rep to a coaching job, it's no longer about you and your individual performance, but you really need to change the mindset about success through others and you have to really have this desire to help others achieve.
And so with that, I'd like to kind of talk about four attributes of great sales managers. One is they have to be able to hire, recruit, and hire the right people, so obviously getting the right people on your sales team is really important. You need to be able to manage performance across your team. So what are the critical success factors and what are the key behaviors or performance indicators that really lead to success? So learning how to manage in a behavior-based management system . . . leading and inspiring your team, so taking a vision from your company and translating that into goals, strategies, and tactics. And then, of course, the subject of today's session, how to become a sales coach.
So sales coaching, it's focus is really on skills. So what are the street selling skills? Knowledge, what knowledge do the salespeople need to have and what strategies will they use to improve sales results? So just to recap, skills, knowledge, strategies.
And there's really two types of sales coaching. So arguably there's one area that managers who've been great salespeople are usually really good at which is opportunity coaching, often referred to as deal coaching. So how do you advance an opportunity through the pipeline? And then skills coaching, which is a little bit more challenging, how to help the salespeople develop and become more proficient in their selling skills.
Let's start with the opportunity coaching. So this is really about helping them develop strategies for a specific sales opportunity. It often comes up like during a weekly pipeline review. There could be a particular deal that's stuck in the pipeline. There may be a situation where they're encountering some competitive challenges. Maybe there's multiple decision makers that are having a problem really reaching the ultimate decision maker and navigating an organization. And here it's very appropriate for the sales manager, as our coach, to really rely on their experience, start asking some questions, trying to understand more, hopefully leading that sales rep in some self-discovery about what the options are to move a particular opportunity forward. So it's staying out of tell mode and really into coach mode, but ultimately, helping them develop strategies that really advance a particular opportunity or deal.
The other area which we'll spend most of our time on is really skills coaching, and this is really helping the salesperson develop the specific skills they need to do a better job at selling. That could be basic prospecting skills. So how do I prospect for new business? Call planning skills, salespeople aren't always the best planners. What is it they really want to accomplish? How do you use questioning skills to really create great customer conversations? How to position value throughout the sales process, how to overcome objections, how to negotiate . . . so those are what we mean by key selling skills.
So one of the key things about coaching and one of the reasons it's so impactful is that it creates outstanding leverage. And what I mean by leverage is that a lot of managers spend their days really as a chief problem solver. So they're really busy and they're kind of going from one crisis to another putting out fires as opposed to really helping salespeople develop the skills and empowering them to solve their own problems. So initially, that takes more time, but overtime, it has a really profound impact on the business. And think about an organization that has 7 to 10 salespeople and you're able to just help them improve their overall skills slightly. You're going to see this huge impact when you advertise that or you leverage that across the overall organization.
And so it begs the question, well, how big an impact can that have? And there's some really nice data in this from CSO Insights. They surveyed about 2,000 companies. There's this really nice report that I'll share with you called the Business Case for Sales Training. But as it relates to sales coaching, what they found is in organizations where coaching needs improvement, the average of quota attainment was 84%. And if you look at the percent of reps making quota where you have coaching programs that exceed expectations, that number goes up to 95%. And as I mentioned, you can download this report. It's called The Business Case for Sales Training. It's on our website and it has a lot of great statistics telling about the impact of coaching but also on the impact of investing in training programs generally.
So we all know that coaching generally is a good thing to do and it can have a huge impact on the business, but managers don't always coach. So it begs the question, why? Well, they may not know how to coach. They may not coach the right reps. They may be coaching bottom performers who really aren't going to improve all that much. They don't have a process, so it would be analogous to having a sales organization without a process. You really don't want to kind of shoot from the hip. You want to have a consistent way to coach your team. Your company might not have a coaching culture, as such coaching could be viewed as remedial as opposed to something that people really embrace.
So we look at effective sales coaching and it typically falls into three buckets. The coaching mindset, so how do we develop that coaching culture? How do we move from being a manager who's managing performance -- kind of a frontal way of managing -- to really being on the side and really coaching people and helping them develop their skills? How do we determine what we're going to coach on? So we need to be able to analyze every person, each rep on our team, and ideally have them also assess themselves so we can put together a custom-tailored coaching plan. And then we need to follow a consistent coaching process and learn how to deal with some of the challenges.
So with that, let's start with the mindset. And a couple of attributes of great coaches, they're really committed to individual's success. They've made the transition. It's not about them. It's about their team. They've earned their people's respect probably by being a hard worker, doing what they say they're going to do. They're positive and candid. People like to work for people who are positive. They don't ridicule for mistakes but they use them as a learning experience. And they focus on behaviors, not judgments. They're not judging people. They're helping them improve their sales skills.
So three things I like to suggest is ask questions first, don't assume, actively listen, and assume the best of intentions. And I think if you keep those three things in mind and you look at where they triangulate, you get this coaching mindset. So when we think about companies that have a coaching culture, it does start at the top with management. The management has to buy in the coaching's improvement. In a lot of organizations, the CEOs even have coaches for themselves. You need to make time for coaching. You need to dedicate resources for coaching. You need to develop metrics to show that the coaching is working, and you don't want to make coaching just something that's done sporadically. You really want to introduce those type of coaching conversations into the day-to-day experience of the managers as they're speaking with their reps. It could be as simple as debriefing after a sales call on the phone. "Hey, what kind of questions did he ask?" "Oh, yeah. Well, why did he ask that question?" Those are the coaching moments that come up.
Some key considerations, who am I going to coach? So where am I going to spend my time? When am I going to coach? How am I going to coach? What process am I going to follow and what skills am I going to coach on? And let's start with this last one in terms of identifying what skills to coach on. So we get back to this idea of assessing and analyzing every member of your team.
And so when you assess salesperson -- and this is a screenshot about an assessment we use -- it's typically done online. You can take a look at different skills and the proficiency level as well as some motivation. You have the salesperson assess themselves. You can then compare results, figure out where you guys are in sync, figure out where there might be some differences, and most importantly, develop a customized coaching plan, probably revised every quarter, focused on only two to three key skills where coaching can have an impact. So while there may be this temptation about coaching plans that cover eight or nine skill areas, not very effective . . . ideally two to three skills in one calendar quarter. When there's a level of proficiency, you move on and replace those with new skills.
So one of the things that a manager struggle with is when should I be coaching and when should I possibly take some other management action? I've got on the screen some other actions that managers can take, and we'll share with you a little framework for doing that. It's built around looking at selling skills both from a motivation perspective -- so how motivated is a salesperson to perform a particular selling skill -- and proficiency. How well can they perform a certain selling skill? And using that, we can then start to plot skills using the development matrix where we have motivation on one axis and proficiency in the other axis.
So we have an example of a rep that is very motivated but not very proficient, maybe a new sales rep who's really motivated to prospect but doesn't know how. It will benefit some from coaching, but really they're going to need some training to develop their prospecting skills. Directing, not necessarily the best management action, but if someone doesn't know how to do something and they're not very motivated to do that, they probably need to be given a little bit more direction. I would say that if too many skills fell in this area of directing, it's probably not the right salesperson. Somebody a little bit more challenged, you've got someone who's really proficient but they've lost motivation -- maybe a veteran salesperson who doesn't want to prospect anymore -- then you probably need to have some kind of a counseling and really have a heart-to-heart. What are we going to do here because there's a lot of opportunity maybe in your territory that's not being worked? Maybe we need to move that to someone else. Managers have to make tough decisions.
Where you want to get to is empowering, someone who's got great motivation and great proficiency. So you've got someone in your team who's become a really powerful negotiator, turn them loose. Maybe even make them a mentor to others. Empower them to really use those skills. But for the most part, most people are going to fall to an area where they have average motivation and average proficiency as it relates to the skills, and that's why coaching is really the major part of this model. And then based on those skills where coaching can have an impact, you can start looking at a coaching process.
And I'll just briefly go through five steps of the coaching process, develop the coaching plan, conduct a pre-call briefing. So you're going to call on a customer with the sales rep. What is it you want to see them do? Make sure there's really clear understanding of roles. Observe the sales call in the case of insight sales, highly relevant today. Listen in on a sales call really focused on the key skills of the coaching plan. Remember the goal's to observe or listen, not to do the selling. That's the sales rep's job. Debrief after the sales call, and then follow up. And on a quarterly basis, adjust the coaching plan after you've had an opportunity to observe a series of calls.
In the interest of time, I'm going to focus only on one area which is the debrief. And in the debrief, you really want to start by reinforcing the positive behavior. So many managers have the temptation to share what didn't go right. That's not the best management action. Share something positive then ask the sales rep. Get their opinion on how that went. Don't provide your judgment first. Let them kind of share with you what they learned. You may find that they're going to raise the same points you do and they're going to be a lot more motivated to improve when they can discover these for themselves. After they've gone through that, then provide coaching feedback, and then provide an opportunity for practice. And ultimately, check for agreement so that you can move on to other skills.
So some key takeaways from today. Most managers don't know how to coach but can learn. Sales coaching creates leverage. You get a lot of power when you get skills improvement across your entire team. Sales coaching is the best management action for moving the middle, so where those skills and motivation fall within the coaching quadrant. Coaching mindset, remember it's about the salesperson. Lead them through self-discovery. Let them figure out where they can improve. Guide them as necessary and use a defined coaching process. This way it will be very consistent. It'd be very methodical in the way that you'll approach coaching.
As a follow up to today's session, you can download our Sales Coaching Guide for Sales Managers. It's an e-book that includes many of our blog posts on sales coaching. You can also download a copy of today's slide deck using the link here.
Again, it's been our pleasure. Thank you very much.