A version of this post from The TAS Group’s Donal Daly originally appeared on TMCnet.
Over the last number of years I have given a lot of thought to Sales Performance Management. I think that most experienced practitioners and observers recognize that the front-line sales manager is the key to scaling sales performance. But it is a really hard job. And if sales managers are in fact the linch-pin of the sales organization, then when sales management fails, sales fails. Bouncing from task to task, managing up, out and wide, getting to the important tasks often suffers under the pressure of the urgent. One of the important tasks that get relegated to the ‘I-know-I-should-do-it-but-I-just-can’t-get-to-it’ bucket is sales coaching. I thought that I would share some thoughts here on how you might make what every coaching time that you have most effective.
But first, some facts:
- According to CEB, coaching can improve sales productivity by 88 percent.
- Per Gallup, when sales coaching is effectively deployed, customer loyalty increases by 56 percent.
- This is not surprising given that in a recent report from CEB, 53 percent of customers see the ‘Purchase Experience’ as the primary driver of customer loyalty.
- Sales Management Association conducted a study looking at issues that are “important to sales force success” and examined the resource that was applied to those initiatives. Sales Coaching stands alone, as being recognized as being important but not getting the attention it deserves.
- According to a separate Sales Management Association study, most sales managers are spending less than 5 percent of their time on sales coaching. Perhaps given all of the time they are spending on all of the other activity, perhaps this is not a surprise. But it is still worrisome.
We looked at why Sales Managers don’t coach, and saw a combination of (1) the lack of time, and (2) uncertainty about what to look for as two of the major obstacles. As you would probably expect from me – I believe that technology and smart automation has a huge role to play in resolving both of these issues to empower the sales manager to (a) understand the vulnerabilities in his/her team and (b) provide coaching to help the team members improve.
But it is worth stepping back to consider what good coaching looks like:
Here are my Rules for Great Sales Coaching
Coaching should be a joint process. It is not about the manager telling the sales person what to do. It must be viewed as connected to a shared positive purpose, with agreed expectations and suggested preparation. You may jointly want to progress a deal, learn from a loss, or review strategy – but the emphasis needs to be on jointly – it must be a two-way flow.
2. Regular Cadence:
Coaching should be embedded in how you manage your sales business. If centered around deal reviews, assessment of account plans, discussing a sales process, coaching should not be viewed as an event. Regular, scheduled coaching sessions will develop a consciousness and familiarity with the process that will grease the wheels and make each coaching session less challenging and more productive.
3. Consistent Framework:
Consider, for example, a Deal Review. You should create a consistent framework that the sales team is familiar with. You might start with an overview of the deal, allow for clarification questions, identify risks and vulnerabilities and then brainstorm solutions and strategy. Do it the same way every time and it will flow more easily.
4. Apply Buyer’s View:
In truth there is only one perspective that really matters, and that is what the customer thinks. Remember that the impact on a customer of a bad buying decision is typically greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. So the sales manager, or others in the coaching session, should take the perspective of the buyer. Honestly answer the question: “If I was the customer, would I buy from us?” It’s a great lens to use to focus your thinking on what the customer cares about.
5. Look for Evidence:
Always look for evidence. When presented with comments like “Joe Smith really likes us,” or “We have strong compelling event,” you should always respond with questions like “How do we know?” Be clear about the evidence of customer action that helps support those assertions.
6. Elicit Critical Thinking:
The role of the coach is to elicit critical thinking from the sales person. Start with “If we were to lose the deal, or fail in this account, what would be the top three reasons?” Then, when these risks have been identified, allow the sales person to come up with their own answers. This critical thinking is a muscle that can be developed with progress.
7. Praise Good Insight:
People respond to praise – particularly in front of their peers. If you don’t acknowledge or recognize valuable contribution, you are less likely to get that same contribution again. You audience will think either that you don’t get the value – or think that you are too important (in your own mind) to respect their opinions.
8. Be Objective & Curious:
As Albert Einstein said, “Never stop questioning.” Remove any bias that you have about account, the opportunity or the sales person. Remain objective and seek the truth that will serve you all.
9. Don’t Take Over:
It is not your job to close the deal, be too prescriptive on strategy or directive on the next action. Don’t feel that you are the only one who can call the customer, or do the research, or plan the account. You are trying to develop new behaviors and that only happens with practice. Don’t take over.
10. Document Actions:
If the coaching session was worth doing, then it is worth recording what happened, the insights you learned, and the actions that were agreed, and then follow up.
CEO, Founder, and Author of Amazon #1 Best-seller Account Planning in Salesforce, Donal Daly combines his expertise in enterprise software applications, artificial intelligence, and sales methodology, as he continues to transform how progressive organizations sell. The TAS Group is Donal’s 5th global business enterprise.