We know that a good sales team can be a great sales team with effective sales coaching. In fact, according to the Sales Executive Council, when coaching is added, sales productivity is improved by 88%. As a result of coaching Return on Investment in sales goes up 27%, according to Gallup. And, where sales coaching is involved, customer loyalty improves by 56%. However, we all know that not enough effective sales coaching happens, and as a result – revenue suffers. In fact, according to a recent blog post by David Brock, sales managers only get to coach their sales people once a quarter – yikes! At The TAS Group, we’ve developed a solution to help address this problem, and I will introduce that later, but before that I’d like to set out a few thoughts about the good and bad of sales coaching.
You may remember a previous post I did about what motivates sales people. Well, the main motivator is not compensation or recognition, but it’s about making progress. ‘Making progress’ is something we’re all keen to achieve in everything we do. It’s why we practice our favorite sport, or musical instrument, and we know that our soccer coach or piano teacher can only point us in the right direction, share their experiences, and explain techniques that might help us further hone our skills.
So it is with sales coaching (or management coaching of any kind.) But it doesn’t always happen that way. Too often sales coaches interactions are solely critical (I never want you to approach a customer that way again! Don’t think this is not going to impact your commission.), overtly directive (Here’s what you need to do in future) or otherwise judgmental (Look, it’s clear you’re not going to make your numbers, we need to review your pipeline). There’s not a lot of value in those conversations. This kind of approach devalues both parties.
Sales is not a mechanical task. It requires at least a modicum of cognitive aptitude. We expect our sales people to be able to interpret, intuit, assess and make their own judgments. Putting them in a vice doesn’t help. Based on a recent MIT study, Dan Pink explains that where cognitive skills are required, the key to motivation – which is at least part of the role of the sales coach – is to understand that people are motivated by (1) connection to a purpose, (2) the desire for mastery, and (3) the ability to be self directed. Think about these three golden rules as you coach – it’s important.
- Connection to a Purpose: Why is the sales coaching event happening in the first place? Either it’s to help progress a deal, or it’s to learn from a lost deal. It’s not to berate the sales person, and it’s not the forum for a performance review.
- The Desire for Mastery: Just like good soccer players want their coaches to teach them how to be great, so it is with sales people. Every coaching session, indeed every interaction, should be viewed as an opportunity to help the sales person achieve mastery.
- The Ability to Be Self-Directed: It doesn’t work if the coach takes over the deal. If the coaching event is to be optimally productive, it must be a learning experience, and help the sales person to be more effective in the future – and in fact need less coaching. Sales winners want to have the ability to be self-directed.
As Dave says in his post, “Coaching is one of the highest leverage activities a sales manager can undertake. Effective coaching improves the performance of sales people”. But we need to focus on the word effective – and the sales manager and sales person each have a role to play. The sales person must have done his, homework. Nothing is more frustrating for a sales manager than beginning a coaching session only to discover that information is missing, or basic groundwork has been overlooked. For the sales manager, she needs to help the sales person to highlight obstacles to progress, let the sales person suggest solutions, shape those solutions, and then support the sales person in executing on the agreed next steps.
When we (at The TAS Group) set out to design Dealmaker Coach Me, our efforts were informed by principles similar to these. I love your opinion on our approach.
Recognizing that we don’t always have as much time to spend on sales coaching as we would like, and that unless everybody is well prepared, the coaching experience is not always the most productive – we used technology to help both sales person and manager overcome these problems . Dealmaker Coach Me helps the sales person to achieve mastery and increases his ability to be come self-directed. Because it provides real-time, deal-specific coaching, it enables the sales person to sell smarter, and managers to coach better.
If you’ve 3 mins to look at this video on Dealmaker Coach Me, I’d love your opinion.
[Credit: I was reminded of Dan Pink’s work by a post on the excellent blog from Bridget Gleason of BLG Consulting Group.]