Sales coaching is the most valuable element of a sales team. If you don’t buy into this, you can stop reading. This post is about getting the most out of coaching your people, why sales coaching is important, and the benefits of sales coaching. If coaching is one of those things that just seems to get in the way, then you are NOT going to like this post.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of sales people say they want more coaching. That’s over half. The problem is only thirty-eight percent (38%) of salespeople say their managers are good coaches. This is not a cocktail for success.
Most sales leaders aren’t good coaches. Some, because they don’t know how to coach. They just don’t have the skills. They were the kick ass salesperson who was promoted because they could sell, but lead, manage, well not so much. For the rest of the sales leaders, it’s less an issue of not knowing how and more of an issue of not doing it right.
Most sales leaders treat coaching as an ad hoc exercise. They sit in on calls and provide feedback after. They offer coaching during the pipeline meeting or during an impromptu meeting in their office. What they don’t do is build a cadence, a regular coaching or salesperson development cadence. This haphazard approach is better than nothing but it’s not as effective as it could be. In addition to not allowing for decent follow-up, and mostly addressing in the moment observations, it doesn’t provide situational coaching across the all the critical coaching elements.
What is sales coaching? Coaching is more than just providing feedback and critiquing, it’s about coaching in and for the appropriate situations, targeting the appropriate behaviors, skills, etc. To do this effectively requires a coaching cadence that incorporates all 4 of these situations or coaching elements.
The Tactics and Daily Execution
Most sales leaders focus their sales coaching process around tactics and execution. This type of coaching is good and ad hoc coaching for this type of immediate stuff is appropriate to a degree. Maximizing tactical and daily execution coaching, however, should be done during a weekly meeting. The pipeline meeting can be used for this purpose. There is nothing wrong with leveraging a pipeline review process to coach your sales people through overcoming objections, through deal strategy etc. Sales people grow through this “in game” coaching and support. Use your weekly pipeline meetings or a weekly stand-up to help coach your sales people in their approaches, skills, etc. They need it and want it.
Growth and Development
This, in my opinion, is the most critical element of an effective sales coaching cadence. A level up from skills coaching and in-situation coaching, this part of coaching is where you focus on a rep’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s where you break down their behaviors, capabilities, growth opportunities and more. This coaching is where you work to develop the person as a whole, not just individual skills. To be successful here you have to start with a list of the behaviors you expect from your sales people. What skills, traits, behaviors do you expect from a sales rep?
Once identified, coaching your sales reps against these behaviors is paramount. You can’t do this on a day to day basis. It requires you watch your reps over time, looking for repeating behaviors, good and bad. The growth and development of sales people require you observe, describe, prescribe and then repeat. It requires an ongoing feedback loop sandwiched between enough time for improvements, behavior corrections and for alternative approaches to applied and monitored. It’s more than just feedback in the moment. This type of coaching needs to happen every 6 to 8 weeks, one on one with the sales leader and the sale rep/sales manager.
Scheduling a recurring coaching session specifically targeting the reps growth and development is a game changer. Reminder: this is NOT a performance review. It’s only coaching. It’s OK if they haven’t perfected the changes yet.
Want Sales Tips Straight to Your Inbox Every Sunday? Join Our Newsletter!
Planning and Strategy
You have to get things done and so do your sales people and therefore a solid sales coaching cadence needs to support planning and strategy. Does your sales team know how to plan, are their plans good and effective? Do they see the big picture? Do they have the vision and strategic insight to develop and execute a successful territory, account, new logo plan? Yes, they can sell in the moment, but can they look 3 gambits ahead. Can they put together a plan that will guarantee success?
For most, the answer is no, therefore a solid coaching cadence incorporates a planning and strategy element. For most organizations, this is the QBR. Which I advocate. The problem isn’t the QBR, but it’s how they are performed. They lack any sales coaching, or deep probing to challenge the reps assumptions, data, strategies, approaches, conclusions etc. The are more like data dumps, providing very little coaching or learning opportunities for the sales people. Remember, coaching is about learning.
If you currently have QBRs, continue them, BUT treat them like coaching and learning situations, not data dumps for you. Come prepared to provide insight for your sales team, not critique. If your team leaves a QBR with more insight about how to meet their number and win, than when they walked in, you’re doing them correctly.
This element won’t be a surprise. Most sales organizations do performance reviews and I don’t advocate a radically different approach to them, with the exception of aligning the other 3 elements with the performance review. A good performance review, “reviews” a salesperson’s performance over the past year or half-year. Therefore, if you’ve executed the other three elements correctly, the salesperson should not be surprised about ANYTHING in the review. It should literally be a review or synopsis of the salespersons ability to incorporate all the coaching they have been getting over the past year. Performance reviews should be real easy, are they delivering on the results? Are they demonstrating the desired behaviors?
This element of the coaching cadence is less about the coaching and more about the big picture monitoring. It’s where it all comes to a head. It’s not meant to help them grow or provide tactical support or execution support. It’s simply to say yes, you’re doing what we need you to do — thank you! Or it’s, no you’re not and clearly, the coaching hasn’t been helping, therefore . . .
Great sales coaching is integrated. It encompasses all the elements of engagement; in the moment or tactical skills and execution support, personal growth and development, planning and strategy and overall performance. Coaching in only one of these situations is grossly under-delivering on your sales coaching. It leaves too much to fall through the cracks. More importantly, it’s the reason salespeople don’t feel managers are good coaches.
If you’re a sales leader 80% of your time needs to be spent on developing your people, so why not have a solid coaching cadence to help?
If you or your organization want to start changing the sales culture, getting less sales objections and building your credibility, click here to schedule a call with our sales team.