Important Sales Coaching Skills to Solve Challenges
I recently participated in a Webinar that was hosted by Selling Power on the topic of sales management and sales coaching (“Accelerated Sales Success through Effective Coaching“). The webinar featured Selling Power CEO Gerhard Gschwandtner and included a lively audience Q & A (see here and here for answers to selected questions that were asked during the webinar).
Sales coaching is receiving a tremendous amount of interest in today’s slow economy and it is easy to understand why. Industry research shows that effective sales coaching can dramatically improve the performance of sales teams – in somecases driving up revenues by 20% or more. With such potential benefits it is no wonder that many sales organizations recommend that their front-line sales managers spend 25% – 45% of their time sales coaching.
The webinar audience included many sales leaders as wells as frontline sales managers. As participants asked questions, two common sales coaching challenges emerged: sales managers feel that (i) they don’t have enough time to coach their teams and (ii) they don’t know how to coach.
Not Enough Time to Coach
Managing a sales team is probably the most challenging position in any company requiring a unique set of skills. Sales managers are responsible for a range of diverse tasks, including managing a sales pipeline, coaching their team, forecasting, hiring new sales representatives, strategic planning, and sales administration. In many cases, sales managers are also asked to carry sales quotas or held responsible for a target list of accounts.
Additionally, sales managers face the challenge of managing sales representatives who are typically independent, strong willed and sometimes have little day-to-day contact with their managers. With all of these demands on their time, it is no wonder that sales managers can feel overwhelmed. Many sales managers we speak with claim they are too busy “putting out fires” to coach their teams. The problem these sales managers have is not lack of time but mindset: They view their primary role as being the chief problem solver of their team. Every time a sales rep has a problem or needs help dealing with a prospect or customer, these sales managers roll-up their sleeves and jump in to help.
This “firefighter” approach in the long-term is counter-productive. Instead of spending so much time putting out fires, sales manages should take a step back and spend more time coaching and developing their sales teams. The benefits of this approach are two-fold. Sales reps with better skills will (i) sell more and (ii) solve more of their own problems.
The net effect of more sales coaching then is to free up the time of the sales manager.
Don’t Know How to Coach
Most frontline sales managers started their careers as successful sales representative who were then promoted into management. Companies tend to assume that successful sales representatives will make successful sales managers. This is a flawed assumption. Think about professional sports where many great players ended up being mediocre coaches. Likewise, great sales representatives often have a hard time making the transition to management. The key challenge for sales managers is that coaching requires a different set of skills then selling.
The good news here is that sales coaching is a skill that can be learned, practiced and perfected. However, it is the responsibility of the sales organization to make sales coaching a priority and then provide managers with the skills and tools they need to be successful. For best results, sales organizations should view the skills development as one component of an overall coaching system that includes 1) creating a coaching culture, 2) implementing a coaching process, 3) developing the coaching skills of the managers, and 4) using metrics to measure success and hold sales managers accountable.
Bottom line, by learning sales coaching skills and spending more time coaching they’re reps, managers will develop more effective sales teams.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.