According to industry research, sales managers that devote more than three hours of coaching per month to each of their team members achieved 107% of their team quota. On the other hand, teams that received no coaching met only 82% of their quota. Coaching works because it helps you create leverage, and leverage is the key to be a successful sales manager. Leverage means that your salespeople do the work, not you. You spend less time “putting out fires” and more time working on important issues. You create leverage by developing and coaching your team so that their skills improve. With better skills, your salespeople are better able to solve their problems without your constant involvement.
Most sales managers know they need to coach their salespeople to maximize performance, but they don’t know how to get started. When you’re confronted with a complex problem, remember what Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Here are four steps to help you think about how to start coaching your sales team.
I recently had the opportunity to co-host a webinar on the Future of Sales Coaching (access recording here) with Jake Miller, Product Marketing Manager, at Allego. As part of the webinar, Jake shared some of Allego’s insights based on a survey Allego conducted of nearly 300 sales reps, managers, and enablement leaders on sales coaching. One key takeaway from this survey (see chart below) is that the #1 “ask” from sales reps was for more skills-based coaching.
To maximize sales results, a sales manager has to ensure that his or her team is operating at their peak level like a sports team. That’s where coaching comes in—it’s one of the most important things you can do as a manager to drive better sales results. Coaching is the time you spend 1:1 with your team members to improve their ability to sell. The most common obstacle preventing sales managers from coaching their teams is time commitment. Coaching takes time and doesn’t have a “due date.” So often managers postpone or reschedule coaching to complete other time-sensitive management activities. I have previously discussed how to allocate your coaching time. A good rule of thumb is that you should spend: 60% of your coaching time with your salespeople with medium skill levels, 15% of your coaching time with your salespeople with low skill levels, and 25% of your coaching time with your salespeople with high skill levels. The idea here is that you should spend most of your time coaching salespeople with medium skills. These salespeople will provide the highest return on your time investment as you develop average performers into high performers. Low skilled reps may require too much of a time commitment to help, while high performers have some room for improvement, but don’t need lots of coaching. But what do you do if you are extremely limited in your time available for coaching?
It’s no surprise that high-performing sales teams have managers who spend more time coaching, as evidenced in our Sales Management Research Report. There are numerous benefits to effective coaching, but despite the general acknowledgment that it’s a high-value activity, many managers don’t spend enough time coaching. Several reasons managers don’t coach include that they don’t know how, don’t think they have time, or don’t have a process to follow. But here’s another piece of the puzzle that many sales leaders don’t want to admit. One of the biggest reasons managers don’t coach is because the organization hasn’t adopted a culture of coaching. Changing the organization culture is hard. At a minimum, if the initiative hasn’t been made a top priority by the leadership team and there isn’t a process in place to manage the behavior change, it will be doomed to fail. The six factors identified in the graphic below will help ensure your sales coaching program is aligned for success.