The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    8 Critical Sales Coaching Activities & The Missing Link

    by Bill Eckstrom / September 11, 2013

    Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography

    There are times in our sales leadership career when we have the opportunity to do something special, the chance to catapult our skills and also the skills of those with whom we work, and truly make a difference in the lives of those on our teams.

    Teams are not products, they are not services, teams are the faces who look to you every day to help them produce and grow.  From the last name on the stack rankings, to the rain maker, to the regional sales manager; sales leaders should have an imprint on their lives for science proves that nobody has more impact on their performance than you, their coach.  But, let’s face facts; right now there is no visibility into the effectiveness of the sales management role.  All anyone has to look at to measure success is whether or not a number was hit.  Though obviously important, sales leadership can’t say what a coach does or does not do to achieve the desired team result. 

    Imagine, sales leaders—how great would it be, how much more could be sold if you could understand & replicate the activities, tools and behaviors of the best coaches?

    This is not just addressing front line managers, but everyone who is responsible for a sales team that has a number to hit—VP’s, SVP’s, CSO’s and Presidents, included.   Common sense dictates that nobody comes to work to fail, and it is the leader’s job to help them succeed—emphasis on “help”.  It is not a coach’s job to “force” success, those on our teams have to want it, and for purposes of this writing I will assume all readers have weeded out those who aren’t willing to work for it.

    As a leader/manager (or use EcSell’s nomenclature a “coach”), how do you most impact performance?   Or put another way, how do you get more discretionary effort from your team?  Many times the minds at EcSell have written, blogged, prophesied, researched and published the importance and intricacies of performance, specifically management, leadership and the c-factor.  Now, let’s get down to what our research shows are critical coaching activities and tools for front line managers.  As simple as it sounds, if you want to make a lasting imprint on performance, sale coaches, at a minimum, need to do the following 8 things:

    Coaching Activities & Tools

    1. Scheduled, consistent 1:1 meetings with those on your team--weekly would be ideal, but if this sounds like too much, go every other week.

    2. Consistent time in the field/on the phone listening to and observing sales people in action--however, this is only part of the activity.  Coaches must provide objective, written feedback on their selling skills a minimum of quarterly.

    3. Scheduled, consistent team sales skills development sessions--these can be led by you, sales people, vendors, marketing or anyone who has a vested interest in helping your team grow sales skills, product knowledge or market knowledge.

    4. ABR: Always Be Recruiting--nobody has a more vested interest in the talent you hire than you.  If you could figure out what it costs to lose, hire and get a new rep up to speed, you would have several qualified prospects on your bench ready to play. 

    5. Pre call planning forms--never spend time with a rep who does not provide you, in writing, with the objectives of the call, who will be in the meeting, dress code (if appropriate) and any other pertinent data.  You are a less effective coach without knowing the above.

    6. Capacity Plan (or similar document)--a simple planning tool that allows a rep to mathematically determine how much they wish to sell, how much they want to make and what that translates to in sales activity. 

    7. Professional and personal goals sheet--how can you help them achieve their goals if you don’t know what they are?  And, don’t think for one second their personal goals don’t have business implications.  Get to know each of your reps on a strong personal level.

    8. Skills review--much more encompassing than reviewing only sales skills, for there is more to success than being effective in front of a customer/prospect.  Do these reviews either semi-annual or annually.

    Given the above, nobody can now say “I don’t know what will drive more performance from my team”.  While true, here is the catch… 

    Who makes sure the above is getting done consistently?  Who makes sure the above is getting done effectively?  If you believe the above are critical coaching activities and tools, what metrics are being tracked?  I have visited with many sales execs and most all state they expect their managers to spend between 70%-80% of their time executing against the above activities, but nobody—I mean NOBODY—is tracking it.  Think about it, the position that science shows has the biggest impact on sales performance, and sales execs can’t tell us what their front line managers were doing last week, month or year. 

    Don’t worry, sales execs, you are not to blame.  Up to this point there has not been a way to efficiently know, or even if there was, execs would not have known what to track.  Nobody has been measuring what sales coaches actually do that leads to team performance—except for us.  EcSell research shows that most front line managers don’t act like coaches, but more like compliance officers, monitoring activity and pipeline.  Guess what?  Nothing in our research shows those coaching activities as “motivating” to sales reps.  I’m not insinuating that coaches don’t need to know about sales activity and pipe, but without that data being converted to sales improvement coaching, a manager, in essence, becomes a compliance officer.  

    Here is where the “lasting imprint” comes into play...  

    We are closing the loop and creating a new “coaching platform” that allows all sales leadership levels to have complete and total visibility into coaching performance. 

    When implemented, front line coaches will now be able to know how their actions impact sales results and sales execs will know how to coach coaches.  Coaching will be adapted to each person on the team, for how they should be coached is always different; likewise, training resources will be specific to each coach, for they all need to improve in different areas.  All level of sales management will not just receive data, but actionable information that will make them more effective—leading to greater team performance.

    Yes, I have taken liberty with our blog to let you know what is coming with an EcSell membership, but it is also a passionate plea for sales leadership to get on board and be a “coaching innovator”. 

    Please share your thoughts!

    Tags: New to Leadership Performance Tracking/Analytics Sales Process Leadership Development Professional Development Ideas

    previous post Sales Management 101: A Sports Analogy
    Next Post Put Your Team into Complexity: Leadership Lessons from Moneyball
    Bill Eckstrom

    Bill Eckstrom

    William Eckstrom is the CEO and Founder of the Ecsell Institute. Bill has spent his entire career in the sales management and leadership arena. In 2008, he founded Ecsell Institute to fill a void he witnessed and personally experienced in the sales leadership profession. He's went on to present a viral TEDx Talk and co-authored the best-selling book, "The Coaching Effect."