The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Sales Manager Effectiveness: Frequency of Joint Calls with Reps

    by Bill Eckstrom / November 13, 2013

    Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography

    Are the sales reps on your team new or tenured?
    Are they primarily phone or field sales?
    How large is the geography a sales manager has to cover?
    Are your sales managers “player/coaches”?

    Every sales manager has differing circumstances that impact the amount of time spent doing joint sales calls with reps, the above variables being the most obvious.  The question should never be “do I do joint work with my team?”, but only “how much joint work should I do with those on my team?”

    Let’s think about this logically considering how a sales rep should spend their time…  There are many activities, behaviors and tools that impact a sale person’s performance, but arguably the most critical activity is time spent either face-to-face or on the phone with clients/prospects.  And, how sales reps interact with customers/prospects throughout your sales process is an obvious determinant of success—their ability to hit and exceed goal.  

    Now, think about how sales managers should be spending their time…  Since EcSell is on the phone daily with sales departments (and having been there myself), we frequently hear and are aware of the time demands placed upon sales leaders.  But, if spending time at the home office in meetings or spending too much time in the CRM or looking at dashboards is your idea of how to progress a career, you are sorely mistaken.  If you want to get noticed, hit and exceed your goal.  I guarantee you that heads will turn when you are at 120% of goal and your home office connected peers are hovering around 90-100.  And, to make sure goals are hit—get with your reps and stay with your reps!

    There are three roles a sales manager can play when joining a sales rep on a call, and it is critical that this role be defined ahead of time. 

    1. Observation: You are introduced and of course are engaged early in the informal part of the conversation with clients/prospects, but let them know you are going to be taking notes and doing a great deal of listening.  Only chime in the sales conversation if absolutely needed or if questions are asked directly of you.  
    2. Support: You and your sales rep both are asking questions and involved in the discovery, presentation or proposal.  Don’t dominate the conversation and defer questions to your rep when you can. 
    3. Lead: You are the point person in the conversation with the customer/prospect.  Now the sales person should be taking notes and is a passive participant.  As you continue to work with your reps, you should be able to spend less and less time in this role.  

    Due to all the different factors that impact one’s time, there is no magic formula a sales leader can apply that determines how much time should be spent coaching sales reps in selling situations.  Having said that, what we see as best practices are as follows:

    Phone sales managers: A minimum of monthly a manager should be either actively joining reps on sales calls or quietly listening to them.  If a sales person is new in the role this should go to a minimum of weekly, with a manager’s involvement in the call becoming less substantial as weeks and months pass.  Remember, the goal is to teach sales people how to fish, not fish for them.

    Field Sales Manager: In a small geography the same rules apply as with phone sales.  Managers have the opportunity to spend more time with those on their team and should take advantage of it.  With large geographies it may not be realistic to travel with reps more than two times a year, but quarterly should be the goal.  In any scenario, managers need to spend a minimum of one, but no more than two full days with their reps.  One-two days should be enough, for you should be able to get an effective read on your reps’ skills in this time frame.  I disagree with those that want managers to spend more than two full days with a rep, for our research shows it is not the number of days that are as important as what is done in those days.  In other words, if a manager can get a full grasp of a sales reps’ selling acumen in two days, the quality of the interaction is now contingent upon the feedback provided by the manager (this will be covered in a separate blog).  More consecutive days do not equate to growth.

    Side note—the player/coach model is used by many sales departments.  And while it works for some, be aware there is an inherent conflict of interest.  Most every day a manager has to make a choice to either line their pockets with sales commissions or help their team perform at a higher level.  Remember, the ability to sell is a different talent than being able to effectively coach a team to produce at a higher level.  While the best sales managers are elevated from a producer role, there are very few that have the ability to sell and to coach.  Hold out for the few and don’t assume every great producer will be a great coach.

    Bottom line:  Spend every reasonable amount of time with your sales people, and make sure the majority of that time is spent watching them perform.

    Tags: Coaching Sales People

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    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."