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    Four Critical Sales Coaching Metrics Nobody Measures

    by Bill Eckstrom / October 29, 2014

    Editor's Note: This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on September 11, 2020. Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography.

    It’s not that they are not tracked, they are not even thought of. Sales departments focus too much on what the sales people do or don’t do as opposed to focusing on those who coach them. Though I can write (and have many times) more about this issue, but if sales leaders believe the performance of a team is a reflection of how that team is coached, why don’t they measure if coaching is occurring and if it is being done well? Or more broadly, why don’t sales teams measure overall sales manager effectiveness?

    In a previous blog, I shared my thoughts on how ridiculous it is that sales departments measure sales rep productivity, yet those that have the most significant influence on them, managers, and nobody knows where managers have been, what they’ve been doing and if they are doing anything well. The bottom line is that sales teams have no significant visibility into managerial performance.

    At EcSell, we’ve been asking the following question for some time: 

    • What is it a manager does that most impacts a rep's motivation to sell more stuff? 

    Ultimately, isn’t this the question and the result we all want from our managers?  Shouldn’t the end result of a manager’s work be that their team sells more stuff?  Yes, I know they have many responsibilities, but if a sales team can produce X without a manager, and with a manager they produce X+,  it is the amount of the “+” that determines their value to the team.  And if the “+” is not big enough, why do we have them in that role? 

    Back to the question about what it is managers do that helps their sales people sell more stuff. We have not only asked ourselves this question, we’ve asked hundreds of sales managers and thousands of sales reps. The result of this research has led us to understand how managers bring value to sales people, and if one believes the research than they will want to know if managers are doing the activities and exhibiting the behaviors that motivate sales people to sell.

    Find out what the 5 essential manager activities are that impact sales.

    The good news is the following metrics that correlate strongly to “sales rep motivation to sell” are not new to most sales teams.  They are the basic blocking and tackling of sales leadership, but again, we don’t know to what extent they are being done or if they are done well.  The following should be metrics every sales department should track and review.

    1) 1:1 meetings % complete: 

    Most managers believe they hold 1:1 meetings with their reps with about 90% consistency, but when sales people are asked, they respond that their managers hold these critical sessions with about 50% consistency. Who is right?  Nobody knows because nobody measures.  Due to the important role they play in performance, there should be an expectation as to how often they should be held.  Our research would indicate a minimum of every other week is sufficient, and not only should we know the % of time these are being held, notes of each session should document what was discussed, follow up actions, etc. 

    Download our template for this activity. 

    2) Joint sales coaching interactions % complete (and resulting metrics):

    Managers should play a huge role in helping sales people develop their skills, and the opportunity to make the most significant contribution is by joining them on sales calls. If this is properly documented the metrics will show at what stage of the sales process the manager was involved as well as what type of account. 

    In other words, all sales leadership should want to know if managers, while working with reps, are taking over the calls and trying to close deals (our research shows the #1 complaint sales people have about their managers while doing joint work is their managers take over the call), or are they working with reps on the front end of the sales process, helping them understand the needs of your prospects/customers. 

    Do sales leaders want managers coaching reps on key accounts, bringing on new logos or how about existing customers?  Again, there should be an expectation as to how often this occurs with each rep.  The frequency depends on many things, tenure of rep and geography are a couple significant determinants.

    3) Sales call evaluations % complete: 

    This is the traditional view of “coaching” and it is still a critical activity—providing feedback on a reps ability to sell. Let me begin by stating that coaching feedback should occur following every call when a manager is present. However, following a series of joint calls, managers should document and objectively rate a reps ability to execute your sales methodology (assuming you have one). This key activity should be done a minimum of twice yearly and more often if size of team and travel permit. Again, managers should be measured against their ability to get this done with each rep.

    4) Coaching acumen score: 

    If coaching has such a strong influence over performance, measure how well it is being done. Done properly (by surveying your reps), the survey will result in a coaching score from which you can measure coaching improvement going forward. Remember, just because managers do the right activities doesn’t mean they do them well.

    Sales Management Resource

    If all the above metrics are tracked in the proper format, the result is more than four data points, there is now a view on how a manager is impacting the performance of their team. Below is an example of how these metrics can paint a new performance picture, one that was not available to sales leaders until today:

    What is this telling us? Well, if one believes the performance of a team is a reflection of how they are coached, then all performance questions should begin with the manager/coach, not the sales rep. In the above scenario it is obvious “Manager B” is not executing against the key activities that drive team performance. It would be nice if every rep went out and hit their number, but as mentioned earlier, if that were the case we wouldn’t need managers. Again, the manager’s primary role is to get a team of sales reps to produce at a level that would not otherwise be unattainable.

    I would argue that “Manager B” has poor overall coaching performance and needs to redirect what they are doing to more high pay-off coaching activities, along with being trained how to be more effective in the role. More attention needs to be directed to the manager!

    By the way, don’t let data entry scare you, for there is now coaching cloud software available that gathers data in a format that doesn’t burden sales managers with clerical work. You don’t want managers entering data, you want them executing high pay-off coaching activities that when done, convert to data. Without coaching metrics, sales leaders have only been able to view what sales reps were doing or not doing, but we now know that rep activity only paints part of the overall performance picture. Equipped with the right coaching data there should now be visibility into management performance.

    The conclusion: lower turnover, higher engagement, greater rep productivity leading to increased sales, are all derivatives of better coaching. Coaching metrics will not only allow sales departments to understand how much managers contribute to the results their teams produce, they will also help them understand how to make managers more effective.

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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."