Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography
I think therefore I am … not certain.
This should be the motto of most sales departments when concerning their understanding about how much impact their sales managers have on how much or how little their teams sell. It should be their motto about understanding why or why not their sales managers are truly successful. I think, I assume, I’m guessing, and I hope are all extremely dangerous phrases to say in sales and yet they are deeply engrained and widely accepted by sales departments when trying to understand and put value on the sales manager to sales rep relationship. In fact, these phrases are a key driver of the sad fact that the average tenure of a sales manager is 19 months. Fortunately these phrases are not used very frequently when it comes to sales rep activity, metrics, and KPI’s; sales departments are pretty buttoned up and do not use those dangerous words above all that often. The sales world has 50 percent of the performance grid figured out, but it is the remaining 50 percent, the right side of the grid below, that will separate world-class sales departments from all the rest.
The more coaching occurs, and the better the quality of coaching when it occurs, will lead to more sales managers hitting and exceeding their quota. I apologize for the lack of profoundness in the previous sentence, but intellectually understanding that more coaching and more effective coaching leads to greater results is not the challenge. The challenge for almost every Executive Sales Leader is ensuring that their front-line management teams are coaching at the right frequency for their business and that their coaching acumen is good and getting better every day, week, and quarter.
In order to ensure consistent and quality coaching, most Senior Leaders must be acutely aware that they are going to need to drive and mold behavioral change from their mangers, in most circumstances a change in behavior from compliance manager to sales coach. They need to know that driving this change will be difficult, and that it will be met with some resistance, especially from the loud and noisiest lowest common denominators on their teams. These challenges deter roughly eighty percent of sales departments from growing sales in a HUGE way because to many Executive Sales Leaders opt to continue to surrendering to the status quo of focusing on sales rep behavior and activity and not the sales coaching behavior and activity from their sales managers. This decision is costing them millions of dollars. Consider the snippet below from the latest EcSell Institute research that will be released in full here in the coming days:
"When you consider that the average sales manager in this study carried an annual sales goal of $21,656,736, the difference between the top group being 110% to goal and the rest being 91% to goal is equal to about $4,114,780 annually per manager.
Overall, it is evident that the top-performing sales managers coach their sales reps more often and more effectively than their lower-performing counterparts. And the difference between coaching quantity and quality corresponds to a difference in sales quota of more than $4 million per manager on an annual basis. Simply stated, more coaching and better coaching means a 21% increase in sales."
Building a world-class sales coaching team can seem daunting initially, but it does not have to be the case. The first step, which is always the hardest, is realizing that changing sales coaching behaviors in order increase performance is going to be an evolution not a revolution; therefore, there is no quick fix or silver bullet. After accepting this fact, the next move is to understand that there are four critical components that need to be executed against in perpetuity in order to maximize sales team performance at the management level. They are listed below:
- Measure – Create a baseline for how well your sales managers are coaching their sales reps today and continually benchmark against the initial measurement results. Here is a piece on the best way to measure sales coaching quality.
- Educate and Train – Teach and train your sales managers the high pay-off sales coaching activities that motivate reps to sell more.
- Implementation and Execution – Develop an intentional sales coaching strategy and execution plan. If you are a sales department that tends to invest a lot of money in sales training, but are not insuring sales coaching execution you are wasting .87 cents for every $1 you are spending on your training.
- Track and Analyze – Create a platform where high pay-off sales coaching activities and tools can be executed. Set frequency expectations for sales coaching activities and allow yourself the opportunity to correlate sales coaching behavior to sales rep success or failure. Click Here to read a white paper on why measuring, tracking, and analyzing coaching execution are critical sales performance metrics.
Again, it is important to realize that you are not going to take on all four of those steps above at one time. You must be intentional when creating your strategy and timeline for executing your strategy. The goal is not to become perfect because you will never be a finished product, but rather to look back a year from now and get excited about the progress and growth you achieved. The goal is to weave sales coaching into the fabric of your culture because there is nothing that will have more impact on your sales reps’ professional growth, sales results, and most importantly their lives.