Editor's Note: This blog has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on November 20, 2020. Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography.
Every organization that has tried to implement a new training program, sales process or service initiative knows that change can be hard. At the outset of a new initiative, we all have the best of intentions that the new ideas we want to implement will take hold in our culture and improve our company for the better. But in fact, research proves that 50-70% of change initiatives fail because they aren’t implemented effectively. Fortunately, there is something you can do about that. If you want your leaders to truly change their actions and behaviors, a management training program that consists of the four steps listed below has proven to yield measurable improvement in team performance. (Tweet this)
The 4 Steps of an Effective Sales Manager Training Program:
- Measuring management and coaching effectiveness
- Educating and training management and coaching skills
- Implementing key management and coaching best practices
- Tracking and analyzing change in management quality and team performance
These four steps are not so much revolutionary as evolutionary and can be followed by any company willing to execute them. I've watched leadership teams have great success implementing these steps and now thrive in high-growth coaching cultures.
The steps within the program are inextricably linked, as you can’t do just one of them and expect growth. For example, if you were to measure the effectiveness of your leaders’ management and coaching efforts, but not provide them with training, you will have shown them their strengths and weaknesses but not offered a way for them to improve. If you were to educate but not ensure the follow-up implementation, you’d experience what most companies see from training efforts – almost everything learned is forgotten within 30 days.
And to do the first three steps without tracking and analyzing results would lessen accountability, as nobody would be able to see the impact of their efforts. In summary, if you want to build a high-growth culture, it takes consistent execution of the entire 4-step management program.
Step 1: Measure Sales Management and Coaching Effectiveness
Growth in coaching, growth in individuals, growth in outcomes, and growth in sales—these are what leaders are looking for when they embark on a process for improving the execution of management and coaching within their company. Growth in these outcomes should be of paramount importance to any consultancy or vendor too, which is why measurement is the essential first step in a 4-step management program. Simply put, a successful program should begin with measurement to establish a baseline from which to assess progress and improvement over time.The most important way to measure management and coaching acumen and execution is by administering an assessment or survey of the people being managed. By asking team members about the consistency and effectiveness of the coaching they receive, managers can better understand their organization’s current coaching environment. This not only helps establish a baseline of performance but also allows the program to be tailored to better meet the managers’ specific improvement needs.
Most of the time, organizations have never even measured management and coaching before, so they have no idea of whether it’s even occurring or how well it’s being received by team members. Finally having this information gives them clarity about their current management and coaching effectiveness and how they need to improve.
Step 2: Educating and Training Sales Leadership on Key Management and Coaching Skills
So after an organization’s management and coaching effectiveness has been established with a survey, it’s time to begin education on best practices. This part of a 4-step management program helps build emotional commitment to improvement, so managers actually want to implement the new ideas they learn. Like all of us, the managers have preconceived notions and ideas that influence their thinking.
Through their experiences with their own teams, learning from other leaders, and sometimes even previous management training, they’ve developed their own beliefs on how to best coach and lead their teams. While their experience can be valuable, managers have been taught ineffective ideas about how to drive their team’s performance. Even more often, managers simply haven’t been adequately exposed to good modeling or information on how to manage or coach their teams. This is why it’s important to begin an education process by building the managers’ understanding of the importance of effective management and coaching.
With the right training, managers should find the learning to be engaging, thought-provoking and even fun. Look for a management training that offers practical ideas, an interactive way of teaching, and a focus on creating emotional buy-in with the needed new behaviors to ensure a good experience for your managers. But also consider that a training program may not always receive a warm welcome.
As acknowledged at the beginning of this blog, change is hard. If you are a senior leader who wants your managers to improve, or if you are a frontline manager who is interested in leading your team more effectively, it’s not enough to get excited about training content and new ideas about how to manage people better. You have to commit to real change, and that takes real work. Managers may feel genuinely excited about improving coaching after attending a training, but the real change happens in the next step.
Step 3: Implementing Key Management and Sales Coaching Best Practices
It is easy to say, “Go forth and execute,” but if it were that easy, this step in the program wouldn’t be necessary. Instead everyone would immediately put into practice the new coaching ideas and management techniques they learned in their training. Unfortunately, a desire to remain in a comfort zone reigns supreme. Even after education and training on how to coach better, trying to change a well-established habit takes real work. By default, most managers return to old behaviors within a few weeks.
The best way to combat this tendency is to create a collaborative implementation environment that is driven by bringing together people who are trying to improve their coaching behavior. Indeed, EcSell Institute research shows that people are more likely to be consistent in their behavior when they take part in these ongoing implementation groups. These implementation groups should meet regularly, every month or so, and the meetings can be done in person or over-the-phone. The focus of these implementation groups should be the continued sharing of best coaching practices and open discussion of the challenges to overcome in improving coaching.
In addition to managers being supported by their peers, we also find that when senior leaders drive accountability for the implementation of the management program, it yields better outcomes. That’s why an effective management program will also stress that need for a consistent message coming from the top of the organization on the importance of executing management and coaching best practices.
As outside vendor can and should share data and information on the impact of effective management and coaching, but most managers take their cues from their own leaders. So if senior leadership publicly supports the management program and holds their managers accountable for execution of it, the program is more likely to be successful, plain and simple. This is also why step four in the program is so essential.
You can learn more about this step in the process here.
Step 4: Tracking and Analyzing Change in Sales Management Quality and Team Performance
In most companies we study, managers are doing only 54 percent of the management and coaching activities that our research shows improve team performance. Further, when they are managing and coaching their team members, 45 percent of managers are falling short of the quality standards they need to achieve to hit their performance goals. And remember, these are the percentages for managers who work for companies that have committed to a measurable management program. Imagine what managers are doing in companies that have no program, no measurement, and no accountability for management and coaching improvement!
By measuring management and coaching quantity and quality, we have become acutely aware that most managers don’t know how their actions and behaviors affect the growth of their teams. They don’t know what to do, how often to do it, or how to do it well. Evidence of this can be seen in the numbers listed previously. Because the vast majority of managers in the business world don’t have the data and information they need, they have been underperforming for decades.
Analysis of this kind of management and coaching information not only allows a story to emerge but also solves a long-standing performance improvement mystery that, up to this point, has never been understood. That is, organizations would see different performance levels from teams, but the only data they could examine to explain this difference was on frontline performers. This may answer the question at times, but without measurement of manager performance, there was a huge unknown variable.
Gathering this kind of data is integral to program success but cannot be done without a systematic process. This is why some kind of software or tracking program, like the ONE-UP Coaching Cloud, is essential to an effective management program. Without tracking management activity quality and quantity, it’s impossible to have the information needed to drive accountability, plan improvement strategies and measure the impact of effective management and coaching.
You can learn more about this step in the process here.
In conclusion, it takes more than just participating in a one-day training to improve how managers lead their teams. If you want to see measurable results, it takes commitment to making changes in habits, activities and behaviors. That’s hard work, but it also yields real results.
I take a deeper dive into these four steps and provide examples and case studies in the resource below. I highly recommend checking it out if you want a more in depth look at how organizations are embracing change and becoming a high-growth organization. Your organization could be one of them!
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