Sales Coaching Blog

Sales Coaching: It's the relationship stupid

Posted by Will Kloefkorn

September 24, 2015

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Allow me to be blunt; if you don’t know me you can’t coach me. I am fairly confident that this premise also applies to every sales manager/sales rep relationship across the globe. It is a fairly obvious statement, but while that is true, it also makes it very easy to give it lip service as opposed to actual top notch relationship execution. If you are skeptical of this, allow yourself to consider the following questions below:

  • How well do my sales managers truly know the individuals on their teams?
  • How well do they know them as sales professionals?
  • How well do they know them as human beings?
  • How do your sales people perceive their coaching relationship with their direct manager?
  • Are you measuring the quality and quantity of coaching that is occurring by all of your front-line managers?
  • Are you allowing your subjective reality skew the objective reality to all of the questions above?

If you have risen to an executive sales leadership position chances are you have a pretty good subjective view into the lens of your sales department. It is also likely that you have a strong intuition that allows you to fly by the seat of your pants better than others. That being true, I’m here to tell you that when considering your sales management team, you likely have overestimated both the quality and quantity of coaching that is occurring in your sales department.

I will paint you a simple, yet profound example of what I am talking about. When it comes to great sales coaching, the execution of regularly scheduled 1 on 1 sessions are critical. I’ve never heard anyone dispute this fact. Upon completing their Through The Eyes Of The Rep sales coaching assessment two years ago, a current large EcSell Institute client learned that a mere 35% of sales reps stated that their sales managers were holding regularly scheduled 1 on 1 sessions with them. Not good. This percentage was much lower than executive leadership would have predicted because their sales managers were supposed to be doing consistent 1 on 1’s. While the saying “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” is a bit cliché, it is also very true. The opportunity in the sales world is to measure the ones who are supposed to be doing the managing, but that gets overlooked because everybody measures the rep/client relationship and not the manager/salesperson relationship.

As a side note, almost all sales managers, front-line and executive, overestimate how often and how well they coach, much like if you ask your client service team how well they serve their customers, they will say “great", or "customers love us”, but when you go to the source, the client, you learn about blind spots and opportunities to improve. The same premise applies to sales managers and coaching. The only way to truly understand the quality and quantity of coaching that is occurring is to go to the source, the sales reps themselves.

So in the client example above the question becomes, how well can your managers truly know your reps if 65% of them are not getting regularly scheduled time with their managers? They can’t, or at least not to the capacity that they absolutely should. The solution to this challenge then lies in leveraging the new information, converting that information into a strategy, and then executing the strategy with deliberate intentionality, which is what this client precisely did. What was the result? After one year, 83% of sales reps surveyed said that they were now having regular 1 on 1’s with their managers. This was a sales coaching quantity increase of 48% in one year. Do you think that increase led to a better understanding of sales reps selling mechanics? Better sales accountability? How about the manager’s ability to understand the psychology of their reps? How about an increase in new sales revenue? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

While I have boiled the importance of coaching down to one simple example, using one company, this scenario plays itself out in every sales department in the country. It also applies to the other highest-payoff coaching activities: joint sales work, team meetings, career development plans, and sales skills audits. In order to truly know your reps you must begin by assessing the coaching relationship. From there you must support your management team with the appropriate education and training so that you can affect coaching quality. Also, it’s imperative to support them with the latest and most effective sales coaching execution resources and tools. Finally, to close the loop on all of the above, you must constantly track and analyze coaching activities and execution, in real time, so that you can fully understand why a sales team is hitting, or missing their number.

Nothing impacts performance more than relationships. Nothing elevates sales performance more than great coaching. Don’t take these obvious truths for granted, don’t give them the same lip service as most give diet and exercise, because your sales fitness depends on great manager to rep coaching relationships. And to quote the great Curt Coffman, “Nobody has more impact on organic sales growth than the sales manager."

Build a great sales coaching team; it can be done!

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Topics: one on one meetings, Sales Manager Tips, sales manager coaching, sales coaching, sales rep peformance, sales performance, five high pay activities, Manager relationships, Manager and Rep Relationship

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