Sales Coaching Blog

Sales Coaching: Part 1

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

January 31, 2014

BillEckstrom-resized-600You’ve heard EcSell preach many times that sales management, sales leadership, sales executives, no matter how they are titled are accountable for a succinct objective—grow sales.  However, for most sales departments, the means to the end objective is strife with limited information that prevents companies from selling more.  The most significant information limitation is this: there is only focus on sales rep activity, tools and improvement with little to no regard for management activity, tools and improvement.  In other words, we know everything about our reps and nothing about those who are accountable for coaching them.

Our research and that of others has proven that the performance of a sales team is a function of how that team is coached (“coach” viewed as both a noun and a verb).  We all instinctively believe this statement, we all agree with it, but very little is done to perpetuate coaching acumen.  We can’t help our managers be more effective if we don’t know what it is they do that most impacts sales.   

Prior to sharing what the most effective sales managers do, this blog will investigate a couple theories as to why there has been little emphasis on the evolution of the sales manager role.  Each of the following weeks I will share activities and tools that managers should be using as well as other high performance data from our research. However, bringing awareness to the obstacles will help with understanding, which leads to strategy, which leads to action, which leads to complexity, which leads to a different outcome. 

Theory 1, there is no understanding of the role of a coach:

Is a “manager” versus a “coach” just a play on words?  For most people, “yes”.  For EcSell and its members, “no”.  We understand and have explained in a previous whitepaper how the role of the manager today is not too dissimilar then when the science of management was first being studied—in the industrial era.  The role, and resulting expectations, of today’s manager has not evolved to reflect what we now know about individual and team performance.  Managers are asked to review pipeline with reps, make sure they are compliant to CRM data entry, which than indicates if they are compliant to a sales process, which should allow accurate forecasting, and so on.  Interestingly, most organizations want their sales managers to coach those on their team, but there is no understanding of what it means to coach and as a result, effectiveness cannot be measured. 

Effective coaches strategize, understand how to identify and acquire talent, constantly develop their talent, they connect and bond with their sales people, they know how and are constantly seeking new ways to obtain discretionary effort from those on their team.  Our research shows that today’s managers are great at making sure processes and systems are being followed—which is not what helps a team grow sales.  And, if you remember, growth is the primary function of their role.  That, colleagues, is why it makes more sense to view a manager’s role as more of a coach as opposed to one who manages assembly line workers from the 1920’s.    Check your job descriptions and see if what you have written and expect from those who lead your teams’ sounds more like a 1920’s management description or a 2014 performance coaching description. 

Theory 2, the obvious: 

Most all sales managers were promoted from sales production and therefore they should know what to do as a coach, right? This is always the default excuse as to why managers are not effective.  And, while the statement and conclusions are true, it is not the act of moving a high performing sales person to management that is the issue.  The issue is moving the wrong high performing sales person to management. 

A ticket to admission for any sales leader is to intimately know the sales producer role and all the different ways sales people can be successful.  The challenge with poor performing managers is they want to communicate “how I did it” and therefore believe that if a rep will just do the same thing they will also be successful.  High performing coaches understand that sales people all have different motivations and strengths.  So, how they are coached is unique to every individual.

Bottom line is this; all sales coaches should have a sales producer background to be most effective.  However, there is less than one in 20 who could make the move and become an effective sales coach.  Put another way, only about 5% of sales people have coaching strengths—and in a future blog we will discuss how to find this small group.

If you want to read more on what motivates sales people, read this whitepaper.

If you want to be kept up to date with how to maximize sales team performance, sign up for this blog.

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