Sales Coaching Blog

Sales Coaching Pt 4: The 5 High Pay-Off Coaching Activities

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

March 12, 2014

Bill_Eckstrom_Headshot_2014_sAt EcSell, our research has allowed us to establish a logical progression of sales coaching facts through the years

  • Nothing impacts the performance of a sales rep more than their manager
  • It is how well a manager “coaches” that has the biggest impact on sales rep motivation
  • EcSell research shows there are three primary themes to sales coaching: management, leadership and the catalytic factor
  • There are five quantifiable activities & tools that are associated with effectively executing against the three themes

Expanding on the last bullet, though there is much to being an effective coach, I can concretely say there are some fundamental activities and tools that have to be executed, tracked and measured for effectiveness.  This blog is dedicated to the five activities and my next blog will focus on the five tools that enhance the following high pay-off activities. 

  1. Participating in joint calls with sales reps
  2. Holding 1:1 meetings with those on your team
  3. Team meetings
  4. Skills development sessions
  5. Team retreats

For most sales leaders the above are not new, which is perhaps the challenge.  There is no silver bullet activity or tool that will magically transform a team to perform at the highest levels, it is knowing whether or not the above is getting done and done effectively.  Read on to learn more.

High pay-off activity #1: Participating in joint calls with sales reps
As coaches, this is arguably the most fundamental activity in your job description; whether field or phone, participating in sales calls is critical to sales rep motivation and overall performance.  Having said that, there are three primary questions that a sales leader needs to answer when creating this joint work expectation: 1. How often 2. With whom  3. Determine your coaching role when on the call. 

How often-we see significant variance when looking at how often managers do joint work with reps.  If phone sales, it is easy to participate in the sales process of a prospect/customer and one should do so as often weekly as weekly for new reps and a minimum of monthly for tenured reps.  For field sales, geography is the wild card.  If a manager lives in Lincoln, NE and has reps scattered from Memphis to Seattle, it is hard to do joint work more than 2-4 times yearly.  Both of those are realistic extremes, but for fireld reps in their first six months, every 30 days is a minimum amount, and three times yearly for more tenured reps.

With whom-do you want coaches riding along when calls are with customers or would you rather have them with prospects?  Do you want your coaches spending more time with the top 20% of reps versus the bottom 20%?  Or, is your biggest opportunity for growth with the middle 60%?  Should managers do more coaching with reps on the early stages of your sales methodology or are they more effective helping them close deals?    Here are some quick answers: While all reps deserve a minimum amount of joint call work, discretionary coaching hours should be spent helping your top 20% become even more elite.  Doing joint work while calling on prospects versus clients should reflect what is wanted in a compensation plan or other corporate expectations.  And, science shows that if coaching help occurs in the early stages of a sales process, the deal is more likely to close than if a manager enters the process late and tries to help get it done.

Determine your coaching role-will you observe, actively participate or lead?  Knowing this ahead of time should determine how you prepare for the meeting.  As an observer you want to take extensive notes and watch to see if your rep is effectively executing against the steps within your sales methodology.  Take on the role of active participant with your reps when you can complement their style or when they ask you to have some level of involvement.  Take over as the lead only when necessary.  It is hard to be a great coach if you are not letting your players play the game.

High pay-off activity #2: Regularly scheduled 1:1’s
Though this may be a shock to some, they should be held weekly.  If this is too big a stretch, start with every other week.  Just know that this is a critical way to engage with your team.  The meetings do not have to be in person, for if your team is scattered then use the phone.  The topics that should be covered, in order, are:

  1. Personal updates
  2. Previous week’s wins/losses
  3. KPI/Pipeline review
  4. Action steps to take
  5. How can I assist

High pay-off activity #3: Team meetings
Again, EcSell recommends weekly, but certainly no less than monthly.  Team meetings that are run well, reap the benefits that can come from the power of the collective (see blog on being a collaborative sales leader).  At these meetings stick to a consistent format covering the following:

  1. Team progress to goal
  2. Success stories
  3. Who needs help from the group
  4. Sales skills development (if not doing group sessions)
  5. Market/product/company updates

High pay-off activity #4: Skills development sessions
At no time should sales leaders or sales reps act like finished products. As a result, a team skills development event for those who can get their team together monthly is needed for growth.  This is much easier for inside sales or field reps and managers who office and work in the same geography.   A minimum of monthly there should be 1-2 hours dedicated to growing skills that impact sales results.  For those whose team is spread out geographically, make skills development a small part of every weekly team meeting held by phone.  Education does not have to be something led by a manager, for this responsibility can be shared with the team.   You can also enlist vendors, training & development or outside presenters.  Cover everything from products, market, selling skills, time management, goal setting, etc.  If it can help sales reps sell more-train to it!

High pay-off activity #5: Team retreats
Dependent upon geography these should be held twice yearly or as often as quarterly.  Done less frequently and behaviors and strategies will not be affected.  These are an expanded version of team meetings with more attention paid to strategy and needed resources to hit and exceed the sales goal.  Take a ½ day and go off site if possible, but find a way to gather your team and tap into their brains and experiences.  A manager who does this will be a better leader and sales reps will grow their skills as well. 

Most sales departments do some form of the above, but here is the challenge every sales department faces regardless of how many of the above activities they are executing against.  Standards have not been set with whom or how often, but most importantly nobody (except for some EcSell members) is measuring compliance, frequency, effectiveness and then correlating the activities to sales team growth.  Until the activities are done consistently & measured for effectiveness, a sales leader will not know what needs to be done more, less, and who needs help.

Without the above performance information, sales departments are guessing as to what their management team should do, how often they should do it, and they’ll never have visibility to know if sales people are successful--in spite of, or because of their sales leader.

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