Perhaps it’s so easy it’s hard. That is the only reason I can think of when considering why sales departments do almost nothing to measure and analyze the consistency and quality of coaching that is occurring in their organizations. Or perhaps I’m not giving the EcSell Institute enough credit, but that is not the point of this post. The point of this message is to focus on looking at sales performance through a different lens to challenge the status quo.
Think for a second about your sales reps: you have a methodology to help them sell more effectively, you have defined all of their high payoff activities, you track and analyze the completion of those activities in CRM, you provide all sorts of different training for your reps, you are constantly attempting to bring more clarity, discipline, and structure to their role while making sure to not stifle their creativity, and when they succeed you are quick to recognize and reward their efforts. As a sales producer, I love the fact that so much attention is paid to our success because it is warranted and it is necessary. However, the problem that keeps occurring is this; when you put so much emphasis on paying attention to the sales rep you forget about the sales reps greatest resource – their sales manager.
Now think for a second about sales managers: they are equipped with a job description that is outdated, they still focus more on management than coaching, most all of their tools focus on how to make sure their reps are in compliance to everything listed in the paragraph above, and if they are lucky, sales managers have gotten some sort of leadership training. Has your sales department provided them with more? If so great, because that means you are ahead of 80% of sales organizations. Now here is the thing that is counterintuitive, if you happen to happen to be in the top 20% your sales department will be the group that will listen to the message below and will crush your competition moving forward.
Every Executive VP wants a management team that knows how to drive performance. A management team that understands and has been trained to execute the highest pay-off coaching activities. However, wanting these things, believing these things will increase sales, does not mean squat unless the VP has a level of conviction to execute against their beliefs. Their conviction about these beliefs needs to be so strong that they are willing to put their words into actions. This is where the rubber meets the road; nearly 100% of senior sales leaders will tell you that the way their managers coach has a huge impact on how much their reps sell, but I’ve talked to thousands of them and not one can answer with any level of absolute certainty about these questions below:
- How often do your managers coach?
- What percentage of your managers coaching time is spent with top performers versus bottom performers?
- When they are on joint calls with their reps, what role do they play? What percentage of the time do they take the lead, or play passive participant, or silent observer?
- Can you correlate their coaching activities and behaviors to performance beyond did they hit their number?
- And on and on and on …
This is great news for sales departments because there is a huge opportunity to increase performance that is being left on the table. It is great news for sales organizations that are willing to adopt a coaching methodology that holds their sales management teams to the same level of accountability that they expect from their sales reps. Great news for VP’s who want to make no excuses. No longer do senior sales leaders have to “hope” they have the right management team. Now they can objectively measure coaching performance. They can train their managers to execute high pay-off coaching activities and lastly— they can now track their performance. What sales managers do or don’t do has too big of an impact on sales results to leave to chance. And the most important thing they do, what motivates their reps to sell more, is coach!
Believe this much – sales management is on the way out. In the next few years sales managers are going to have to make one of three choices: 1) Learn to be a great sales coach 2) Get back into production 3) Leave the sales profession.