Sales Coaching Blog

Sales Leaders: Stop Using Dirty Words

Posted by Will Kloefkorn

May 19, 2016

dirty-words.jpgRegardless of the subject or topic, I am the type of person who is almost impossible to offend. Insult my family, doesn’t bother me because that is a reflection of you more than them. Make fun of the Nebraska football team, it stings, but we deserve it. Disagree with my opinions or beliefs, good that makes for a more interesting conversation.

I don’t get offended and this is a good thing because not a day goes by where I don’t get on the phone with multiple senior sales leaders only to hear them repeatedly utter some dirty, dirty, dirty words. To be clear, they are not spouting off your traditional four-letter obscenities, which is too bad because those words would be a lot more entertaining, and a lot less damaging to their sales department’s on-going growth. So what are they saying? See if you can identify with any of the following when talking about your front-line sales leader’s effectiveness:

  • In theory
  • I think
  • They should
  • I suppose
  • Might be
  • Inconsistent
  • I don’t know!

We live in a time that allows us to measure and quantify critical performance data and if senior sales executives don’t begin getting rid of those dirty words from their vernacular, those words will soon be getting rid of them. If you are not currently measuring your sales coaching for both quality and quantity then you are stuck in an outdated version of sales management.

You likely are still putting an inordinate amount of resources and money into training for your sales producers in hopes of increasing performance and building organic growth. Training can be effective, but without monthly reinforcement and coaching that focuses on five critical activities, sales departments are wasting approximately .87 cents for every $1 dollar they spend on training. Progressive sales departments, the ones who will dominate the future, acutely understand that sales people do what they are coached to do, not what they are trained to do, as outlined this previous blog post.

A recent EcSell Institute study showed that the difference between the top 20% of sales coaches versus the bottom 80% of their peers produced a gap of $4.1 million/manager/year. So why aren’t sales departments quantifying the effectiveness of their front-line sales leaders?

There are two very important factors at play here:

(1) A known, but undefined need – Everybody knows by now that effective coaching leads to more sales growth, higher team performance, better culture, and decreased turnover. Everybody knows that coaching matters and so they need more and better coaching, but organizations have yet to accurately define what great sales coaching is which makes it almost impossible to effectively measure against it.

Think of it this way, if a front-line sales manager walked up to their SVP and said, I want to be the best sales coach for my team, what activities and behaviors do I need to do at the highest level, and how often should I do them? What would the SVP’s response be? Not good. I can tell you this because I have yet to get a clear, concise, and accurate answer to that question when a senior leader is put on the spot. EcSell Institute clients are able to measure sales coaching quality and quantity because they have used research to identify the highest pay-off sales coaching activities and they have set a cadence for their sales leaders that science proves leads to the most motivation to sell from reps. This is a big reason why our clients were up 28% on average in new sales growth this past year.

(2) A lack of executive C-Factor – Because most sales departments are stuck in an old sales management model, making the transition from sales manager to great sales coach involves a significant amount of change in behavior. With behavioral change comes hard work, push back, and resistance which presents a challenge for executive leaders. The biggest challenge is that intellectually understanding how to be a high-performing sales coach is a lot different than actually executing and being a high-performance sales coach.

To use a health analogy, everyone knows that eating well and exercising regularly is what it takes to be truly healthy, yet few make this commitment. Senior sales executives are often afraid to make their front-line sales leaders eat well and exercise regularly because they know they are going to get push back and in some instances, might have to remove the sales leader from the dinner table if they aren’t willing to change. So often times, senior leaders opt for sticking to the status quo or checking the proverbial box when it comes to sales leadership development. They are more concerned about how they will be perceived by their teams in the short term versus seeing a more holistic long term vision for which they will be thanked down the road. This leadership weakness will not play out well for in time for sales departments who choose to remain in a traditional sales management model.

Sales departments have the opportunity to make coaching so much more than just a soft skill. They can, and should, be making sales coaching a vital performance metric by consistently measuring for coaching quality and quantity. When they effectively make this transition I know they will no longer have to use such foul and dirty language about the effectiveness and activity of their front-line sales leaders. If they don’t change, it’s only a matter of time until they are cursing for real while they try to find a new job.

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Topics: sales coaching, sales leadership best practices, Frontline sales leaders

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