Sales Coaching Blog

The #1 Sales Management Strategy for 2015

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

December 15, 2014

EcSell Institute Bill Eckstrom“This leaves seven in 10 people in management positions who probably shouldn’t be there at all, and who are actually likely to make their teams worse”.

The above is an excerpt from an article published by Jim Clifton, the CEO of Gallup.

How many sales managers on your team are making their sales people worse?  Hard to know, but let me assure you that if you have a team of sales managers that are accountable for coaching sales producers, research shows that more than half of your managers are inhibiting sales performance.  Said another way, without the manager in place the sales people would likely sell more stuff.  Think about the power of that statement…

Though challenging to comprehend how this staggering stat can be accurate, let’s take a sequential look at how this can occur on any sales team:

  1. You have an opening for a regional manager position, and one of your top producers expresses a desire to move into the role. So for a variety of reasons—keeping them happy (you are concerned they could leave), challenged, proving you have a culture of upward mobility—they become a “coach/manager” to a team of sales people.  Sound familiar?  You are not alone, for most managers are “promoted” into their first supervisory role with no fact based discovery as to whether or not they have the talent to coach a team of sales producers (not to mention those who are promoted again without the ability to coach coaches).
  2. Post promotion the new manager has not been taught the high pay-off coaching activities (because most organizations don’t know what they are), nor was he/she provided the proper coaching tools or trained to a coaching methodology. Consider this…  How often should a manager do joint work with each producer?  How often should a manager provide written feedback on a sales rep’s skills? What is the best way to provide oral feedback?  Should they spend more time helping sales reps close deals, open deals or present solutions?  Should they take over more sales calls or spend more time observing/listening?  How often should they do 1:1 meetings with each rep? What should be covered in the 1:1?  Are they helping the sales rep become more skilled at selling? And so on…
  3. Even if an organization provided the proper coaching training (should include all the above and more) nobody objectively measures if a sales manager is executing the right coaching activities and behaviors, with the right people, the right number of times, and if they are effective. Remember, without the proper measurements there is no proof of strategy—which could turn out to be a waste of resources.

What results from the above is a manager that may be executing activities and exhibiting behaviors that actually demotivate sales people.  Yes, demotivate.  Obviously this is not done deliberately, and the vast majority of managers have no idea the impact (either positive or negative) they are having on their team, again, because no coaching/managerial KPI’s are in place.

Executive sales leaders, sales effectiveness departments, training and development teams; all need to take a deeper, more critical look at what is truly happening in the manager/rep relationship and how it is impacting performance.  What they will discover is the greatest opportunity to grow sales does not sit with the sales rep, it resides with the front line sales manager.

Okay, since I was candid and forthright regarding the problem I will be equally candid and forthright about the solution, the #1 strategy against which every sales team should execute.

The reality is organizations aren’t going to replace 70% of their managers, at least not immediately, nor should they.  Even with evidence managers may be in the wrong position they should be given the opportunity to perform at the highest level.  This is done by implementing the following strategy with ALL SALES LEADERS. 

  1. Objectively measure their current coaching effectiveness—create a baseline and understand opportunities for growth for each manager. The best way to do this is to survey sales people and discover what critical coaching activities are being executed, with what frequency, and with what quality. 
  2. Educate and train managers how to drive the most performance from a sales team. Define high pay-off coaching activities and tools, how to use them, how often to do them, etc.  Help them understand what they should do each day/week/month/year.
  3. Going forward, provide an easy, non-disruptive way to measure whether or not the proper coaching activities and tools are being used, again with what frequency and effectiveness. Measuring the proper items will provide performance insights you’ve never seen before.
  4. Repeat step “a” to see if managers have improved.

With the above steps executed there are no longer excuses, and a sales department will have lived up to their end of the bargain by providing the resources a manager needs to succeed.  Done properly, executive sales leaders will now have:

  • Objective metrics that identify what is limiting or causing growth of a sales team, and if the obstacle(s) or catalyst(s) is sales related or coaching/manager related
  • 100% visibility into what a manager does well and opportunities for their growth
  • A view across the entire management team that compares coaching activities and behaviors and how they are impacting their respective team’s sales results
  • Real time (not just historical) data that provides insights into managerial performance
  • The ability to know if a manager is actually developing sales people to sell at a higher level or if the manager is selling for them
  • Clear documentation of overall managerial performance
  • The ability to grow sales at a faster clip

Summarizing the above, executive sales leaders will finally understand why a sales manager is able or unable to hit their number. 

Every sales department wants to grow sales in 2015, but in order to grow at the highest levels sales leaders need to view their management team-not the sales people-as the primary path to sales growth.  Put a structure in place that allows managers to act and behave more like sales coaches, less like managers, and watch sales explode.


 

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