Sales Coaching Blog

The Most Powerful Sales Coaching Question

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

September 2, 2015

1It is simple, succinct and should evoke great thought.  Whether you are a front line sales leader or a Chief Sales Officer, challenge yourself by answering the following question.

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Topics: sales coaching, sales management skills

Sales Managers: Stop Waiting for the “Right” Time

Posted by Anna Schott

July 14, 2015

Do you ever “know” you should do something but it’s just not the “right” time? Maybe it’s that project your significant other is nagging you to finish, trying a new hobby or maybe starting a business. Either way, it’s just not the “right” time to accomplish it. So when is the perfect time?

You’re not alone. I’ve been meaning to write a blog about this specific picture from our 2015 Sales Coaching Summit two months ago. Clint Longenecker, one of America’s leaders in the area of rapid performance improvement and the Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in The College of Business and Innovation at The University of Toledo, wrote this on a poster at a breakout session in early May. Personally, I find so many emotions evoked from this statement, though it’s taken me until now to write about it.

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Topics: Sales manager training, sales management skills, Sales manager effectiveness, Sales growth timing

Sales motivation: relationship with your reps

Posted by Will Kloefkorn

September 9, 2014

If an acquaintance asked you to help them move this weekend would you willingly raise your hand or might you quickly come up with a reason to opt yourself out? Likewise, if one of your good friends asked you to help them move would you willingly accept because it would make you feel good to lend a helping hand to a friend in need? When it comes to sales rep motivation and engagement do those on your team view you as an acquaintance or a good friend?

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Topics: sales management skills, sales management resources, sales motivation, sales coaching methodology

Sales Manager's: Coach to more performance

Posted by Will Kloefkorn

August 26, 2014

Contrary to mostly popular opinion, a Sales Manager’s job is not to hire great people and then get out of their way. If it were, and I was a CEO, I would simply hire a great talent and acquisition staff, train my sales people, and eliminate the sales management layer entirely because they would be rendered mostly useless. At best they would be sales compliance officers and at worst they would be an in-house ask.com for sales reps. This is a bold statement, however as a talented sales producer it pains me at my core to listen to executives in sales leadership undermine the importance of the greatest resource I have – my sales manager. My sales manager’s main responsibility is to coach me, and those on our sales team to higher levels of performance that we could not attain without him or her in that management role.

For some reason this responsibility gets lost, likely due to the long staring contests with P & L sheets and pipeline metrics that have little to do with motivating sales people to sell more, although important. Or perhaps they are busy answering sales reps repetitive questions or putting out fires that could have been extinguished had they spent more time coaching and teaching their reps on an on-going basis so that they are pro-active in providing recommendations and solutions rather than reactive. And don’t get me wrong, today’s sales managers are busy, but they are busy doing things that don’t have much impact on motivating sales reps to sell more. The number one item that motivates sales people to sell more is coaching – click here to read an intriguing white paper on rep motivation.

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Topics: Sales Manager Tips, sales coaching, sales management skills, Sales Coaching Effectiveness

Sales Motivation: Have some fun

Posted by Will Kloefkorn

July 1, 2014

Anyone in sales knows that it is an absolute grind. Sales people live their lives one quarter at a time with the expectation that each year they are expected to produce more than they did the year prior. But that is the job that we signed up for and with the high pressure comes the high reward and recognition. That being said, it is critical for sales managers to be very cognizant about making sure their sales people are enjoying themselves during their day to day activities and allowing them the flexibility to be creative and stay loose. Sales Managers have an opportunity to influence more sales motivation by learning how to help each of their sales reps stay engaged with their high payoff activities and have fun while doing them.

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Topics: sales coaching, sales management skills, sales management resources, sales motivation

Sales and Athletic Coaching: A Common Sense Comparison

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

October 3, 2013

When discussing sales performance, sports analogies may be cliché`, they may be sexist (less so these days), they may even get old for some, but they are generally spot on. 

Let’s face reality, the duties and behaviors of a sales manager are not nearly as visible as the duties and behaviors of a coach in athletics (just ask Nebraska football head coach Bo Pelini who’s tirade of 2011 was recently blasted throughout the social media world). Although, when compared to business an athletic coach’s success is measured similarly, wins/losses. A sales manager is held accountable to performance against plan, hitting a number—a sales coaching version of wins/losses. Beyond this is where the parity begins to collapse.

The purpose of this blog is to bring attention to how advanced athletic teams are versus sales teams when it comes to coaching and performance.     

 

In athletics, there is a huge emphasis on practice, where coaches continually exercise precise execution. The practice to game ratio in athletics differs from high school to college and then professional, but the point is still the same—way more practice time versus game time. In collegiate football, during the football season, there is approx. a 10:1 ratio of practice time versus game time and the spread becomes greater in professional football.

In sales, there is very little time spent practicing or preparing for sales appointments with prospects and customers. There may be “sales training” when one begins their role with a company that educates on products, services, markets and perhaps a specific sales methodology, but the tendency is to then act like a finished product with little on-going skill development. 

  

In athletics, both practice and game time performance is filmed, analyzed and objectively graded by coaches.

In sales, practice and game time performance by sales people (sales calls) are infrequently analyzed and rarely graded objectively. 

  

In athletics, each player has an individual development plan that identifies areas for growth with measurements of progress that coaches are held accountable for executing.

In sales, selling activities are the typical measurement with little development of the skills or progress measurements that lead to sales effectiveness, and only a small percentage of sales departments hold coaches accountable for execution of development plans.

  

In athletics, there is a documented plan/strategy for every game.

In sales, not often is there even a documented “pre-call” plan or strategy when going into a sales setting.

 

In athletics, coaches can’t “play the game”, and by default must only coach.

In sales, our research shows that too often managers take over a sales call, thereby continue to “play the game” as opposed to teaching sales people “how to fish”.

 

In athletics, the coach is not just one who helps players improve a skill-set, they are accountable for strategy, recruiting, training/development, and much more. Their ability to execute the above is very transparent to not only the team, but to all those who witness the team perform.

In sales, coaching is typically viewed as a verb—an action to help one improve their skills. The reality is most “sales managers” have responsibilities similar to an athletic coach, yet are not held accountable to the activities, tools and behaviors that lead to success—they are only accountable to an end number without even knowing how what they do impacts that number.  There is no visibility into effectiveness.

 

I’ve had many deliberate conversations with our executive members lately. During these informal conversations I show them what our research shows as the high pay-off coaching activities front line sales managers should execute against, with their sales people, that will consistently lead to more sales. I then ask them what percent of the time they would expect their managers to be spending in these activities, and with a couple exceptions the universal response is "70%-80%". I then asked what percent of the time their managers actually spent executing against these critical activities, again with a couple exceptions, the universal response was now "20%-35%". In athletics this would be unacceptable, yet in sales it is tolerated.

Which of the following three characteristics do your managers display to their team:

  1. A compliance officer making sure sales people execute against activities
  2. A super sales person who comes in and helps close deals
  3. A coach that perpetuates talent, recruits, strategizes, leads, employs the catalytic factor, develops skills and helps those on their team make progress to their goals

Anything other than the third response will produce a smaller number. That, I will guarantee.

 

Authored by:  Bill Eckstrom, President, EcSell Institute 

 

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Topics: Best Practice, sales leadership, Motivating Sales Team, Sales Manager Tips, sales manager, sales leader, sales manager development, Sales Management, sales management skills, coaching

8 Critical Sales Coaching Activities & The Missing Link

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

September 11, 2013

There are times in our sales leadership career when we have the opportunity to do something special, the chance to catapult our skills and also the skills of those with whom we work, and truly make a difference in the lives of those on our teams.

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Topics: New Leaders, sales leadership, sales analytics & performance tracking, front line sales managers, innovative technology for sales departments, Sales Strategy, sales processes, Leadership Development, sales manager, sales coaching, Leadership & Management, Executives, Sales Management, sales management skills, professional development, sales performance, ideas for sales leaders

Sales Technology versus Sales Coaching

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

August 16, 2012

 In the spirit of always keeping up with new ways to continuously help our members grow, I’ve been investigating a plethora of new high tech, start-up, venture funded, industry experienced, revenue producing, can’t miss technologies for sales departments.  Going through this exhausting and confusing exercise made me pause and reflect…

  • Why do organizations put so many resources against product development, but yet so few against talent development?

  • How much do sales teams spend on mobile phone bills and off-site meetings versus helping their sales leadership team become better coaches?

  • Why do people get promoted to management without an understanding of the activities and behaviors that drive results?

While most of the technologies I reviewed are likely worthy and can assist in providing information that can lead to better decisions, none of them are focused on improved  coaching behaviors.  For example, one can implement new technology that helps them understand and provide insights to cases in a sales pipeline.  You can accurately see where sales are progressing and stalling.  What one might learn is that deals are getting stuck at the decision making stage in a sales process, which may indicate that a rep may not have identified all the proper decision makers, which would also indicate the rep isn’t likely conducting the best needs analysis prior to getting to the proposal stage.   The message to the sales manager…  Go help your rep improve in those areas!

In the above scenario, is it a sales rep issue or a sales leadership issue?  Great sales leaders would take full accountability and responsibility, for they understand the performance of anyone on their team is a reflection of how they coach those on their team.  The challenge is that without the proper behaviors and tools, a sales manager won't likely know how to impact what was described in the previous paragraph.  And, what our research shows is that most sales managers would respond by taking a more active role in the sales process, as opposed to effectively helping the rep improve in those identified areas.

So, data is insignificant without knowledge of how to affect those from whom the data is derived.  Likewise, great coaches won’t know where and how to coach without accurate, meaningful data.  (here is where I shamelessly plug our Sales Coaching Summit for those who want to improve the way they coach.)http://www.ecsellinstitute.com/sales-coaching-summit-fall-2012?&t=65280

Conclusion:  Emphasize not just technology and data, but how to improve coaching behaviors that impact the numbers.  Understand that improving and hence, growing sales, is a journey and not a destination.  At no time would a sales leader ever think they’ve done all they can do from a technology stand point, and similarly one should never hit a point where they say “we’re done growing our coaching skills”. 

Lastly, remember the timeless phrase “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten”.  Make sure there are resources and best practices dedicated to grow in technology and human behavior—not just one!

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Topics: Sales Coaching Summit, executive sales management, Motivating Sales Team, Accountability Coaching, Leadership Development, poor performing sales reps, EcSELL Institute Member, sales coaching, Leadership & Management, Sales Management, sales management skills, sales leadership conference, Resources for sales managers

Making the Move From Sales Manager to VP

Posted by Sarah Wirth

June 11, 2012

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Topics: Leadership & Management, sales management skills

Status Quo? Only if you want to get left way behind.

Posted by Kristi Shoemaker

January 18, 2012

The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating--fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies--and our visibility about the future is declining. This article, written by Robert Safian  of Fast Company, is titled "This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business:The future of business is pure chaos. Here's how you can survive--and perhaps even thrive". It does an amazing job of describing this new business landscape and is a must read for every executive.  Here are the highlights. Enjoy!

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Topics: New Leaders, collaborative leadership, Sales Coaching Summit, Leadership Culture, Employee engagement, company culture, sales management skills

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