Often, people suggest that quota requirements or softening business conditions prompt sales professionals to leave. In truth, this internal problem stems from internal factors; sales leaders are spending less time with their team.
Research from McKinsey found that sales leaders across industries, spend 30 to 60 percent of their time on administrative work and meetings, and 10 to 50 percent on non-managerial tasks. The result: they spend as little as 10 percent of their time coaching employees.
Here, we look at the challenges to coaching new hires and how to overcome them and build a sustainable sales team.
Establish a Formal & Consistent Coaching Program
Bersin and Associates surveyed 750 corporations. Respondents cited that formal and established coaching programs were the number one factor among the top 22 factors driving business results. The value of coaching is universally understood. However, the commitment to its execution is conspicuously absent.
The reason: coaches are focused on the numbers. This focus is easy to understand. Sales teams are under pressure to hit financial goals. This is where the problem resides. Near-term quota goals overshadow efforts to develop long-term behavior change. As a result, sales managers resort to intensive efforts to push individual deals across the line.
Without a focus on coaching, the quotas remain out of reach. A cycle develops. By accelerating learning and affecting behavior change, leaders position their team members to achieve and exceed goals.
In the video below, Richardson CMO, Andrea Grodnitzky discusses the importance of sales coaching and the critical activities that lead to sales coaching success for both new hires and long-term team members.
To learn more about Richardson’s Developmental Sales Coaching training program download this informational brochure.
Avoid Short-Term Fixes
Nobody learns to drive by riding shotgun. They need to be behind the wheel. The same is true for sales professionals. It’s not helpful when sales managers do the problem solving themselves. They must focus on changing behaviors. Doing so is more effective in creating buy-in for the solution; the sales professional has a stake in the success of the deal rather than watching from the sidelines. Accountability sits with the sales professional.
Additionally, sales managers who fix, rather than coach, create a lack of confidence among the sales team. The sales professionals don’t grow. In time, dependency develops. “Fixing” offers short-term results that solve immediate problems, but it doesn’t build the team member’s competence to become more independent in the long run.
Encourage Sales Professionals to Self-Discover
Those in leadership roles often believe that they must have all of the answers. They believe that even the slightest uncertainty signals a lack of preparedness or weak self-confidence. More seasoned leaders, however, realize that the best managers rarely have all of the answers. They don’t see themselves as a vast resource of knowledge. Instead, they see themselves as a means of helping sales professionals perform.
The solution: elicit and collaborate on answers. Avoid the trap of resorting to impulsive answers that stem from self-doubt. Occasionally, the urge to deliver a confident answer, right or wrong, arises from teams that consciously or unconsciously promote such behavior. They may be pressure testing a new sales manager. Or, in some cases, they are transferring ownership of the problem to the manager rather than accepting accountability. Be aware of these environments, and remember that the job is not to have all of the answers.
Agree on a Definition of Success
Research from the American Management Association found that 39% of respondents believe coaching failed because ROI was not measurable. Coaching is difficult to assess. There is no universally agreed metric or benchmark for success. Therefore, it’s difficult to know when a sales manager has succeeded or not. Additional research from Personnel Today shows that the majority of organizations don’t measure coaching ROI. Moreover, 44% of these respondents don’t believe coaching can be measured.
The takeaway is not that we need strict measurement techniques. Instead, the message is that many managers don’t know what great sales coaching looks like. Given that great coaches are rare, few of us have seen examples of great coaching in action. As a result, many make short-term decisions based on revenue pressures. Take a moment to define what success is to you and your team. This doesn’t need to involve numeric factors. Think of the skill set you want to develop among the sales team, and make that the goal.
Find the Coachable Moments
Once you start looking for coachable moments, you’ll be surprised to see how prevalent they are. These offer opportunities to apply skills to real-world challenges. Additionally, coachable moments help overcome negative attitudes toward coaching. If the relationship between the sales professional and sales manager is new, then the sales professional may have uncertain or even skeptical ideas about the manager’s effectiveness. This negativity stems from a sense that coaching is not effective or necessary.
With coachable moments, the sales manager has a chance to overcome this bias and show the sales professional why coaching matters. This builds trust, which is essential. The essence of a coaching interaction can be deeply personal and emotional. The sales professional must trust that the sales manager intends to help and support, not criticize, judge, or control.
Coaching is a process. Just as the sales professional always has room to grow and improve, so does the sales manager. Most importantly, effective coaching starts by redefining coaching. It’s not about fixing, telling, having all the answers, or controlling. It’s about working collaboratively with a sales team to develop skills that drive change over the long term.
Download Richardson’s White Paper: Great Coaching is Counter-Intuitive to learn more about effective sales coaching.