https://info.qstream.com/best-practices-for-supporting-sales-coachingWhen you hear mention of the 7 deadly sins, you might think of “lethal traits” like pride, envy, anger, gluttony, and so on. But when it comes to sales, and specifically sales coaching, our list is a bit different. If you’re working to build a culture of more effective coaching, here are a few “sins” to avoid:
1. Doing too little coaching.
Time and time again we hear this complaint from managers: “I know coaching is important, but I just don’t have time to do it.” As one of our partners recently said, for most sales managers “coaching is the most important thing that doesn’t have to happen by Friday afternoon.”
Managers need to schedule regular coaching sessions with their team and label them as such. This sets the right expectations for both the manager and the rep, and demonstrates to the larger team that sales coaching is an important component of sales success.
The good news? The ROI on this hard-to-find time is compelling. According to research from the Sales Management Association (SMA), implementing an effective coaching program, optimized for both quality and quantity, can help grow revenue up to 16% faster.
2. Not training front-line sales managers on how to coach effectively.
Another recent study sponsored by the SMA and Qstream partner Vantage Point Performance examined both the scope and effectiveness of sales manager training. In that study, a full 41% of participating companies did not have specific development initiatives aimed at sales managers. The 59% of companies that did have manager initiatives in place outperformed the others by 16% in achieving sales objectives.
Given the vital connection between better sales coaching and better results, as well as the potential negative implications for rep retention and turnover, ensuring that your sales managers have the necessary skills and experience to coach with impact is essential.
3. Focusing coaching time just on short-term tasks or opportunities.
When it comes to the job of a sales manager, clearly the number-one objective is meeting your goals for bookings and revenue. So it should be no surprise that according to CSO Insights, sales managers spend fully two-thirds of their coaching time (more than 60%) focused on a single, specific opportunity, while only one-third are focused on overall skills development.
For most organizations, however, this focus is short-sighted. More and more organizations are placing increasing importance on the “soft” skills of sales: listening, negotiating and empathizing with the challenges their customers face. Many of the sins committed by individual reps arise from a deficiency in these basic selling skills and managers need to be prepared to coach on these topics as well. These skills are critical not only for customer acquisition, but also for long-term retention and trust.
4. Confusing talking with coaching.
In the course of a day, a typical sales manager will talk to some or all of their reps for any number of reasons, but in most cases these are quick interactions for the purpose of sharing information or getting a quick answer to a question. Good sales coaching requires thoughtful preparation for content, tone and relevance, otherwise, it’s just a conversation. And speaking of relevance….
5. Coaching on skills or behaviors that are not relevant to the individual rep.
This is a trap that even well-intentioned managers can fall into. They’ve done the work to make sales coaching a priority, and even scheduled time on the rep’s calendar, but then fall down when it comes to tailoring the discussion to that specific’s reps strengths and weaknesses.
This is where the performance insights Qstream delivers are adding significant value for sales coaches. Our analytics engine offers front-line managers detailed insights on skills ranging from product proficiency, to competitive messaging, to a rep’s facility with core sales skills. By utilizing this data ahead of a coaching session, sales managers can tailor their interaction and offer advice and counsel that is uniquely relevant to that specific individual, and therefore more likely to motivate lasting behavior change.
6. Not following up on the actions identified in a coaching session.
No matter how successful a coaching session feels while it’s underway, if it doesn’t lead to change after it’s over, it hasn’t been effective. Unfortunately, too many managers don’t adequately follow through and thereby squander the important time they’ve invested in coaching.
It's important for sales managers to document the actions agreed upon in a coaching session and set appropriate deadlines for completion. Many sales experts suggest creating a standard template that can speed note-taking and make it easy for managers to share the notes and required tasks with their reps immediately after a coaching session is concluded.
Managers should encourage reps to schedule time in their calendar for any tasks that might take more time or effort to complete, and then arrange the appropriate post-coaching check-in to measure progress and iterate your plans as needed. These check-ins are also great opportunities to recognize positive steps the rep is taking, and motivate them to keep improving.
7. Not supporting your sales coaching strategy with data.
Most sales managers, particularly those responsible for large, dispersed teams, have few opportunities to observe their reps “in the wild.” This forces them to rely on other sources, like their CRM system or feedback from peers and colleagues, to understand the full picture of an individual’s capabilities.
But given the complexity of today’s sales cycles, what you see is not always what you get, and for front-line sales managers to really understand what their reps are equipped to bring to every client interaction, and where coaching can make an impact, personal observations alone are rarely sufficient.
This again is an area where sales technology can play a critical role. The data resulting from Qstream’s clinically proven approach gives sales leadership unprecedented visibility into what reps truly understand about your products and services, and where the gaps are, while helping to improve the skills that matter most for growth. This enables managers to take action immediately against a set of recommended coaching actions delivered via easy-to-read dashboards and sales fluency heat maps.