To answer the common question, “Why should I invest more time in coaching my sales team?” we must first define what we mean by “coaching.”
Sales coaching is a formal process that uses one-on-one meetings to help salespeople achieve new levels of success by discovering hidden issues that inhibit their performance. Contrary to popular belief and practice, effective sales coaching is not “showing them how to do it.”
Our experience is that the vast majority of sales managers spend less than 10% of their time coaching salespeople and 90% of their time managing sales metrics and engaging in other activities. These sales managers may believe they spend far more of time on coaching than 10% of the working day, but the reality is they are engaged in various “here’s how you do it” discussions. They typically use the formal performance review process as the number one form of coaching, and supplement this meeting with casual motivational conversations. Unfortunately, a more systematized approach to coaching is seen as an added burden on their already full workload, so they focus their time on problem-solving activities – and wonder why their teams underperform.
This approach stands in stark contrast to the time investments made by the most successful sales managers. Coaching represents about 35% of the successful sales manager’s leadership role, and has the single greatest impact on the future success of the salesperson.
These highly effective sales managers know that coaching only adds to the manager’s workload in the beginning. Yes, it takes time to gain traction with the process. However, in the long term coaching greatly reduces the managerial workload. It has a significant positive impact on sales force development and is a key factor in supporting the long-term growth of the sales team as a whole, and for each individual within it. Coaching allows you to decipher each salesperson’s personal performance code.
Let me explain why a more effective coaching routine is a net productivity gain for virtually every sales manager. Too many salespeople view their sales manager as the CPS: Chief Problem Solver. This focus on problem-solving prevents sales managers from fulfilling their true mission of developing the sales team.
Unfortunately, managers usually accept this honorary title and even come to consider it part of their formal job description. They spend a majority of their time focusing on dealing with operational and financial issues, leaving them little or no time to develop the individual members of the team. Managers who ask the question, “How would you solve this problem if I weren’t here?” find their salespeople usually have the answers and could act on their own. “Learned helplessness” prevents them from doing so.
Success coaching moves the individual and the team beyond “learned helplessness” by initiating an ongoing dialogue between a trusted manager and a willing salesperson. This dialogue is designed to impact both the salesperson’s wellbeing (who they are) and personal performance (what they do). In Sandler terms, this involves working on the salesperson’s intrinsic Identity as well as external Role. It is impossible for a salesperson to achieve the highest level of performance unless these two critical sides of self-worth are addressed. By the same token, it is impossible for the manager to achieve at optimum levels without beginning this one-on-one success dialogue.