What’s your #1 priority as a sales manager?
If you’re a sales manager and your number one priority each and every day is something other than coaching the individuals on your sales team to improve their sales productivity and achieve their goals, then what are you doing? Whatever it is, put it on hold and take care of your team.
Good sales coaching is an integral element of disciplined and effective sales management. Sales management is about the people who work for you. You can’t succeed unless they do. And, “command and control” models of sales management that value process over people are rarely effective.
A commonly cited statistic is that effective sales coaching can result in a 19% improvement in rep sales productivity. So, what steps can you a take to become a more effective sales coach?
A. Invest time to learn about sales coaching
There are several good books on sales coaching that you provide excellent insights into coaching. Start with just one of these and commit to reading it right now. Especially if you’re new to sales management. Check out “Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions” by Keith Rosen. Or read “52 Sales Management Tips, A Sales Managers Success Guide” by Steven Rosen.
B. Make certain that each member of your team fully understands your sales playbook.
In this instance, the playbook means your sales reps are thoroughly trained in your sales process and that they are also fully trained to understand how your customers use, and derive value from, your product or service. I like to say that sales reps need to know the answers to the “what” and “how” questions: What are they selling and how are they selling it?
C. Work with each member of your the team to develop their personalized sales plan.
The effective coach makes sure their reps are unambiguously clear about their goals and what they need to accomplish each day, week and month to achieve them. The sales plan is simply composed of the objectives, strategies and tactics that the individual sales rep is going to employ to achieve their assigned goals. People gravitate towards sales as a career because it gives them a sense of being in control of their own destiny. But they aren’t going to achieve their destiny without a road map.
D. Model the skills and sales behaviors you want your people to learn.
This is about the process of molding people into high-functioning, self-sufficient sales reps. Sales is a craft that is essentially learned through an apprenticeship. The most successful salespeople learn their craft by watching their managers (and peers) at work and then integrating the skills and techniques they observed into their own daily selling routines. An effective coach has to be able to demonstrate the skills they are teaching.
E. Get down into the nitty-gritty.
This means conducting regular detailed reviews of the sales opportunities your reps are working; supplying the strategic and tactical coaching to move deals along, as well as providing the wisdom, guidance and counsel a rep needs to motivate them to persevere when the going gets tough. This includes teaching your sales reps when to ask for help.
F. Build a strong level of trust with your team.
How does this trust get established? By being openly invested in each rep’s success to the same degree that they are. Read interviews with players from great sports teams that have won championships and the common attribute they cite for their success is the high-level of trust that the teammates had in each other. In short, they had each other’s back. Have your team’s back.
My first sales manager was Ray. Ray was the most no-nonsense manager I’ve ever encountered. (My hiring interview with Ray lasted 2 minutes and he said all of 12 words. But that is a story for another day.) It was primarily through his coaching that how I first learned how to sell (and be a sales manager.) Everyday we sat down and reviewed each of the deals I was working on. He taught me how important it was to not waste a minute, hour or a day if I was stuck on a deal and needed advice to see what I needed to do next.
I remember coming into the office one morning when I was in the midst of a month-long sales slump and Ray was standing by his desk with his jacket on and the car keys to his big red Oldsmobile jangling in his hand. “C’mon,” he said. Let’s go make some calls.” We spent the morning talking to prospects. Sometimes I’d take the lead and sometimes Ray would take the lead. But I came back from those calls a little bit smarter and a lot more motivated to knock it out of the park.
Being an effective coach means nurturing and being invested in the success of the people who work for you. At the end of the day, that is the highest success a sales manager can achieve. If you’re a sales manager, and you’re not coaching, what the heck are you doing?