This is the second article of a three-part series on sales manager productivity. In Part I, I shared where and why most organizations don’t actually know who their B and C sales managers are, and illuminated the hidden cost they bring to organizational performance.
Coaching Is Every Sales Manager’s Power Play
Let’s define the measure by which a sales manager can be deemed “productive.” It’s pretty simple: The higher the number or percentage of sales reps he or she can get to plan, the more productive a sales manager is. Different from hitting the overall team goal, this measure indicates how effective a sales manager is at coaching and developing the team — not just leaning on a few all-stars; not just doing whatever it takes to close a few deals.
And therein lies the challenge very few organizations accept and take on meaningfully: Effective coaching and development.
It isn’t just important; It is critical to moving the team in a direction that’s sustainable for both performance and sales growth.
There’s a lot of buzz about sales manager coaching. It’s a known gap for most sales teams. I noted earlier that performance management is the status quo, where the primary concern is hitting the number and not focusing on the ways in which that is done. Coaching is harder. Coaching is understanding the root cause of the symptoms around why something is; it’s helping someone come to their own conclusions around the effectiveness of their behaviors, and helping them change what they do.
Workshops and seminars are a common approach to coaching for organizations today, and sales reps usually do learn something from those. They might take away a new skill, such as guiding versus telling. But more often than not, this doesn’t change actual field behavior. They need help executing these skills in their actual workflow.
The area in which sales managers have the most leverage and impact on observing whether their reps’ have the ability to get to plan? Field travel and joint calling.
First-hand observation of selling gives an understanding of a rep’s ability that cannot be quantified in a summary email from the rep, or a weekly one-on-one. In these secondary interactions with the selling activity, a manager can’t know if what the rep is recollecting is thorough or accurate, and most importantly, it is almost certainly, albeit maybe unintentionally, biased.
Behaviors Drive Performance
If a salesperson is better at key selling behaviors, that person has a better shot at making their number. If your sales manager can improve the key behaviors of their middle and bottom performers, they will get more salespeople to plan.
Everyone agrees with this. But what’s interesting is that in sales, B and C managers don’t really measure selling behavior. They measure performance. They measure activities: How many sales calls have you been on? How many opportunities are you creating? How many of those turn into business?
Do your sales managers know which behaviors drive performance across your sales process? Do they know which of their sales reps need to be developed to improve conversion rates across the funnel?
Just about every selling organization subscribes to the concept that behaviors drive performance. If we can improve key selling behaviors that move the sales cycle forward, better revenue performance will inevitably follow.
Identifying Behaviors That Advance Your Sale
What are the behaviors that advance your sale by stage (this can line up with your sales methodology)? And within each: How do you observe what is good, bad, or in between?
Here’s an example: “Effective Questioning” is a behavior that especially matters early on in a sales cycle. A rep needs to ask good questions to determine whether there is a business need the customer cares about with which they can align the pitch. A manager observing could rank the rep’s ability to do this on the following scale and its definitions:
Here’s the trick: If we want to help B and C Sales Managers become more effective coaches, we need to give them a framework. This simple frame helps keep them focused on their seller’s behavior, whether it is being demonstrated, and to what standard.
Build an “In-Workflow” Coaching Cadence
Most coaching programs fail because, well, they are coaching programs! Coaching is typically approached as a new activity sales managers need to add to their unending to do list. But all managers do some percentage of field travel and joint calling. This is an opportunity to put some structure around it to coach B and C sales managers to “behave” like A managers.
Do you want them coaching at the top of the funnel, with middle performers, on forecasted deals? Each of these represent opportunities for them to better leverage their time and get more sellers to goal (derisking your revenue plan in the process). Most B and C sales managers can easily be influenced by spending their time where there’s the most urgency or perhaps they get a little complacent, knowing they can rely on the performance of a few stars.
Coaching B and C sales managers requires not just an understanding of their seller’s behaviors, but of the manager’s behavior, too!
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