Category Archives: Sales Coaching
Back in the day, sales organizations would identify the need for training, schedule a learning event, conduct training, and then wonder why nothing changed. The trouble is many companies still do this. The problem then as now is lack of sustainment of learning. And the answer then as now is engaging the sales leader in the transformation process. Sales organizations continually fall short in this area. And if sales leaders are not engaged in the training and in changing behavior in the field, they can either sabotage the training or watch as the learning is quickly forgotten and old ways return.
Most often sales leaders were exemplary sellers who were promoted for their selling skills. If they’re not actively engaged in change—if they don’t see what their people are learning and understand the desired new behaviors and skills—they tend to default to how they did things way back when: “You know, this is not how I learned to do things. I’ve had a lot of success with the old way, and it got me where I am today, so we’re going back to the way that worked for me.”
When that happens, any attempt at transformation is thwarted. So what was the point of the training exercise?
Turning Sales Leaders into Sales Coaches
According to Aberdeen Research, coached teams achieve 15% higher lead conversion rates and 14% shorter sales cycles than teams that are not coached (Aberdeen, 2014) … but we don’t really need research to justify coaching — it’s intuitive to anyone in sales. With almost universal acknowledgment and such obvious benefits, one would think that sales coaching would be a science by now. Unfortunately for our sellers, it is not. The typical sales organization struggles mightily to build a consistent and effective sales coaching program. When coaching fails, we tend to throw frontline sales managers under the bus, but in our experience, the problem is broader and so is the solution. There are three typical reasons for failed sales coaching programs:
Lack of visibility at the top Lack of practical processes and tools in the middle Lack of accountability on the frontlines.
The key to building a successful coaching program is to address all three levels simultaneously.
Signs of a Poor Sales Coaching Program
The tell-tale sign of a poor coaching program is a sales leader who has no idea when, where, or even if coaching is taking place in his/her organization. Visibility is essential to execution, not only because it fosters accountability, but because execution needs direction, and direction is only possible when leaders have insight into the behaviors of their teams. Ultimately, good coaching programs require sales leaders » Continue Reading.
Modern sales leaders and managers are often faced with the challenge of providing multigenerational sales coaching. Providing sales coaching to millennials might seem like a particularly challenging endeavor – this is because there are many myths about the preferences of the millennial workforce that are not true. Understanding how to connect with your millennial salespeople can help you learn how to coach top performers.
MYTH #1: Millennials do not want to be coached.
Not true. In fact, recent studies show that millennials want coaching at work nearly 50% more often than other employees. Also, they seek feedback more frequently than older generations in the workforce (SuccessFactors, 2015).
MYTH #2: Taking a quantitative approach with your coaching feedback dehumanizes the coaching relationship.
Using a numerical rating scale, either against a standard or against a millennial’s colleagues, helps contextualize feedback and provides an opportunity to monitor progress. It’s likely that higher performers will embrace an internal ranking against their colleagues, while a moderate or lower performer may be better served with a comparison against an external standard. The ranking or comparison is not for punishment, but for growth. It can help you establish a common language and calibrate change consistently. Be mindful of your choice.
Key considerations for Multigenerational Sales Coaching
Consider that connecting with millennial employees frequently resonates with their cadence for information and their digital world. Millennials are accustomed to instant access to information » Continue Reading.
Move over, baby boomers. You too, Gen Xers. In 2015, millennials became the largest segment of the American workforce, with more than one in three workers being from this generation. Figuring out how to train a multigenerational sales team presents unique challenges for sales leaders, but understanding the difference between generational learning styles will help you be more effective.
There have always been differences in age and experience levels across sales organizations, from recent graduates to those nearing retirement. This presents a business imperative and an opportunity to identify the differences and similarities in learning and communication styles and the implications for coaching and training a multigenerational sales team.
Understanding the Learning Styles of Generations in the Workforce
These days, there can be up to four generations in the workforce. Connecting and communicating successfully across this generational spectrum can strain the ability of sales leaders and those in Learning and Development. The starting point is knowing your audience:
1. Traditionalists (those born before 1945): Generally speaking, most workers in this generation are strongly committed to their organizations. They value teamwork, collaboration, and the development of interpersonal skills. Their learning style is commensurate with these characteristics: they like teamwork and collaboration in the classroom.
2. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): Boomers tend to be very competitive and are success-driven. They look for professional growth, are receptive to change, and consider training to be one » Continue Reading.
If your organization has an established sales process, congratulations. According to “Companies with a Formal Sales Process Generate More Revenue,” published in the January 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, such B2B companies generally saw an 18% boost in revenues by using their planned processes.
The two keys here are 1) to have a credible process and 2) to use it. The best way to make sure sales reps are using the process – and using it effectively – is through coaching conversations between sales managers and their teams.
As the HBR article also reported, companies that spent at least three hours per month managing each sales rep’s pipeline performance saw 11% greater revenue than those spending less time.
Further, how those three hours were spent was equally important. “The primary focus of a pipeline meeting should be to help reps develop a game plan to move deals forward, not just scrubbing CRM data and forecasting revenue,” say authors Jason Jordan and Robert Kelly.
At Richardson, we call this “pipeline coaching.” This term is part of the common language we advocate for sales teams in order to keep everyone on the same page. Simply put, pipeline coaching involves a conversation between sales manager and rep that focuses on deals in the works.
High-impact coaching questions help managers confirm that their reps have the level of skills and knowledge needed to achieve verifiable outcomes at every stage in » Continue Reading.
In my previous blog post, Do you Intend to Provide Developmental Sales Coaching, but Tend not to, I explored the environment today’s sales leaders encounter when attempting to deliver developmental sales coaching. Despite their best intentions, time-pressed sales leaders are pulled in so many directions that talent development gets put on the back burner. Bringing structure to dedicated coaching interactions is a proven way to build positive outcomes in people and results. Without structure and planning, sales leaders often mail it in, missing real opportunities to move their people to the next level of success. Avoid this common pitfall by structuring sales coaching calls and each interaction around a guiding plan to bring consistency to the conversation, and ultimately results.
My approach is to organize coaching content into “buckets” that are consistent for everyone. When thinking through what I want to accomplish with a salesperson I am coaching, I typically build my planned dialogues in 3 buckets:
Navigating within the sales organization: This encompasses mastery of the sales organization, from products and services to the resources available to support the sales effort. How agile are they inside our organization? Can they build customer teams on behalf of their client? Do they build internal relationships? Do they lead and quarterback sales pursuits with appropriate resources? How well do they understand our products and the value they bring? Can they translate that value to the customer’s situation? Customer and selling skills: This involves the critical » Continue Reading.
Frontline sales management can be one of the most difficult jobs within a sales organization. It can also be one of the most rewarding.
The eternal struggle for most sales leaders is being caught in the sales coaching versus managing conundrum. They intend to coach their people, but tend not to because of time constraints and the demands of managing within their organization.
Leaders can have the best intentions of developing the skills and talents of their direct reports through developmental sales coaching. But the information chaos swirling around them can get in the way. Those in management positions are pulled in several directions. Reviewing and commenting on data, running analyses and forecasts, conducting meetings, and putting out fires are just a few of the demands of today’s sales leaders. The ability to deliver pure coaching is on the back burner far too often. Unfortunately, these time-pressed leaders end up just mailing it in and miss real opportunities to provide developmental sales coaching.
To attempt to compensate for the time-management crunch, frontline leaders will fall into the trap of surface coaching, which are conversations that are purely output- and result-focused. A forecast and pipeline are analyzed, and a typical conversation can center on the current state of those numbers without much dialogue around how change can be accomplished. Sales leaders often don’t dive into the developmental conversation they should be having. It takes real focus to resist the urge » Continue Reading.
Selling is a human activity. So, it makes sense for sales leadership to take a human approach to motivating their sales professionals.
On a business level, this means insuring your people have all the resources that they need to be successful and mitigating any obstacles that stand in the way.
On a personal level, it means taking the time to get inside the head of each member of your sales team to understand what is important to them and why. Do they value challenges? Do they look for recognition? Is being a part of a team important to them?
We are all different, with different strengths, and motivated by different things. The more you, as a sales leader, get to know the individuals on your sales team, the more effective you can be in articulating and driving desired behaviors. Performance for the individual and the team should improve, with your organization — and the customer — benefiting in the process.
Consider this typical leadership scenario: the ride along. Ideally, the ride along presents a mutual learning opportunity in which sales leaders see first-hand how their team members pursue a prospect or interact with a client, and sales professionals gain constructive coaching and feedback from their leaders.
What happens too often, however, is the sales leader reacts instead of responding appropriately: “I can’t believe you said that in the meeting. What were you thinking?” Or, sales leaders will jump straight to » Continue Reading.