Sales management is consistently told they need to coach their sales people. Blogs are written, books are published and magazines are printed around the correct way to coach sales people. Almost all of the sales management content that is written or trained is centered on sales managers coaching their sales people. And for good reason:
- Proper coaching of sales people can provide a 35% productivity increase
- Training content retention improves 400% if sales people are coached within 30 days of the training event
- Coaching by a sales manager to a sales person that occurs more than three days a month results in averaging 107% over quota
- Situational coaching of sales reps to either tenure or performance can give over a 45% boost to their sales performance
We all know that a sales manager coaching their sales people is good for business. It is good for revenue. It is good for retention of talent. But there is a big gap in coaching.
Who is coaching the sales managers?Let us first ask the question: Why should a sales manager (even a good one) have a coach?
- Top athletes and the best singers have coaches. Kobe Bryant (recent NBA Finals MVP) and Taylor Swift (won entertainer of the year 2011) are at the top of their game. They actually have two coaches each.
- Kids have coaches. Tutors help them with homework trying to improve grades. In my daughter's elementary school, 85% of the 'A' students have tutors.
- Sales VPs have coaches. Our firm currently coaches many Sales VP s on numerous sales force effectiveness issues. Almost everyone who we coach already exceeds quota or will exceed quota in 2011.
- CEO's have coaches. Many of the companies we do business with each year have effectiveness coaches. These CEOs all have EBITDA growth over prior year.
- Surgeons have coaches. Recently my neighbor had open heart surgery. He told me before they 'knocked' him out that the surgeon was talking with someone in the operating room. When he asked later who that was, the surgeon indicated he was his coach. (This surgeon preformed open heart surgery on Barbara Walters recently)
The next question is: When should you have a coach?
Three critical times to get yourself a coach:
- New to the company. Your on-boarding inside a company is critical to your long term success. Many organizations don't even have an onboarding program or the ability to get a coach. Yet, this is where you form the foundation for sustainable success in an organization. Make sure you understand the need for a coach. One who can help you get better in core SM fundamentals.
- Plateau. No matter how well trained people are, few can sustain their best performance on their own. When you have reached the top in certain metrics and stalled your performance, the numbers can typically only go one way=down. Realizing when you have peaked is a challenge. Most people go into denial thinking they can get back on top with extra effort. Likely is the case.
- Goals: Do you have a goal that seems unattainable? Do you want to be a VP of Sales someday? Do you want to consistently exceed quota? Whatever the goal, you need extra effort to achieve it. A coach can help you stay on track through execution. Especially the times when your failures exceed successes. Developing a strategy and staying tactically focused is where a coach can help.
The next question is: How do you pick the right coach?
Choosing the right coach is as important as the coaching itself. Making a mistake can set your development and performance back dramatically.
Four key areas to choose the right coach:
- Experience and Empathy. It must be someone who has done the sales management job. To walk in someone's shoes is to really know them. The things you need coaching on are the difficult situations and critical moments. This is where most sales managers can improve.
- Personal feedback. Every sales manager is different. Make sure your coach can personalize the feedback for you in order to understand, accept and act on it.
- Impartial. Often the key to expert feedback, this person has to communicate a strong message without concern for your feelings. Identifying a common goal is critical to coaching to that goal. The ability to separate emotion and give the feedback as constructive is essential in your development
- Tactical. You must be able to implement the coaching actions. If the feedback and direction is too strategic or general, you simply won't act on it. Insist the coach can provide specific suggestions you can weave into your everyday. This way you will actually do it.
If you are lucky, your boss could turn out to be the right one. Or it could be someone close to you personally:
Itzhak Perlman (the famous concert violinist) had his wife for a coach, a concert level violinist herself. "I was very, very lucky. The great challenge in performing is listening to yourself. My wife always says that I don't really know how I play. She is the extra ear." (Sounds similar to a sales manager having a one on one with a sales rep)
It could be someone who you recruit to be your coach. Probably it is someone you already know. Identifying the need and seeking out a coach is tough work. Spend time on it because it requires a high amount of self-esteem. You must be able to identify when you need the help, even if you are on top of your game.
Russ Mellott, SVP of Sales at Epicor, exceeded his quota by over 20% in FY 2011. He understood the need of continuous improvement. So, Russ hired a coach. The result: Russ rarely ever misses a coaching session. Russ consistently makes his company goal. And Russ just got promoted. Call Russ and ask him if a coach has helped him.
Metrics prove that coaching will dramatically help your sales productivity. And conversely, it will help your sales reps productivity because you will be a better coach to them. This is a critical step in the journey to be world class.
Thanks to Russ Mellott / Sales Benchmark Index
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