Last week I worked with a team of incredibly bright, talented, and hard working sales leaders. We were having a spirited dialogue about what gets in the way of coaching, when one manager sighed and said truthfully, “It takes time. And it’s just hard.”
And you know what? He’s absolutely right. These days, sales managers are often expected to sell in addition to coaching their team to higher levels of performance. Add intense administrative responsibilities, often differing expectations between corporate and sales people and – whew! No wonder sales management can be a tough gig.
We know that Organizations can gain a 29% increase in topline salesforce performance due to the skills of sales managers, independent of the skills of their salespeople.
So, here’s some much needed good news. Recent, extensive research from Wilson Learning Worldwide revealed some interesting and surprising results about effective coaching that yields the best results:
1. The most effective sales manager coaching is “curb-side coaching".
The 2 to 4 minute coaching conversations managers can have before and after sales calls.
This means that it’s not necessary to wait to coach until you can schedule a large block of time, riding with your rep for the day, weekly coaching calls, etc.
2. More frequent, shorter coaching is more effective than longer but infrequent coaching sessions.
In other words, it’s better to have ten 4 minute coaching conversations than one 60 minute coaching session.
3. There is power in separating coaching for reinforcement (aka positive) from coaching for change (critical or “negative”).
The next time your sales rep does something fabulous, keep the feedback specific and focused on what he/she did well. And on only what they did well!
Resist the temptation to sandwich in “negative” feedback because you have limited time. Put the spotlight on the positive. Do this a few times and they might actually hear your accolades (and, subsequently, keep repeating the good behavior) instead of waiting for the negative. Many well intended compliments have been negated by the dreaded “Yea, BUT…”
4. The simpler the coaching process, the better.
There is no need for fancy process, just three simple and conversational steps. To accomplish this, many of our clients have adopted a short, simple, and easy-to-remember coaching process called “The ABC’s of Sales Coaching.”
Align expectations: Engage your sales rep in a dialogue to make sure they are clear on what is expected of them.
- Example: “We’ve talked about the importance of understanding the “WHY behind the WHAT the client is asking for- the impact on their business, so we can recommend a solution that brings more value….”
Behavior observations: “What I saw was...” “What I heard was...”
- Example: I heard you ask several closed ended questions, but didn’t hear you ask “What’s the impact of this on the business, and on you?" Or "How is that important?”
Coaching conversation: Whether you are coaching to reinforce a desired behavior, or to change a behavior – engage your sales rep in a two way dialogue.
- Example: “What do you think you could do differently/more of in the future...”
Changing human behavior has got to be one of the most challenging vocations of all time. Ask any coach or parent for that matter. But that’s what we coaches are most often charged to do.
Sometimes, I think, we humans tend to overcomplicate things. How refreshing that the research is showing us that, when it comes to coaching, what works is Simple, Short, Supportive, and Frequent.
By the way, the same manager who told the truth about the challenges with coaching described these three simple steps as “liberating”. Pretty cool.
Everyone has four minutes. Maximize the impact by trying the curbside coaching challenge. Your small but frequent investment of time as a manager coach could increase your sales team’s performance by more than 43%. That’s a compelling ROI.
Let me know how it goes and, as always, let me know how I can help!