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March 7, 2019

Managers and Reps Disagree On Value of Current Coaching Efforts

Sales coaching is a hot topic these days.  Everyone wants to coach–and do it well–but Allego’s “State of Coaching 2019” survey uncovered a major disconnect between how sales managers and reps view the quality and impact sales coaching.

In the poll of nearly 300 managers and salespeople, coaches give themselves higher marks for improving reps’ results and skills than salespeople.

For example, the vast majority of managers believe their coaching has a positive impact on their teams’ results, but only two-thirds of reps believe this is true–a significant misalignment of views.

Misalignment Tells Part Of the Story

The fact that many reps and managers disagree on this point doesn’t answer any questions by itself, but finding out why is really interesting.

For example, in order to learn whether reps’ dissatisfaction was related to quantity, we asked how much time is devoted to coaching. A third of the reps feel that too little time is dedicated to it.

The next question about the quality of coaching reveals another area of misalignment between the two groups. The overwhelming majority of managers say that they provide high-quality coaching, but once again, a third of reps disagree with that assessment.

What is ‘High-Quality’ Coaching?

Of course, the word ‘quality’ means different things to different people. In this case, further research suggests that the schism is between tactical coaching–talking about territories and deals—and a more strategic approach, where the focus is on sales competencies and skills.

“When we talk about quality, I don’t think we’re assessing whether or not the manager’s a good coach,” said Henry Bruckstein, founder of Canam Research speaking on a recent Allego sales webinar. “It’s more about the types of activities the manager is coaching on.”

“When I was a rep, I didn’t want the manager to spend time helping me close my deals. That’s important, but I was already pretty good at that.  I wanted to get to the next level of my evolution as a sales professional. I wanted to work on areas where I was weaker–things like negotiation skills, being able to add more value to a dialog, doing better discovery.”

Are Managers Focused on the ‘Right’ Competencies?

To determine whether managers favor short-term, deal-oriented conversations over long-term skills development, we divided our questions about coaching conversations into 15 categories. We then subdivided by their relevance to either short-term objectives or longer-term skills development goals.

For example, conversations about current deals, pipeline management, and planning sales calls fell into the former category, while presentation skills, prospect qualification and territory optimization fell into the latter.

We then asked respondents to describe their most common day-to-day conversations. The results were stark.

According to the managers surveyed, their most common coaching conversations center on long-term outcomes rather than tactical, deal-focused results.

But when we asked reps the same question, we found almost the exact opposite. Reps say their managers usually focus on “the deals that are in my pipeline.”

“Teach Someone to Fish”

This finding suggests that managers intuitively know they should be ‘teaching reps to fish,’ but because so many are under the gun to deliver their numbers, they default to discussions about urgent, short-term topics.

“The reps feel you’re always talking about deals,” said Bruckstein. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. You obviously have to move deals forward and meet your number. But the reps are saying, ‘We also need our softer skills developed’–the product messaging, presentation skills, etc.–things that will help them close deals faster and drive deal value.

“Managers are coaching on the more tactical elements of deal execution. Because of that disconnect, there are reasons for reps to be a little disgruntled. If they’re not getting their career fed, it may prompt them to think ‘If I can move to an organization that’s going help me do that better, maybe I should move.’”

For more details about the results of our survey, download our ebook the State of Sales Coaching 2019.


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