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March 12, 2020

The Secret to Helping Sales Managers Become Better Coaches

When it comes to improving reps’ performance, one of the best productivity investments that an organization can make is sales coaching. Yet many sales managers still fail to provide enough high-quality coaching to their teams.

Although “lack of time” is the No. 1 reason given for this failure, there’s another, less-discussed reason vying for that first-place spot: many managers don’t know how to coach.

Ironically, most managers (especially the former salespeople) already have the skills, knowledge and other attributes needed to be good coaches. What they lack is awareness of—and access to—the tools and processes used by effective educators.

Managers Need a Plan for That

This is where sales enablement professionals can help. The “secret” to turning managers into top coaches is to help them develop a structured program that teaches specific skills and behaviors.

This program should have three basic components:

1. Develop a Goal-Focused Coaching Plan

Help the manager develop a plan for every rep, one that identifies two or three key skills or behaviors that the rep needs to improve, for example, managing objections or staying “on message.” Though some reps may need to upgrade a dozen or more skills and behaviors, the coach should concentrate (in the beginning) on the most critical ones. Once these areas have been mastered, new topics can be tackled.

2. Observe Sales Calls

A good coach will observe (or listen in on) sales calls without succumbing to the temptation to take over the calls. Unless reps are really putting their feet in their mouths, coaches shouldn’t try to close the deals themselves. Instead, they should bite their tongues, and allow reps to make their pitches, answer questions and handle any objections. It’s okay to guide reps on topics and messages that should be covered, but it’s not okay to take over the meeting. Their job is to assess the reps’ progress (or baseline skills), not close the deals.

3. Evaluate Sales Call Performance

Once sales calls are over, it’s time to evaluate the reps’ performances. Coaches should do this as soon as possible after the calls. Although many managers will want to immediately critique what went wrong or what the rep could have done better, they (again) need to bite their tongues. Instead of metaphorically beating up the rep, they should start by talking about what the rep did right. Instead of criticizing the performance, they should ask questions that will allow the salesperson to “self-discover” what they did wrong and how they could improve.

With a modern, mobile video sales coaching tool like the Allego platform, evaluation and coaching sessions can be done remotely and asynchronously. Instead of having to schedule time to meet in person, coaches and reps can exchange videos, notes and feedback whenever they have time and wherever they are.

Whom to Coach is as Important as What to Coach

Finally, it’s important to make sales managers aware of whom to coach, as well as what and how to coach. According to research published in the Harvard Business Review, many managers skew their coaching efforts toward the “tails” – i.e., they focus on the best and worst performers.

This is a mistake. The study revealed that top sellers showed “virtually no performance improvement due to coaching,” and neither did the underperformers.

Instead, the reps who benefited most from high-quality coaching were the middle 60 percent – the core of most sales teams. For this group, the study found that good coaching could improve performance by up to 19 percent. It also found that even a moderate improvement in coaching quality could produce a six to eight percent increase in performance across half the salesforce.

By training managers to develop and execute a basic coaching program—and which reps to focus their efforts on—you will transform managers who are skilled at selling into coaches who are skilled at teaching others to sell.

Learn More

To learn how to address individual learning styles and improve your coaching, download your complimentary copy of Prepare for the Future of Sales Training and Coaching from Gartner.

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