What sales leader wouldn’t like to see shortened sales cycles leading to more comprehensive deals with better margins? These are just some of the benefits of effective sales coaching. ‘Make coaching THE priority and coach your way to sales success’ was voted the second most important sales trend for 2012 from The 12 Sales Trends of 2012 by our readers. This comes at a critical time for business. Selling is now a highly skilled role requiring skilful people to execute sales strategy, win new clients, grow and retain existing accounts, educate clients, facilitate opportunities, manage complex deals, work as part of a team, and so on. If you want a team of highly skilled sales people you need skilful sales coaches. However, despite these findings and despite coaching being one of the top hot business topics for the last ten years, few businesses provide a true coaching culture where they can realise the long term benefits of coaching, especially sales coaching. In many companies coaching and sales coaching are being trivialized and treated as a token gesture, often poorly executed resulting in stagnant sales performance or loss of sales talent.
Worse still, in today’s business climate with cost cutting on the table and many middle management roles being stripped away, the climate for an effective coaching culture, especially an effective sales coaching culture is seemingly more remote than ever. The irony is coaching, especially sales coaching, is a key ingredient to business and sales success and the people usually charged with coaching are middle managers. So, stripping out middle managers from the workforce often rids an organisation of its coaches DNA and puts businesses at risk of further loss of sales. So where does Coaching, especially sales coaching, feature in your business priorities? The highly effective companies know that regular and effective sales coaching does make a dramatic and positive difference to sales people and their sales results and they make it a priority. And they make sure their (sales) managers are properly trained in how to coach. If businesses neglect to train their (sales) managers in the essential skill of coaching it will still leave them vulnerable. When managers and sales managers are properly trained to coach they quickly discover the positive outcomes for all involved- the coach, coachee, teams, and customers as well the positive impact on a business’ bottom line. Even families benefit from coaching. When coaching is implemented properly, treated as a priority so it becomes ‘the way we do business around here’ businesses find that their managers/ coaches:
- Are more committed to training and coaching their people seeing the link between sales results and their people’s wellbeing and development
- More aware about how to build a environment where people can flourish, grow and succeed
- Themselves have greater self esteem and positive leadership style which leads to better teamwork, staff retention and performance
- Want to coach more as they see the way their people respond to this proactive development opportunity
- Find they are able to use the coaching principles and tools in other areas of their lives (parenting, personal relationships, communities, etc.) which is leading to better work life balance
- Experience increased job satisfaction.
- Use coaching to enhance their communication skills across the business especially in the areas of active listening and questioning.
- Feel well equipped to make a difference to their people and their businesses.
- Are more self aware and very conscious of why and how they go about doing things.
With managers applying their coaching skills effectively businesses find their sales people are having similar positive experiences. They enjoy and benefit from the positive impact skilful coaching has on their wellbeing, work/life balance, job satisfaction and, of course, sales results and rewards that come with better sales performance. That said, not everyone is suited to being a coach. So who is charged with the coaching role in your business? It doesn’t always have to be the manager. Who is best suited to having effective coaching conversations with your sales people? Who should be coaching your sales people around sales strategy, robust sales processes (sales planning, prospecting, sales communication / consultative selling, account development, etc.)? There may be a variety of people in your business who your sales people can learn from and be coached by. If there are those people who show an interest and talent in coaching them get them trained and out coaching. If you cannot find a suitable coach within your business don’t abandon coaching all together. Instead, consider outsourcing the function to trained business and specialist sales coaches with the relevant experience to bring coaching within your business.
Another important point about coaching is to make sure that coaching is linked to sound behavioural markers or competencies which will make all the difference to your sales teams and sales results. Too many coaches don’t coach to the specifics – the details. They’re not practical enough. Our experience has shown that people need access to the practical details they can learn, apply and correct. When training and coaching people we look at three core domains and help our people develop to these:
- What do I need to know? – the Knowledge: General awareness or possession of information, facts, ideas, truths or principles across the organization and market place
- What do I need to do? – the Skills & Behaviours: The ability to do something well, usually gained through training or experience.
- How do I need to think? – the Mindset: The ability to see clearly and intuitively into the nature of a complex person, situation or subject; a set of beliefs or way of thinking that determine somebody’s behaviour and outlook.
If we remember that ‘Excellence is in the details’ we now have something to coach to. We recommend that you work out the specifics that are relevant to you and your business in each category to set you up for training and coaching people effectively. Smart leaders are making sure their sales managers spend time in the field and offline to develop their sales people and coach them to sales success rather than being continuously caught up in meetings and with administrative tasks. Smart CEO’s and sales leaders make time to invest in their sales managers’ development. They make sure managers are properly trained, coached and well equipped to be sales coaches. There are good coaching programs in the market place, just be sure that you use sales coaching programs that have been designed for sales people and sales managers. Many sales managers are seeing merit in being trained and coached themselves before they begin coaching their own and improving the bottom line. And it’s working. So this year, if you want to be at the top of your game and stay ahead of your competitors, get coaching.