Let me begin by saying that there is no magical silver bullet for slaying whatever monsters are eating your sales. You will ALWAYS have to deal with:
- Evolving customer expectations
- The need to innovate
- The competition
- The skillset and mindset of your team
- Emerging technology
- And so on…
So, while there is no single solution that will fix everything, there is one thing that will absolutely lift your sales: sales coaching.
Look, is it an old solution? Yep. I actually prefer to call it timeless. But I have to keep talking about it – because IT ISN”T GETTING DONE ENOUGH.
Exhibit A: Look at how sports teams that changed coaches went from middling to excellence. Consider the LA Rams, the Chicago Bears, and my favorite this year – the Cleveland Browns. Coaches matter. They change the culture and get the best out of their players. Even when their players are struggling (Jared Goff), their overall performance is in decline (the Bears), and there is drama in both the locker room and the head office (Cleveland). Is sales that much different than sports? I don’t think so.
Exhibit B: Research consistently shows how much coaching makes a difference. From the formal, academic stuff posted in HBR to the findings of organizations like CSO Insights, the conclusion is always the same: sales coaching matters. Is your company somehow immune to the benefits? Again, I don’t think so.
I could go on with more talking points, but let’s get to the bottom line: What is holding your sales coaching efforts back from driving the surge you need in performance?
Here are the four most common reasons that I see.
First, you don’t coach. You (and your team) do something else. But if you are not (a) observing live, uninterrupted sales interactions (i.e. you are not talking– at all), (b) aggressively tackling the de-motivators that affect your team, AND (c) providing meaningful, developmental feedback to the sales person in a fresh and digestible way, you are not coaching. You need all three of these elements (observation, motivation, and feedback) to be a coach. You may have great human beings in the manager seats, but getting the best out of their people is not happening.
Second, you didn’t promote coaches. You (and your team) have put “super sellers” in charge – and there was little to no attention put into recruiting and promoting great coaches into that role. The impact is pretty obvious – a pedal-to-the-floor mentality about achieving results – and high employee turnover. With inconsistent sales results. This only works if you sell the hottest innovation in your industry. And that’s a short-term win, because even the mighty eventually stumble.
Third, you don’t hold people accountable for coaching. Want to test yourself? How much of a manager’s bonus is attached to sales coaching metrics? If the answer is “uhhhh…”, you should immediately know that you have an opportunity. Because VERY few people do what they are supposed to do without some form of compensation. I know far too many great human beings who will cancel their coaching activities in the name of getting “other priorities” done – because that other stuff has a dollar amount attached to it. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on how the recruiting/promotion/retention cycle of sales managers is affected.
Fourth, you don’t equip your managers to be coaches. By far, the most common complaint I hear (and observe) from sales managers is the lack of training and support they receive to be better coaches. They may or may not be given good training. They may or may not be given good coaching tools and technology. But the greatest asset they need is TIME. And they simply don’t have it. This could be their fault for not prioritizing well, but let’s be honest – go back to point #3. Are they paid to create time? Are they held accountable for it? Sadly, I see many businesses ignore point #3 simply because they don’t want to give their managers time. And if they don’t give the time… it becomes a vicious circle.
So, what is your situation?
Do you have a role that can impact how sales coaching is done – or not done – in 2019?
If you were to diagnose your situation, where is it going well and where is it struggling?
But the real question is not “what do you need to do?” Rather, it is “are you going to do anything about it?”
I mua. Onward and upward.
By Tim Ohai
PS If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.