Companies invest a significant amount of money and resources in purchasing training programs to help their managers coach more effectively. They install coaching applications that work in conjunction with CRM systems, and they set corporate guidelines on how many hours per month each manager should coach. These efforts always result in more effective coaching with a whopping increase in the top line, right?
Well, no. The results are frequently disappointing, both for the organizations that make the investments and the sales managers expected to fulfill the coaching obligations.
One primary reason for failure is the pervasive idea that if we can observe something, we can improve it through coaching. However, unlike sports coaching, sales coaching does not always include the opportunity for a coach to observe the team in action. Although the sales manager has fewer team members than the typical sports coach – often 10 or fewer – those team members usually work independently. If sales managers rely on the conventional wisdom that observation must be the basis for coaching, it severely limits the type of sales activities that they will address through coaching. In fact, if sales managers believe that observation is crucial to sales coaching, coaching quickly becomes nothing more than observing a salesperson conducting a call with a prospect.
However, there are other activities in addition to making sales calls that impact seller performance. There are four key sales activities that are critical for sellers but not always directly observable. Sales reps’ performance can be much improved if they receive appropriate coaching from their sales managers on these topics. Let’s consider the four sales activities.
1. Opportunity Management
Before sellers make calls, they need to identify and qualify opportunities to determine if they are worth pursuing. This process can be classified as opportunity management. Opportunity management skills help sellers examine the competitive landscape, qualify opportunities, form a strategic approach, determine which resources are necessary and plan for success. This process is a complex set of tasks that need sales managers’ input.
2. Account Management
For sellers responsible for large-scale accounts, sales coaching should include some level of strategic account planning to find sufficient opportunities to meet quota. Account management entails all activities related to maintaining and growing existing accounts. Sales managers should train sellers to develop effective account strategies that align the goals of the seller’s organization to those of the client, not the other way around.
3. Territory Management
If a seller has a large number of accounts in a territory, proper segmentation and allocation of effort toward high-potential accounts is critical. Once accounts have been prioritized, seller effort can be allocated accordingly so reps are equipped to execute according to plan. Once again, coaching by sales managers is crucial here.
4. Call Management
Finally, call management involves planning for and conducting individual sales calls. Once sellers are focused on the right areas to find business, sales managers can then turn their effort toward coaching sellers to build a game plan prior to making a call. Managers can coach sellers in call preparation, observe calls as they are conducted and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of call execution.
Observing any sales rep behavior in isolation is a bit like evaluating one wheel on a car without considering the rest of the vehicle. In the end, what matters is the outcome and how those behaviors work together to drive the outcome. This is a maxim coaches would do well to remember, as their efforts will either drive the desired results or impede them.