The evidence continues to mount that effective sales coaching is the single best tool to improve sales performance.
In fact, a survey of more than 2,600 reps and managers from 40 global Fortune 500 companies conducted by SEC Solutions, a leading NASDAQ sales research best practice firm, found that sales teams receiving high quality coaching are far more likely to improve their performance by up to 20%.
So, what does it take to be an organization that is known for high quality sales coaching and outstanding sales results? Well, It takes three things.
- A structured sales process
- An aligned coaching process
- The time to coach effectively
A structured sales process is the foundation for effective coaching. It specifically defines the key selling skills and behaviors that optimize sales rep performance and therefore defines what needs to be coached. Seems simple, right?
A structured sales process has been defined, documented and trained, now all the sales reps need to do is live out the Nike slogan: Just do it. But it's not that simple. Why?
Because it requires a change in behavior, and changing behavior is difficult, especially for adults.
Changing behavior doesn't happen at the organizational level.
Just do it, just doesn't work. Behavior change happens one sales rep, one sales manager, and one sales leader at a time. And it doesn't happen in totality, it happens one skill and one behavior at a time.
That is why clarity and specificity are critical when defining the required skills and behaviors in the sales process.
Adopting New Behaviors
It requires patience, practice and a commitment from those being coached—and the entire sales organization—to the prescribed sales process.
If the commitments and buy-in are not there, then coaching efforts will be hit or miss and will not achieve the optimum result.
So how do we get the reps to buy-in and commit to mastering the sales process?
This answer is simple. We ask them if they buy in. If the individual is not able to affirm that the prescribed sales process is in their best interest and that they will earn more money by becoming proficient with the process then not, then coaching efforts will be in vain.
However, when they agree that the prescribed sales process is in their best interest and will help them achieve their goals, they have given the coach permission to hold them accountable for utilizing the desired skills and behaviors, and the coaching effort will have the greatest impact.
Gaining buy-in and commitment is critical to coaching success. Achieving a personal goal becomes the motivation and the skills and behaviors documented in the sales process are willingly internalized.
If the number one job of the sales manager is to improve sales rep performance, then aligned sales and coaching processes gives them the tools to do that job well.
As sales leaders, we must also give them the time they need to coach effectively. Research from the Sales Management Association indicates that less than 25% of a sales manager's time is actually spent coaching, no less coaching effectively.
Self AssessmentI encourage each of you to ask yourself the following questions and be brutally honest with your answers:
- Does my sales process specifically identify the required skills and behaviors for success?
- Are my sales and coaching processes aligned?
- Do my coaches understand the critical nature of gaining buy-in and commitment to the sales process from the reps they are coaching?
- What percentage of my reps currently buy-in to the sales process?
- Am I giving my coaches enough time to coach effectively?
We owe it to our sales reps and managers to provide a structured sales process, an aligned coaching process, and the time to coach effectively so they have a fair chance for success.
We also owe it to ourselves as sales leaders, our shareholders and investors so that sales performance can be maximized.
Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.