Five Obstacles to Great Sales Coaching
The Coach Shows Up Too Late to be Helpful
One of the key elements to sales coaching is the need to provide ongoing assistance to our teams of salespeople. Yet, in surveys I conduct as part of my sales management coaching, many sales managers tell me that their coaching consists of meeting with their team members once a month or so to discuss their activities and results. In effect, what they call coaching actually involves stepping in after the fact to look at what has already happened.
If you are attempting to serve as an ongoing source of support and assistance, then more than a monthly individual conversation about sales numbers is needed. Rather, it is important to actively offer direction and teaching in whichever area of the sales process individual team members have trouble in. Don’t be so focused on measuring end results, which are lagging indicators, that you miss your opportunity to find the skill and process problems that can allow your team to improve.
A Lack of Standards for the Amount of Time Spent Coaching
Companies rarely dictate a set amount of time for sales managers to spend coaching, or how that time should be spent. In the absence of set standards, sales managers are often left to essentially set their own schedules and structure regarding coaching. As a result, the responsibility of coaching can slip through the cracks when compared to other day-to-day job responsibilities which are accompanied by a greater immediate sense of accountability. In light of this lack of set standards or requirements, you might consider developing some for yourself or your workplace.
The Coach is Too Focused on the Close
As I conduct sales management training sessions, I often hear sales managers reporting their eagerness to insert themselves into a deal just in time to play a role in the closing, especially in the case of a big sale. Given the tendency of sales managers to have come from a sales background, this is not unexpected.
Yet, it is not terribly helpful from a coaching standpoint. You are essentially rushing to take part in a deal that is already made and is ready to close, and leaving the rest of your team to fend for themselves in the meantime.
Your best salespeople are working the biggest sales opportunities. The bigger the deal and the higher the excitement that often builds behind it, the more skill and ability your salesperson likely already has.
From a coaching standpoint, doesn’t it seem more logical to focus on those who are trying hard but having trouble landing the best deals, and on fine-tuning the earlier steps of the sales process working with your reps speaking to customers who have not yet decided whether or how much to commit?
Focusing on Tasks, Rather Than Developing the Team
When someone who was once a top salesperson suddenly finds themselves in the position of being sales manager, the experience comes complete with a whole new role to fill and desire to prove their success in the position.
As a salesperson, they distinguished themselves for the promotion by doing more than others. When they become a sales manager, and have a host of new leadership duties they should be performing, there is a tendency to want to again focus on what they always did best, doing tasks, rather than coaching their team members to improve their skills.
Managing a sales team requires a different mindset than selling, and the earlier we adjust to this reality, the better we can be at our leadership and coaching responsibilities. We are no longer players, but coaches, and must retrain our instincts accordingly, getting to know our people and their needs.
A Lack of Time Due to Too Many Distractions
Time is a critical concern for sales managers seeking to coach their teams. In fact, when I lead my sales management training sessions, “not enough time” is by a wide margin the top concern raised when I ask sales managers why they do not engage in sales coaching.
While coaching is considered to be the most important task for a sales manager to perform, one survey that I conducted for a Fortune 500 company found that a given sales manager devoted no more than 10% of their day to the practice of coaching. There are so many “monkeys” on their back, they can’t shake them off in order to devote time to the most critical aspect of their jobs.
Yet, if we as sales managers can learn to let others take ownership of their own problems without rushing to their rescue when we aren’t critically needed, focus on our #1 priority of developing our team, and master managing our time, it might be surprising how much time suddenly becomes available for coaching.
Time to Get to Work
There is only one path to building a great sales team: hiring quality people, training them, and coaching them to greatness. Set aside time every day for individual coaching with your team, and be proactive in addressing hurdles that may keep you from doing so effectively. If you can do this, you will soon see the benefits of great sales coaching, including a boost to morale, reduced turnover, and faster improvement among your team!