A ‘sales leader’ may be a business owner, professional, branch manager, senior consultant, executive and certainly a sales manager. Anyone who is responsible for managing others who create revenue for the firm is a sales leader.
Unfortunately I often see a situation where the sales leader is not fully embracing the scope of their responsibilities as a sales ‘coach’. That is, they aren’t doing everything they could be to maximise performance from their team.
Why don’t sales leaders coach?
There could be numerous reasons. However one common factor is that organisations don’t give sales leaders sufficient training to take on the role of sales manager and sales coach. The new sales leader is left to figure it out for themselves – which in some cases may take years.
Also, in fairness, these days many sales leaders have other responsibilities apart from simply ‘sales’ and their attention can be diverted by issues arising from those other areas.
From my experience working with many organisations I have identified five critical success factors for sales leaders that can quickly help under-performing sales teams get on the road to recovery and reach their potential.
Keep in mind the ‘sales team’ for many firms can include professionals or technical staff who have a dual role. They spend part of their time being a technical advisor or subject matter expert, and part of their time being a seller.
The 5 sales coaching success factors
1. Hold Sellers Accountable
Too often sellers are not held personally accountable for the results they produce. It is easier for the sales leader to ‘let things slide’ and not confront the seller about why sales have not been achieved. Unfortunately praise for the seller often gets overlooked as well. Another issue is that many times sellers do not have specific or current sales-related KPI’s in their Position Description. Without clearly communicated goals it is not surprising their efforts and commitment towards selling may be sub-standard or misdirected.
2. Spend Time 1-on-1 With Sellers
In the world of sales nothing beats having an experienced person on hand to observe the sales conversation and provide critique afterwards. A key aspect of the sales coach role is to observe sellers in action. It is impossible to really know what sellers do when talking with prospects or clients unless you are there on the spot (either in person or on the phone). The time spent together is also invaluable to build relationships between the sales leader and team members.
3. Include Sales Training in Team Meetings
Sales meetings are an opportunity for learning, sharing and motivation (but not the superficial, rah-rah type of motivation). Including training on specific sales skills or methodologies is essential. During these meetings team members can discuss their views and experiences with the particular sales activity under analysis, as well as practicing the skills using suitably constructed role play exercises. The training segment may only be 10-minutes in duration (or longer if time permits), but can be very effective in developing skills and creating consistency among the team when used regularly.
4. Use Coaching Questions
An important concept for sales leaders to understand is that of sales coaching being to ‘help the seller help themselves’. This is different to the often-used approach as a manager of providing all the answers and/or telling the team member what to do. Of course this implies the sales coach has a repertoire of suitable coaching questions to ask. Good coaching questions start with What, Why, How and When. They ask the seller to think the issue through for themselves and make a commitment to improve. Sellers thereby become personally responsible for their actions, outcomes and ongoing improvement.
5. Ongoing Professional Development
As a sales leader you need to stay ahead of your team. You need new knowledge and skills on a regular basis. The world of professional selling is evolving quite rapidly in line with technological advances and client expectations. The fact is, you need your own professional development plan. A simple plan may include reading appropriate books and listening to webinars. More advanced professional development plans may include undergoing personal assessments, attending conferences, enlisting a mentor, and enrolling in further education.
Want more help?
To access a list of suitable sales coaching questions and a sales coach self-assessment with 3-step action plan you can download Being a Great Sales Coach. It’s free.