Being a sales manager today is less about managing and more about developing, inspiring and growing the skills of your team. This is not easy and can leave a lot of sales managers chasing their tails trying to work out how to improve the performance of their team.
Some focus in on performance appraisals, which means that they’re only checking in on their reps’ performance once or twice a year. That isn’t often enough to build cadence or really help improve how they sell. Others use intimidation tactics or micro-manage which can leave their team feeling discouraged and uninspired.
While training is a useful way to teach new skills, it takes more than a training session or two to make sure it sticks. One of the most effective ways to reinforce, amplify and increase adoption of training is through coaching – in fact, CSO Insights found that implementing a formal or dynamic coaching process can help more salespeople achieve quota by up to 10%. The same research found that informal or ad hoc coaching didn’t achieve the same results.
No great sports person gets to be a world champion without a good coach by the side day-in-day-out, so why do you expect your salespeople to tough it out on their own? The answer may lie in the fact that coaching is hard, and it’s human nature to avoid doing the things that are really difficult. But coaching doesn’t just benefit your reps, it also benefits you which is an added incentive to put in place a formal coaching regime.
Coaching improves your skills
Being able to coach well is a skill that’s in high demand. By increasing your skill base you become more attractive to other employers both within and outside your company. This has the potential to open up new and exciting opportunities to develop yourself or possibly take on a more senior role. If you’ve got your eye on another role in the not so distant future, consider whether learning to coach effectively may help you get there.
Coaching also improves your skills as a manager. Coaching regularly gives you the cadence and insight to identify issues that may be impacting the performance of your team members. Rather than waiting for the annual performance review, you can nip them in the bud and then move onto the next issue. It can also help you put together a succession plan, thanks to the wealth of information that you learn about the strengths of each of your team members.
A flow on effect of developing your team is that they are likely to feel more valued and inspired. Feedback helps people know where and how to improve themselves, giving them a feeling of control over their own destiny and increases their trust in you.
This, in turn, has the potential to improve your retention rates. As you’re aware, recruiting new people is a costly and lengthy process, by improving retention you can improve the efficiency of running your team.
Last but not least, coaching will improve the results for your team, as the research from CSO Insights has found, and improve their productivity. While this won’t happen overnight, as it builds over time your team may meet or even exceed their performance objectives – a benefit that will directly be reflected in your own performance objectives.
So what does coaching really require?
There are several things that you can do that will help you be a good coach.
The most important is to focus on what your people need. This doesn’t mean just looking at what they need to develop but also understanding what they want to develop in themselves. One of the biggest ways to motivate someone to learn and adopt new skills is to do something that they want to do. The key is to set goals so that you can review their progress objectively together.
To build trust it’s important to be mindful, patient and truly listens. There’s no point trying to coach with one eye on your emails and the other on your watch. Show your team members how important their development is to you by giving them your full attention and allowing them to talk and work through an issue with your guidance.
Creating a safe environment is also important to build trust. No one will open up to a coach unless they feel secure, supported and know what they say is confidential. This includes following through on development opportunities or requests. Don’t leave it up them to ask you again – support them and give them the space to develop.
Another element of building trust is to keep your judgment at the door. If your people are worried about being critiqued, they’re less likely to open up and be willing to change. Let them vent their frustrations and work in different ways to find a solution that works for them. While not everyone can perfect everything, a good coach can identify the diamond in the rough and find a way to polish it.
One of the most valuable things a good coach can give is their strategic oversight. It’s difficult for an individual to step back and see how all the different moving parts work together, but a coach can help the individual pull everything together in a cohesive way. This gives them new insights that they can potentially use across different elements of their role. While coaching is about the individual, it’s really a partnership between you and your team member. Together you can both learn new skills and develop yourselves. If you approach coaching with this perspective in mind, it gives you more incentive to coach more often and to get better at it as well.