Many sales managers think they are good at managing sales people because they excel at selling. Because they are good at it (or so the logic goes), they can just manage their reps by example. They go on sales calls with them and show them how…. “Just do what I do.”
After all, Einstein says, “Example isn’t another way to teach, it’s the only way to teach.”
Sorry Einstein. According to a recent study, nearly 90% of organizations train their sales managers to improve their coaching skills. Progressive organizations recognize that teaching frontline managers how to deliver personalized training targeted specifically at sales rep skill deficiencies has a greater impact on overall sales performance than an investment in training the sales reps alone.
Unfortunately, training and coaching are activities that can get pushed aside as managers revert to where they’re most comfortable: the selling expertise that got them promoted to their leadership position in the first place. They’re good at solving problems and closing deals for reps, but in successful organizations, there is a clear link between effective sales coaching and sales performance. Being a sales skills development coach may not be in a sales manager’s job description, but it certainly come with the title.
Recently, we worked with an organization whose new sales rep team was being managed by their superstar-salesman-first-line-sales-manager we’ll call Ken. With his compensation tied to his team’s revenue numbers, it was understandable that Ken wanted to “make it happen.” He was involved in every account, micromanaging the reps, asking for updates every other day, solving problems, and often eventually stepping in to “save the sale” as the quarter end approached.
It was exhausting yet rewarding for Ken, and although the compensation was good for all of them, the reps on his team felt unappreciated, unmotivated, unfulfilled and ultimately, unable to continue working under such conditions. The turnover was high and the organization was not producing skilled reps who could achieve their revenue growth through their own efforts.
This organization hired us. Our first priority was to teach their first line managers how to coach their direct reports on sales skills. We helped them link their sales process to practical, teachable, selling skills, setting up a structure for skills coaching based on individual sales reps’ needs.
The change came slowly but steadily. Because the managers were trained around conversations on current account strategies and within the parameters of their busy schedules, they developed the “muscle memory” of new coaching skills through practice with their teams. And the results followed, with an 11% increase in revenue from existing customers, a noticeable increase in the new opportunity pipeline, and a happier, more productive team. Now that’s what we call a win-win…..win!