Many new sales managers think they are good at managing salespeople because they excel at selling. While selling may have come naturally to them, it’s not innate for everyone. And now, a frontline manager, it’s their job to recognize performance barriers and empower their reps.
But a promoted salesperson often has a hard time letting go of the adrenaline rush that comes from being in the action and chasing big deals. He or she may end up taking charge of a customer relationship and finish the sale, undermining a rep’s motivation and confidence. Equally problematic are first-line managers who expect everyone to produce the same exceptional sales results they delivered – but without providing any coaching or constructive feedback.
A recent report from Gartner found that the average sales manager spends only 21% of their time coaching – it simply gets pushed aside. Turnover becomes high in situations where businesses are not producing skilled reps who have learned to achieve revenue growth on their own. Progressive organizations, however, recognize that teaching managers how to deliver personalized coaching and training – which ultimately produces high-achieving team members – has a greater impact on overall sales performance than just training the sales reps alone.
We were recently hired by such an organization. Their new sales rep team was being managed by their superstar salesman – who was also new to the role. With his compensation tied to the team’s revenue numbers, it was understandable that he wanted to “make it happen.” He was involved in every account, micromanaging the reps, constantly asking for updates, solving problems, and often stepping in to save the sale as quarter-end approached. While the compensation was good for all of them, the manager was exhausted and the reps felt unappreciated, unmotivated, unfulfilled and eventually, unable to work under such conditions.
Major change was needed and teaching their first-line managers how to coach their direct reports on sales skills was priority one. We helped the organization link its 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 muscle memory around their new coaching skills through practice with their teams.
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. So remember, if you’re looking to drive sales productivity, make sure coaching is a part of your process.