Every sales leader and CEO of an organization is always looking for ways to improve their sales numbers. They try to identify why a high-performer is having success and then attempt to replicate those competencies throughout the rest of the team. Sometimes a high-performer is promoted with the anticipation of spreading what they do to more people yet they lack the coaching and management skills to make a meaningful impact. They may hire a sales consultant to tell them what is wrong and to implement cookie cutter processes and training that everyone must adopt. Or a new sales methodology book gets on the New York Times best seller list and everyone is asked to read it.
The problem with fly-by-night sales improvement plans is that they neglect the single most important aspect of any sales organization, the sales leadership. Sales improvement plans will continue to fall short if they don’t apply the same clarity, discipline and structure given to the sales producers, and apply them to the sales leadership. What resources, training and development do the sales leaders need to do to more effectively coach and develop the sales reps? More importantly how do they translate the chosen sales methodologies,tools and resources into actionable coaching for the sales reps?
Don’t sit back and hope a sales methodology book, a TED talk, tools and resources, or a consultant can act like fairy dust on your team and poof they will produce. These are useful sales improvement initiatives as long as you close the loop with the sales leadership using the following three things.
Measure the coaching effectiveness
Before you will know if your sales leadership is coaching effectively you need to know where they stand now. This means the dreaded 13 letter word: documentation. There needs to be clear and consistent documentation of what is being coached and the effectiveness of that coaching. If you are following the fundamental coaching guideline of one thing at a time this should be easy to quantify. The best approach is to coach to the first no and then subsequent no’s after each one is mastered. A solid month of coaching documentation should be enough for you to accurately assess the sales leadership ability to coach and develop the reps.
Educate, train and translate
More often than not a sales leader is promoted because they were a sales superstar. However, the reality is that what brought them to that promotion won’t allow them to keep it. Don’t just hand them the executive key and tell them to have at it. Something went beautifully right with their sales training and you need to replicate that success with their sales manager training. Educate them on how to identify gaps in performance and skill. Train them to read, understand and explain the reports that show areas for improvement. Above all else, help them translate the sales methodology into actionable coaching that can be delivered on a person by person basis because each person learns and wants to be coached differently.
Standardize the coaching methodology
There needs to be a standard coaching methodology in place. Each of your sales leaders should follow the same coaching principals. It needs to be measurable, scalable, repeatable and well-documented. Make sure it is reported on and frequently analyzed for effectiveness in order to continuously improve their coaching abilities along the way.
Stop wasting time, money and resources chasing the latest and greatest sales methodology, tools and resources unless you are willing to equally invest in what is needed to help your sales leaders coach. The sales reps training has to be symbiotic to the coaching the sales leadership uses in order for your sales improvement plan to be effective and achieve higher sales.