As the head of sales, you know that the primary role of the sales managers is to coach and develop their sales team. In fact, you believe that great coaching is a key driver in helping you achieve your sales goals.
Your sales managers all think that they are doing a great job coaching. But how do you know for sure?
Here are 5 ways of determining if you have great sales coaches:
1. Asking Thoughtful Questions
You can tell much about a manager’s coaching ability by observing the interactions with his or her salespeople. If a majority of the interaction includes the words “do this” or “why are you not doing that,” your manager is in “tell mode.” This highly directive and subservient communication makes salespeople feel like robots and produces mediocre performers. Frankly, it strains their relationship with their manager.
Coaching is about asking thoughtful questions. It is based on the belief that individuals have the answers to their own sales challenges. The manager’s role is to help individuals develop their ability to self-direct and solve their own problems. A coach would spend a majority of the time, asking “how do you think you can best accomplish this goal?” or “how would you like to address this opportunity?”
Spend 15 minutes in one of your manager’s sales meeting and you’ll quickly determine if the manager operates in “ask” or “tell” mode.
2. Field Time
Like many of us, managers tend to spend their time on the activities they are the best at and most enjoy. A manager who focuses extensively on administrative tasks such as submitting reports on time probably is less comfortable coaching. The manager who finds creative ways to get into the field and spend more time with sales reps probably sees the value of this time. Remember that administration doesn’t generate revenue or help develop your salespeople and that time spent in the field improves your reps’ ability to be the best they can be.
Do you track the number of days each manager spends in the field? The best coach likely is the one who does so most often.
3. Generating Accountability
Coaching is about accelerating a sales rep’s growth and ability to achieve personal goals to reach full potential. It’s a 4-step process that: 1. Identifies opportunities for improvement, 2. Boosts commitment, 3. Develops a plan and 4. Sets an accountability meeting to discuss progress. Set aside 1 hour monthly to review your manager’s field-visit reports. Why not go farther and follow 3 or 4 field visits with the same rep to check if the accountability for the reps to carry out their self-improvement plan is actually being reviewed by the sales manager? At this point, you are looking for progress toward improving one or two areas of the rep’s development.
4. Engagement Level And Turnover Rate
Many companies track 2 metrics: First, they perform an annual engagement survey in which the key is to drill down to the level of the sales manager. This provides insight into the differences between managers as well as the managers’ effectiveness in coaching their reps. Effective coaches will score much higher in sales rep engagement. Second, turnover is also a sign of reps’ relationships with their managers. In fact, 70% of top performers who leave base the decision on their relationship with their manager.
5. Direct Observations
To get to know your reps better, spend a couple of days in the field each month. Be sure to ask them about the level and quality of coaching they are getting. Another approach to consider, the dreaded “co-work with,” involves sitting in with the sales manager and his rep for a day. You observe the coach at work and get a firsthand perspective on the coaching effectiveness. I have never personally done this but I do know a sales director who has utilized this approach and I applaud his resolve.
As seen in Star Results, by Steven Rosen:
About the Author:
Steven Rosen, MBA, is the founder of STAR Results, a sales leadership coaching, training and consulting organization dedicated to leadership development. Steven’s mission is to inspire sales leaders, managers and sales people to rise to their full potential. Steven has over 15 years of executive experience. His fresh approach to corporate leadership, strategy development, execution and team-building in the pharmaceutical and packaged goods sectors defined his success.