Sales leaders are very aware of the need to help their sales people develop and improve. In a study last year by RAIN Group, sales leaders reported ‘Developing sales skills‘ as one of their top 4 challenges and ‘Improve productivity of sellers and sales teams‘ as one of their top 4 priorities.
Whilst the use of coaching as a development tool continues to grow in popularity across organisations and teams, sales leaders, in particular, seem a little more reluctant to pick up the mantle. For many, the challenge of balancing the great number of responsibilities that fall to a sales leader, make coaching seem an impossible dream. However, for those who make the changes required to incorporate coaching into their everyday activities, the benefits speak for themselves. But before I explore these benefits, let’s get over the first hurdle – why sales leaders aren’t coaching. Typically, sales leaders that don’t coach will fall into one of three camps:
- They’ve not considered coaching. If an organisation places no expectation on their sales leaders to coach and, particularly when there’s no coaching culture within the wider organisation, the sales leader is far less likely to consider it. It’s not necessarily a case of the sales leader being anti-coaching, more that it hasn’t even crossed their minds.
- They don’t know how to coach and/or are unaware of the benefits. When we consider that a large percentage of Sales Leaders were successful sales people who got promoted into the position, typically without any additional leadership training or prior coaching themselves, the problem becomes clear. The majority of sales leaders just don’t know how to coach and, more often than not, have never received coaching themselves.
- They believe that sales people should be self-motivated and therefore shouldn’t need coaching. A couple of years ago we produced an infographic on ‘The Anatomy of a Successful Sales Person‘ in which we defined the key qualities of a great sales person, these included ‘Drive and Determination‘, ‘Motivation and Focus‘, and ‘Passion and Dedication‘. These are qualities which we expect as standard from our sales people. The argument then for some sales leaders is; why should we invest time in coaching people who should be able to motivate and drive themselves to greater performance?
Why indeed? Well the evidence is overwhelming – coaching has a significant positive impact on sales performance. Not only that, but performance coaching is no less relevant for sales people than it is for any other employee. Expectations of drive, motivation and dedication are placed on all employees, regardless of job role or level of seniority. Just because sales people must demonstrate, arguably, greater levels of perseverance and resilience, does not mean they will benefit any less from performance coaching than somebody who works in marketing, for example. Those sales people receiving regular and effective coaching outperform their peers across a number of measures and critically, that includes the amount of revenue they generate.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you really cannot afford not to coach your sales people:
- Coaching improves sales performance – Organisations with a formal coaching framework achieve 28% higher win rates. Still not convinced? Try calculating what a 28% increase in win rates would do for your sales teams quota.
Further evidence comes from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of the hugely influential, best-selling ‘The Challenger Sale’. In the article The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching, citing their Sales Executive Council study, they reported an up-to-19% improvement in the performance of sales people receiving effective coaching.
- Coaching improves employee engagement – Regular coaching strengthens relationships between leaders and their teams and demonstrates to individuals that they are valued and invested. This, in turn, heightens levels of engagement. When we factor in the cost of hiring a new sales person alongside the time it takes them to start delivering a return on that investment, the value of coaching becomes significant.
- Coaching increases customer loyalty – Perhaps a more surprising, but hugely beneficial effect of coaching sales people is that customer loyalty also increases for those receiving regular coaching, by 56% (Gallup).
- Coaching allows you to address issues before they snowball – Whether it be a performance-related issue, a personal one, or something else, regular coaching sessions with your sales people will enable you to identify and address issues before they have the opportunity to manifest and have a greater impact. It also gives the perfect, ‘safe’ platform in which to discuss these things.
- Coaching allows you to have a good understanding of what your sales people are doing, without the need for micro-managing! – You want to be confident that your sales people are following processes correctly, managing their time effectively and focusing on the right activities but you also want to empower them to manage these things themselves. Coaching provides you with the level of insight you need to ensure your sales people are being effective and also the platform you need to help them further develop, improve and become even more effective.
- Coaching reinforces sales training – Research based on Ebbinghaus’ ‘Forgetting Curve’ has revealed that, after just 6 days, 75% of the learning from a training programme will be lost. However, combine coaching with training and it’s a very different picture – a study conducted by the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA) found that productivity gains for training alone were 22%, whilst gains from training when combined with coaching were 88% – four times greater.
Training sales leaders/managers in both the content of the training and, critically, in coaching skills, ensures they can continue to reinforce and embed the learning from the training through regular coaching with their sales people.
- Coaching brings additional value and structure to customer visits/observations – The best way to understand how effective your sales people are at selling is to see them in action. Accompanying them on customer visits is critical, but the visits alone will not help your sales people improve. By structuring your follow-up coaching around the core sales competencies you want to see from your sales people, you can directly address and impact their effectiveness against those competencies. (At Salestrong, we have developed a Coaching App to enable Sales Leaders to use coaching to greater effect and impact.)
Alternatively, if you’d like to find out more about our bespoke coaching, or combined sales training and coaching programmes, give us a call on 01778 382733, or visit our Contact page to leave us your details.