October 24, 2015

Five Steps for Effective Sales Coaching

Five Steps for Effective Sales Coaching
Source: businessweek.com,  /printer/articles/34062-fove-ste[s-for-effective-sales-coaching

Nearly 90% of organizations will train sales managers to improve their coaching skills this year, according to a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) of more than 160 leading sales executives. Progressive organizations recognize that in a down economy, efforts to improve the coaching skills of frontline sales managers have a greater ROI compared to other similar training investments made on sales reps, in terms of their direct impact on overall sales performance.

While the link between effective sales coaching and better sales performance is widely known, the majority of sales organizations fail to realize the full potential of their investments in sales coach training. Often times, this means missed opportunities for dramatic improvements in top-line revenue growth, margin enhancement, conversion rates, as well as sales forecast accuracy, and sales rep retention and engagement levels.

Working with more than 700 leading sales organizations over three years, CEB developed Hypothesis-Based Coaching, a framework designed to address the most common pitfalls that cripple a coaching program’s positive impact on sales outcomes:

1. Generic Coaching Training Content: Effective coaching programs must link to the organization’s sales model and address individual sales manager coaching challenges. Programs must be tailored to the sales manager, their team and the go-to-market strategy of the organization.

2. Discontinuous Coaching Approach: Managers often see coaching as a sequence of separate events, similar to training, rather than an ongoing, continuous process where one coaching conversation is a continuation of the last. To solve this issue, embed a true coaching process within the normal workflow.

3. Blurred Lines between Coaching and Performance Management: Managers must clearly differentiate these interactions and ensure that salespeople recognize a “safe” coaching environment. Address this by creating formal, scheduled coaching sessions that are clearly different from performance management discussions—inevitably the most common conversation in a sales organization.

4. Lack of an Effective Coaching Infrastructure: Without the appropriate supporting “coaching infrastructure,” it is near impossible to sustain long-term coaching benefits. The most progressive organizations actively measure coaching effectiveness on an ongoing basis and fully engage second-line and senior managers in the process to ensure that coaching remains an ongoing priority, not a passing fad.

5. Managers’ Failure to Accurately Observe Behavior: Managers often revert to teaching sales tactics that worked well for them rather than focusing on the new skills required to effectively coach in today’s environment. Critical to coaching today is the ability to correctly observe behavior and specify behavior change.

Managers should have a strong hypothesis surrounding the high-performance behaviors they should be coaching to before entering into coaching conversations with their salespeople. By having a clear picture of what they should be seeing, it becomes easier to observe and interpret sales behavior and in turn, have more prescriptive, objective coaching conversations.