We have written a number of posts on sales coaching. The bottom line – today it is difficult to sustain a competitive advantage by product alone. You need a superior sales team and maintaining a superior sales team requires front-line sales managers who coach and who are good at it.
But for sales managers to be good at coaching, feedback must run both ways. Not only must sales managers be able to provide feedback on a wide variety of skill sets and challenges; they must also be open to receiving feedback from their sales team as to when sales coaching is needed and how their can improve their coaching.
To accomplish this, both the sales manager and the members of the sales team must communicate openly and directly. From the sales rep perspective the feedback can take two very different forms:
1. Sales reps cannot hesitate presenting a sales problem they are having in one of their accounts. The cost is too high if they do – a sale could be lost because a less than an effective sales strategy was pursued or a smaller sale than potential was captured because the opportunity was under-scoped.
In regard to this type of feedback, successful sales managers work with their sales teams to develop a communication channel for surfacing the problems and addressing the best ways to solve them. They don’t get in the way of sales success and they don’t take credit for it. They regularly seek feedback from their sales team making sure there are not obstacles for sharing challenges and difficulties. In the end, they take responsibility that if their sales teams aren’t successful; they have something to do with it.
2. Receiving feedback can be uncomfortable for sales managers, but that’s no reason not to be open to it. We all have blind spots – yet when we know what they are, we can adjust and address them. To make this happen the manager must not only be open to the feedback; they must establish a culture that it is okay. If sales managers don’t, sales reps will remain silent.
A way to take a step towards establishing this open culture is for the sales manager to periodically simply ask members of their sales team about how they can improve the efficiency or effectiveness of their coaching. A jump-start set of questions that could be used are:
- Am I focusing my coaching efforts on the areas that you view as most beneficial?
- What have I done as part of our coaching effort that you found particularly effective?
- What are we not doing in our coaching effort that we should be doing?
- Are we doing some things in our coaching effort that are simply taking up time we could devote to something more worthwhile?
- Should I be leveraging some other people or resources that could add to the effectiveness of our coaching effort?
- Am I spending too little, too much, or just about the right amount of time on coaching?
Sales reps are unlikely to get better if they don’t receive feedback from their sales managers and sales managers are unlikely to get better at getting it right if the feedback only goes one-way.