New Data – Most Sales Managers are a Disaster When it Comes to Coaching


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When your computer isn’t functioning the way you expect you may notice how sluggish and unresponsive it is – a symptom of the real problem – so you need to look more closely.  I’m on a Mac so I open up the activity monitor to determine if a program or programs are using too much memory or utilizing too much CPU. If that’s the case, I force quit those programs and if that doesn’t work, I restart the device.  If the problem isn’t resolved after a restart, I do a deeper dive and review what changed since the computer was running smoothly.

My article about Crappy Sales Managers discussed the low recommendation rates for sales management candidates, why they are so low, and the bigger repercussions of the problem.  Speaking of deeper dives, today’s article takes a deeper dive into one of the problems identified in the prior article; crappy sales coaching skills.

When Objective Management Group (OMG) conducts a sales force evaluation, one of the things we do is ask salespeople about the one-on-one coaching they receive from their sales managers.  We do this so that in addition to evaluating the sales managers’ 20 Sales Management Core Competencies, we can also gain insight into their sales management effectiveness.  The data from salespeople is divided into two categories:

  1. Frequency of the Coaching Received
  2. Type of Coaching Received

The average number of salespeople reporting to their sales managers is 6 and the average number of hours that sales managers report working is 50.  While sales managers consistently tell us that they are spending an average of 25% of their time, or 12.5 hours coaching, that turns out to be a huge lie!

Consider what salespeople tell us:

32% of salespeople are getting coached weekly.  If 6 salespeople are getting coached for 30 minutes per week, that would be 3 hours per week or 6% of their sales managers’ time.

48% of salespeople are getting coached monthly.  If 6 salespeople are getting coached for 30 minutes per month, that would be 3 hours per month, or 1.5% of their time.

Worse, 11% of all salespeople are coached quarterly or less and only 9% of all salespeople get coached daily.

Then there’s the issue of what constitutes coaching.  Effective sales coaching impacts opportunities and improves sales effectiveness but that is not what most sales managers do for coaching.  Consider that:

60% of all coaching is to simply provide help with pricing, technical help, or with proposals.  Sorry, but that’s not coaching!

Of the remaining coaching, which we know occurs much too infrequently, a third, or 12% of all sales coaching is to encourage or challenge salespeople.  Sorry, that’s not coaching either; it’s motivation.

72% of what sales managers call coaching is simply not coaching! 

How does the remaining 28% break down?

12% is strategy – what we want to accomplish in a given account or with a given opportunity.  That’s not coaching.  That’s Account Strategy.

9% is Sales Process/Pipeline – pipeline review conversations.  See this article for a comparison of what these conversations usually sound like versus what they should sound like during pipeline/opportunity review conversations.

That leaves tactical coaching which accounts for 7% of all coaching – this is opportunity or salesperson specific coaching to improve the salesperson, make them more capable, make them stronger, and coach them up! 

Only 7% of this infrequent coaching actually accomplishes any meaningful coaching.

In addition to the dismal numbers about coaching, companies are not tracking things that would be useful to a coaching conversation or a pipeline review conversation.  Consider:

Only 9% of all companies track the conversion ratios of meetings to closed opportunities.  Don’t you think this data would stimulate a coaching conversation that attempts to identify and rectify the issue as to why a salesperson isn’t able to convert more business?

Only 27% of all companies track movement of the pipeline.  Isn’t this related to the previous metric which would tell us WHERE opportunities are getting stuck?

Only 27% of all companies track the quality of the pipeline.  Isn’t this directly related to both previous metrics which would tell us whether opportunities should have even been pursued?  If there are opportunities in the pipeline that shouldn’t be, doesn’t that artificially skew the previous two metrics?

This brings us to the million dollar question.  Why are sales managers so misguided, so ineffective and so crappy?

I believe the answer is obvious, embarrassing and quite easy to determine.

New sales managers, as well as the companies who promote them, believe that the very things that made them successful salespeople will make them successful sales managers. Then, continuing that belief into a sales manager’s tenure, sales managers don’t ask for and aren’t offered sales management training and coaching which emphasizes how to coach salespeople.  As a result, new and growing sales managers must rely on the sales manager they reported to when they were in a sales role for what sales management is supposed to look like.  We can debate that theory as much as we want, but if we rely on the data in these two articles, my theory is indisputable.

As disappointing as this is, companies continue to grow sales and profits DESPITE crappy sales management.  But is it scalable? Is it sustainable?  Will it continue to work when economic conditions are less favorable?  I think not and I saw plenty of evidence of that in the second quarter of 2020.

Looking at the bigger picture and using OMG’s data on 2,031,692 salespeople from more than 35,000 companies, 50% of all salespeople suck.  If there is any hope to improve those numbers or the 57% of reps that fail to hit quota each year, we must make the development of sales managers the number one priority for 2021.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to grow revenue and profit, sell value instead of price, build sales cultures, increase retention, hire better salespeople, and improve the reputation of the profession.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.


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