What Are Sales Managers to Coach? Behaviors, Skills, Activities, Oh My!

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When it comes to sales coaching, the mandate from the executive level for front-line sales managers is to coach, coach, and then coach some more. Companies invest a significant amount of money and resources in purchasing training programs to help managers coach, installing coaching applications that work in conjunction with CRM systems, and setting corporate guidelines on how many hours a month each manager should coach. One might think that all these efforts would result in more and better coaching, but is all of this activity really achieving the results executives want? For most companies, the answer is a big fat “NO.”

The results of most of these efforts are often sorely disappointing, both for the organizations investing in the efforts and the sales managers expected to fulfill these obligations.
Why the sad state of sales coaching affairs within the sales force? Why do all of these fantastic (and often expensive) efforts fall flat?

One primary issue is the pervasive idea that if we can observe something, we can improve it through coaching. However, unlike sports coaching, sales coaching does not always include the opportunity for a coach to observe the team in action – all the time, every time. Although the sales manager has fewer team members than the typical sports coach – often 10 or fewer – these 10 team members are usually working independently. If a sales manager relies on the conventional wisdom that observation must be the basis for coaching, it severely limits the type of sales activities that a sales manager can address through coaching. In fact, if observation has to be a part of sales coaching, coaching quickly gets relegated to a sales manager observing a salesperson conducting a sales call with a customer or prospect and nothing else.

However, there are various other activities in addition to making sales calls that impact seller performance. Below are four key sales activities that are critical for sellers, but not always as directly observable as the single action of making a sales call.

Opportunity Management
Before sellers make sales calls, they need to identify and qualify opportunities to determine if they are worth pursuing. This process can be classified as “opportunity management.” Opportunity management skills help sellers examine the competitive landscape, qualify opportunities, form a strategic approach, determine which resources are necessary, and manage project plans.

Account Management
For sellers responsible for multiple, large-scale accounts, sales coaching should include some level of strategic account planning to find sufficient opportunities for sellers to meet quota. Account management entails all activities related to maintaining and growing existing accounts. Sales managers need to train sellers to develop effective account strategies that align the goals of the seller’s organization to those of the client, not the other way around.

Territory Management
If a seller has a large number of accounts in a territory, proper segmentation and allocation of effort toward high-potential accounts is critical. Once accounts have been prioritized, seller effort can be allocated accordingly so sellers are equipped to execute according to plan.

Call Management
That brings us to call management, which involves sellers planning for and conducting individual sales calls. Once sellers are focusing on the right areas to find business, a sales manager can then turn efforts toward coaching sellers to build a game plan to pursue deals prior to sellers making a sales call. Managers can coach sellers in call preparation, observe calls that are conducted, and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of call execution.

Observing behaviors in isolation is a bit like evaluating one ingredient in a recipe without considering all of the others. The way behaviors unfold within the context of a larger activity, like a sales call, matters. In the end, it is the outcome that matters and how those behaviors work together to drive that outcome. As coaches, let’s not forget to put those individual behaviors into the larger context of the activity the seller is conducting and how the behaviors work together to either help drive toward, or impede that outcome.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michelle Vazzana
Michelle Vazzana is a partner at Vantage Point Performance and co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code. Vazzana has more than 28 years of successful sales and management experience in the major account environment. For more information, visit www.vantagepointperformance.com.

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