A lot of companies approach us with the question of how they can develop great sales coaches. Among other ideas we discuss, I focus on three sales manager habits that I know constitutes “great” coaching because I see the positive results afterwards.
Sharing their real-life experiences
A common complaint I hear from salespeople is that their manager is good at pointing out problems with what the salesperson is doing (or not doing), but then doesn’t help the rep work through a solution. As the reps tell me, “I don’t mind being told what I do wrong, but If I already knew how to do it better, I’d be doing it.”
Great coaches share their personal war stories to help bridge this gap. They talk specifically about what they did when they faced this problem in the past.
To get you started, use the simple magic phrase of “For example.…” When you take the time to share your stories and examples you show salespeople not only how to get better but also that you truly care about their success.
Coaching their salespeople to slow down
I recently watched a professional baseball game where in the 9th inning the home-team pitcher was struggling on the mound. The manager went out to the mound and said a few words. After that, the pitcher struck out the three remaining batters and won the game.
Afterwards the manager was asked by a reporter “What did you say to your pitcher?”
Said the manager, “I told him ‘slow down, don’t rush your pitch.’” The manager went on to say that a common mistake he sees pitchers make is that they can become so focused on what happens when the ball crosses home plate that they forget about the mechanics of what they need to do to make an effective pitch.
Great coaches know that sometimes the best advice is counterintuitive. You might be tempted to tell your people to “sell more, sell faster.” But the baseball coach’s principle holds true for salespeople: they can become so focused on achieving the result that they lose touch with what they need to do to win.
So coach your reps to slow down and focus on the mechanics of preparing for meetings with customers. If they think about what they have to do to get a customer to move forward, something important happens: your salespeople will outsell your competitors at each step of the sales process. And then you win the game.
Balancing To Do’s with To Don’ts
One of the most common time management techniques that effective sales managers use is working from a prioritized To Do list: writing down a list of daily tasks, prioritizing them from most to least important, then working on the number 1 task until it’s done. Fine. Been there, done that.
Great coaches take this practice a step further by developing their own To Don’t list as well. At the end of the work day, they reflect back and ask themselves, “What did I do today that did not have a meaningful impact on the growth of my team?” Perhaps they got distracted by a customer satisfaction problem that could have been handled by a salesperson, or allowed themselves to be interrupted by someone who was not on their sales team.
Great coaches learn to identify these timewasters and stop allowing themselves to become distracted by them. Fewer timewasters means more time for coaching.
At the end of the month you are judged on your team’s quota attainment. And because quota is always going up, you must find more time in the future to invest in your people. Follow the lead of great sales coaches and look at all the unproductive tasks that you allow yourself to get distracted by.
Here a suggestion for tomorrow: identify your three most important priorities for tomorrow. (I hope one of them is to coach a salesperson to improve.) Keep these three priorities top of mind throughout the day. When an urgent issue presents itself – just say no. Or better yet, shut off the cell phone and get out of your office to do a ride-along with a salesperson.