Sales Coaching Habit #6 – Allocate Enough Time for Success
The similarities between sports coaching and sales coaching are easy to spot. Training alone does not guarantee that a great runner will win an Olympic medal. Much of this comes from continuous daily support and guidance from an expert coach. In the same way, top salespeople need expert coaching support from their managers to stay ahead of the competition.
Whether sales managers deliver their coaching face-to-face, on the telephone, via e-mail, or using software technologies, a strong coaching culture will attract and retain the best salespeople.
The idea of coaching being expert support and guidance, where the coachee goes through a process of self-discovery is endorsed by this quote from Sir John Harvey Jones, who says, “In my experience, it is extremely difficult to teach grown-ups anything. It is, however, relatively easy to create conditions under which they will teach themselves.”
The problem for many organizations is to provide the time, skills and resources that sales managers need in order to provide the kind of support and guidance their salespeople must have. The question of time is often the one that challenges sales managers the most. How much time should be spent coaching individual salespeople each week, month, or quarter?
With all the other responsibilities that a sales manager has and assuming a team of 10 to 12 people as the average, that will probably equate to around three to four contact hours for coaching each salesperson per month. This assumes the sales manager can be in the field two days per week and see one or two salespeople a day, depending on the geographical spread. Recent research by SEC indicates that this is about the right level to allow sales managers to achieve and salespeople to practice.
Although three to four hours per month may not seem excessive, according to a recent survey by CustomerThink (www.customerthink.com), the typical sales manager that coaches his salespeople, only does it on average four times a year. The other pertinent fact is that this coaching tends to take place more toward the end of a sale. Earlier research conducted by Nightingale Conant also reports a fairly bleak picture. Less than 33% of respondents did weekly or monthly coaching, with around 25% doing no coaching at all and the rest only sporadically. The reasons for this lack of coaching were attributed to lack of time, skills and resources
With the change in economic outlook that has taken place over the last four years, many organizations are reducing costs by cutting easy targets such as training and development and hiring only experienced people who can do the job already. This is probably counter-productive, especially in sales, as it is always difficult to hire the best salespeople.
Without structured development, skills grow rusty over time and salespeople can pick up bad habits along the way or simply take shortcuts that can lead to long-term trouble. With constantly changing markets, technologies, and customer preferences, salespeople need to update their sales strategies, skills and approach frequently, but this can only be done in a supportive environment.
The other major problem appears to be in the selection and training of the person around whom the effectiveness of the whole sales team revolves — the sales manager.
Many companies make the mistake of promoting their top performing salesperson and end up with an ineffective and disillusioned sales manager and the loss of their best performer. The skills required to be a top salesperson are totally different from those needed to manage and develop a sales team. Without specific management, development, coaching and leadership training, plus somebody to coach and improve their own skills, they are unlikely to be fully effective.
Sales Leaders need to provide sales managers with the resources, training and skills they need to perform effectively. Without the right training and support to develop their own skills, sales managers will not be in a position to coach and develop their team and generate the improvements in performance that are possible.