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There’s no denying it: sales coaching is a hot topic right now. And no matter where you are or who you’re talking to, the theme is generally the same:
- everyone agrees that coaching is invaluable to improving sales productivity and results
- too few organizations are committed to doing it well, or at all.
But the real question is what to do about it; a topic that’s top-of-mind at the Sales Force Productivity Conference in Atlanta this week.
“It’s a buzzword right now. But if you ask 50 people on the street what coaching is in a business sense, you’re likely to get 50 different answers,” said Bruce Wedderburn, chief sales officer at Integrity Solutions (pictured above) to a roomful of sales leaders on Tuesday.
Wedderburn, along with Integrity Solutions CEO Mike Esterday, were on hand to present a workshop entitled, The Three Conversations of Effective Sales Coaching. The duo presented joint-research from The Sales Management Association (who host the annual event) showing that even organizations that are committed to coaching often fail to do so effectively.
One reason for this could be that many companies focus their coaching on the wrong things.
“Think about the top-performing salespeople in your organization; the people who blast past their quota year after year,” said Wedderburn. “What percentage of their success is attributed to a) superior product knowledge and selling skills, or b) their attitude, achievement drive, self-belief and passion?”
The data showed that 84% of sales leaders believe “achievement drive” is equal or more important than selling skills and product knowledge (a perspective that the majority of the room agreed with), yet few sales managers view coaching through this lens.
“Achievement drive is not only the most overlooked training area, but also the most overlooked area of manager coaching,” explained Wedderburn. “Every member of your sales organization has that achievement drive, but for some it’s sitting dormant. So how do we unlock that potential inside them?”
Changing your (manager’s) attitude about sales coaching
Wedderburn noted that the impediments to sales coaching often lie in belief, meaning that a lot of managers don’t have a positive belief in coaching, or their own skills and ability to do it. This issue can even be tied to one of the most common excuses for a lack of coaching: time.
“How committed to the activity of coaching is that person?” he said, responding to the question of those who claim not to have time to coach their teams. “If managers don’t have a real positive belief in coaching in their heads, if they have this attitude, then they won’t want to do it. So they’ll find other things to do.”
To address this and help create a positive mind shift toward coaching, Wedderburn and Esterday discussed the importance of focusing on three conversations: the conversations between managers and their sellers, their own coaches, and – ultimately – themselves.
Esterday (pictured above) explained how the latter conversation can have an especially significant impact on creating a positive view of coaching among managers. It can also help them learn to do it more effectively. As Esterday explained, a few examples of questions managers should be asking themselves include:
- Do They Have a Positive View of Coaching? – “What do your managers think coaching is?” he asked the audience. “Is it about correcting people all the time? Or is it about building people and helping them see more in themselves?”
- Do They Have a Positive View of their Abilities? – “Do your managers believe in their heart that they can be a good coach and manager? They may have been good salespeople, but do they believe they can be good managers as well?” he asked, agreeing with an audience member who pointed out that the role of sales rep and manager require very different skill sets.
- Do They Have a Commitment to Coaching Activities? – “It’s not just about knowing WHAT to do [when it comes to coaching]; are your managers willing to do it?” he said.
- Do They Believe in their Salespeople? – “Your salespeople want to work with managers who believe in them. You hired them because you believe they could be successful salespeople. Do your managers still believe that? Or have they written them off?” he said, implying that managers who have lost faith in their sellers may feel those people are not worth taking the time coach.
An interesting point of view for sure, and one that I found resonated with the attendees I spoke to after the session.
What do you think? Do your sales managers believe in coaching? Sound off in the comments section and share your thoughts.