Why So Many Sales Managers Don't Coach

Simulation Coaching is a great practice tool 

It's very helpful for a Sales Manager, in a practice scenario, to play the role of customer/buyer that enables the Sales Person to perform the sales process.  This reveals a lot more than simply talking about the sales process.   If the Sales Person cannot competently execute the sales process in a simple simulation, they are not doing it effectively with real prospects.   We recommend creating 5-10 good simulation scenarios that the whole team can learn.  When the Sales Person can "cheat" and knows what the simulation customer's needs are, it gives them a much better chance of asking the right questions, summarizing and tailoring the solution effectively.  As they get better and better, the simulations get harder.  What we want in practice is to get them into the habits of using the sales process the right way.   All too often, coaching is simply talking about what should and shouldn't happen as simulations go to the next level of practicing which is nearly always missing when we analyze how Sales Managers really coach.

Elements of a strong Sales Culture

Professional athletes need drills to develop strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination and they also need practice on very specific skills.  For instance a Professional Golfer needs to practice driving, iron shots, putting, sand shots, chipping, etc.   In order to be an effective Sales Coach, the Sales Manager must know what those key skills are.  Here is a listing of what should probably be part of the coaching routine:

  • Value Propositions
  • Differentiating Factors
  • Competitive Advantages
  • Answer to the question -- "why should I meet with you?"
  • How to respond to gatekeepers to gain their cooperation
  • How to leave a voice mail to generate a quick callback
  • How to use an agenda statement to start a sales interaction
  • How to use credibility statements to introduce yourself
  • How to use challenge questions to generate better discovery
  • All elements of the consultative sales process 
  • How to summarize a discussion to move it to the next step
  • How to respond to the most frequently encountered objections
  • How to tailor a solution or suggestion to the buyer's priorities
  • How to use trial closes and temperature testing questions
  • How to use relevant and interesting questions better

These are the skills that the simulation scenarios should be built around so  the Sales Manager can practice with their Sales People.   These are also the areas to create Top Performer recordings so that all members of the Sales Team can HEAR how the top performers do it and learn from their examples.

Sales People that fail typically do so because:

  • They don't speak with  enough high potential prospects/buyers on a consistent basis
  • They are ineffective at using a solid consultative sales process that builds rapport, identifies high value needs and tailors a solution around the concerns that matter most to the buyer/prospect.
  • They cannot credibly and persuasively verbalize important information like competitive advantages, value propositions, differentiating factors or even leaving a voice mail that gets positive attention and a quick callback.

Going over pipeline reports, goals and objectives do little to nothing to address these problems.  Sales Coaching, when done effectively will turn these weaknesses into strengths.

How to turn sales coaching into your competitive advantage

Tap into the power of Top Performer Recordings

When we begin working with a new client on a sales project, we like to hear how Top Performing Sales People explain the company's value proposition, competitive advantages, differentiating factors and key features/benefits of their products and services.   One of the first things we do is suggest a session to record their best people verbalizing this stuff.   These recordings are extremely valuable and can be used in a variety of ways.   Often, poorer performing Sales People simply don't hear how the Top Performers communicate and the gap between what they're doing isn't clear to them.  When a Sales Manager focused entirely on goals and objectives but not the underlying causes for poor results, it's generally frustrating for the Sales Person.  When a Manager can give recordings of various pieces of the sales process to his/her Sales People, he now has a tool to start transforming the way every person on the team communicates.  This is exactly how sports teams do training.  They demonstrate what they want and practice until they get it. Top performer recordings are a fantastic tool to improve skills that generate results.

Step-by-step, how to get Sales Managers to do more coaching:

Honestly assess how much time administrative tasks are consuming

In many sales organizations, Sales Managers are simply tasked with doing too many things.  The organization develops a big appetite for reports, analysis and special projects that eat up a lot of the Sales Manager's time.  When this is the case, sales coaching is one of the first things that gets neglected.   If you want a sales culture where a lot of effective sales coaching is happening, figure out a way to reduce the work that gets in the way.

Begin by CLEARLY defining exactly what Sales Coaching is and what the expectation is

Sales coaching and a strong sales coaching culture mean different things to different people.  To get the ball rolling in the right direction, it is critical to get the key people on the same page about what it REALLY is.   This means front-line Sales Managers AND the Executives they report to.   Sales Coaching is  not going to improve until this happens.  Executives need to coach Sales Managers to get them coaching and this is often a weak link that must be addressed.

Consider the alternative of introducing Dedicated Sales Coaches into the sales teams

We find, with many of our clients, that over time, people get into Sales Managers roles that simply don't have the natural skills or background to easily become a good Sales Coach.   Sometimes their strengths are in operations or how to make a deal work or writing proposals, but when it comes to practicing and doing skill building drills, they just don't have much of that ability.   When this is the case and they don't want to do a lot of personnel changing, it often works better to create a specialized team of dedicated Sales Coaches that focus 100% of their time and energy on sales coaching.  There are several ways to make this work that won't add any additional cost.  

Recently I interviewed 75 Sales Executives, about the key issues they are focused on to improve their Sales Teams.  I asked them all what was the #1 barrier to better performance.  72 of the 75 said it was a lack of follow-up and effective coaching from front-line Sales Managers.  This is exactly what we find on virtually every project we have done for our clients over the last 15 years.   For a variety of reasons, most Sales Managers spend very little, if any, time coaching and doing reinforcement training with their Sales Teams.

The three primary reasons for this are:

  1. Often, Sales Managers never worked for a Sales Manager that effectively coached them.  They simply haven't seen good Sales Coaching in action and are copying the way they were managed.
  2. The Sales Executives most Sales Managers report to don't coach much either and don't inspect to make sure that good coaching is happening.
  3. Many Sales Managers don't feel confident demonstrating and practicing fundamental selling skills and feel that practice will expose their weakness and hurt their credibility so they avoid it. 

Many Sales Managers think that Sales Coaching is analyzing and talking about what happened on a recent selling interaction and/or going over pipelines, goals, objectives and performance metrics. Although these are elements of managing Sales People, the most effective element of coaching is practicing to build better skills and habits that will generate better results on sales calls.   This is the element that is most often missing.  

Fortunately, Sales Managers can learn to coach, train and reinforce the important selling skills that generate consistent results.  This is the only way to build a truly sustainable sales culture that generates  maximum results with less wasted time and resources.

Measure and report coaching interactions and outcomes

What's great about the two tools of top performer recordings and simulation scenarios is you can measure them both.   We suggest setting up the CRM to accurately measure, track and report coaching interactions.  The Sales Manager develops, in effect, a pipeline to manage of developing competencies with his/her "accounts" which are Sales Team Members.   We believe strongly that some form of certification is needed to keep Sales Managers focused on Sales Coaching over time.   We believe competency thresholds are critical if you truly want to inspect what you expect when it comes to sales coaching.

Dycoco helps Sales Organizations execute a plan to build a sales culture

Core Selling Skills that generally need coaching on:

We have worked with Sales Teams from a wide variety of industries and companies including Google, PIMCO, Morgan Stanley, Avis, CH Robinson, Time Warner, Cox Communications, Comcast, America Online, Bank of America, Wachovia, University of Phoenix, Ancestry.com, American Funds and many others.  Our entire organization is designed to help companies quickly develop better Sales People and better Sales Managers.  We know how to do projects quickly and efficiently at a fraction of the cost of what many of our competitors charge.  We can do this because we are very selective and careful about the people we hire and put on projects.   Our people know how to have impact quickly and that reduces cost.

To find out how Dycoco can help your Sales Teams dramatically improve --  

It's nearly impossible to teach and coach what you don't know

Before you introduce a Sales Coaching training program, realize that a lot of Sales Managers resist coaching because they are not very strong themselves on the sales process and verbalizing important selling information.  Often, in a rush to get the Sales Managers trained on coaching, this extremely important detail is overlooked.   We have found that Sales Managers need at least as much training on the sales process and how to verbalize core selling information as they do on Coaching.  In many cases, they need MORE training on sales than coaching.  Assess this realistically and do not put them through sales coaching training until they achieve a high level of fluency with the selling

“Looking back over the last year, I can honestly say we were simply not focused on the right priorities before we started this sales transformation project with Dycoco.  We were way to focused on technology, were not coaching our sales people, were not training our coaches or sales trainers and we certainly weren't leading in a way that energized the team.  A lot has changed.  Our Managers are excited again, we're closing deals faster with less cost and the most exciting thing is we're attracting a much higher quality new  hire than we ever used to.  We had a lot to learn.”

​​Cheri D - Executive Vice President Sales - Retail Banking