Sales coaching vs. sales training. These two terms are often tossed around by C-level executives without truly understanding a) what their teams need to succeed, and b) how they can best help managers support their teams to increase sales and meet established quarterly goals. The challenge of course with the latter statement, is that many C-level executives don't like being told that they are not only wrong, but that they are doing their team a disservice. After all, when you have risen to the highest levels of power within your company, you like to think that you understand every aspect and that you, as the leader, are best suited for making all decisions. Unfortunately, appointing managers the task of being the "sales coach," is like accelerating in a no wake zone; not only is it dangerous, but you are inevitably dooming the entire ship to a disastrous ending.
Sales Managers Aren't Coaches
Sales managers are many things.
- They are motivating.
- They offer guidance.
- They are great record keepers.
- They can give pep talks (at least they should be able to).
- They know how to manage stress (once again, they should be able to do this effectively).
- But above all, sales managers know how to get the most out of their team.
With the above attributes in mind, many executives are under the false assumption that sales managers make great coaches. The latter statement could not be farther from the truth. Unlike sales training, sales coaches are focused on continued skill development. They are not focused on teaching someone something new. Instead, they are focused on helping the "middle rung" sales associates improve.
Managers, by definition, know how to manage their team. They know how to exploit the skills of their highest earners to increase sales, land the right clients, and keep long-term clients happy. They know what resources to give their weakest performers; and as required, they know how to inspire the weaker sales associates to perform more effectively. What managers don't know how to do well is help the middle rung performers.
A middle rung performer isn't necessarily "bad" at their job, which means that they don't need to review training materials. Conversely, these individuals aren't "great" at their jobs, which means that it doesn't make strategic sense to give them access to advancement opportunities. In this vein, many managers often feel a bit stuck when it comes to middle run performers, and so, they do nothing.
If the C-level executive is focused on the bottom line, then why worry about the middle performers?
- They are pulling their weight (for the most part).
- They aren't on the lower rung (which means that they aren't on the executive's radar).
- They aren't the highest performers (which means they aren't up for a bonus).
With the above factors in mind, many managers implement "coaching" methods to simply refrain from telling the C-level executive that they are "staying the course." After all, the middle rung performers might not be on the executive's radar, but that doesn't mean that they are helping the manager's team exceed sales goals or expectations.
A Lack Of Tools Are To Blame
The preceding section is not to place the entire blame on the managers. Instead, what is often the case is a lack of tools. Unlike sales training, sales coaching should be focused on one-on-one help. This means that the coaches need to focus on helping middle rung performers become the best sales representatives that they can ever hope to be. To do this, coaches need to recognize the following attributes:
- The skills that a sales associates brings to the table.
- Weaknesses that will never become strengths (much like a good base hitter will never become a home run slugger).
- Strengths that can be more effectively leveraged.
- Personality traits that will respond to certain types of motivation.
By understanding the above attributes, coaches can effectively help sales associates increase their productivity levels. After all, middle rung performers might never become the top sales associates, but that doesn't mean that they can't consistently perform well by working at an increased speed. To continue the earlier baseball metaphor, a good singles hitter plays a crucial role. Will he ever be a home run slugger? No, but in a clutch moment he can deliver the base hit needed to win the game. In the same way, coaches can help middle run performers improve their "on-base" averages and thus support the entire team in a more effective manner.
Unfortunately, far too often companies don't have the internal tools needed to implement effective coaching. These tools include:
- A CRM with a call recording system that can be used to review a gamut of calls.
- A phone system that allows shadowing.
- A digital playbook (such as Andcostello.com).
Without the above tools, the internal coaching program never sticks. Everyone ends up being too busy doing business that the coaching call or meeting either a) gets canceled, or b) participants are only half listening as they multitask trying to complete other far more pressing tasks.
The Solution: Outsource Sales Coaching
The solution to the coaching problem is outsourcing. An outsourced model effectively allows managers to do what they do best (i.e. manage the entire team). It allows the managers to work with the sales coach to help middle rung performers enhance their skills and productivity levels. Finally, it gives managers the time that they need to provide training to lower run performers, so that they entire sales team can benefit. In conclusion, every team member has a certain set of skills. Through an outsourced coaching solution, managers can go back to what they do best, while a professional coach from Maven Sales Group, can do what they do best: create a coaching system that lasts, help middle rung performers, and deliver enhanced sales results.