Did you know that in order to produce a highly-functioning and successful sales team, your sales managers need to spend at least 50 per cent of their time coaching their team?
What’s more alarming is that an assessment of over 100,000 sales managers has revealed that most lack the necessary competencies to be an effective coach. So where are our sales leaders going wrong and what can they do to become better coaches?
Where are sales leaders going wrong?
Many sales leaders are promoted into leadership roles because they were star sellers. But this does not always make them great managers, especially if they have no previous management experience. What many businesses fail to realise is that the skills needed to lead and manage a team are very different.
“The role of business leader or sales manager is critical to achieving sales and margin targets that lead to an organisation’s success,” says Steve Bambury, Head of Marketing for SalesStar.
“Yet, those in such significant roles are often unaware of what it takes to lead and develop a high-performing sales team. Poor results leave them frustrated, and they don’t understand of some of the key elements of a sales process, which is needed to thrive in the modern economy.”
What makes a great sales leader?
Great sales leaders are good at motivating others; they inspire action, don’t criticise weakness, and aren’t quick to pass blame. The best leaders are those who have the ability to work with their salespeople to discuss issues, problem solve, role-play, be honest and constructive about weaknesses, and guide them on how to overcome difficulties. This is also exactly what makes a great sales manager.
Ask rather than tell
Studies have shown that sales managers have only 44 per cent of the skills necessary to effectively coach. Coaching plays a huge part of a sales leader’s role, yet some leaders don’t understand the difference between coaching, and simply telling their team what to do. Telling your team that they need to ‘close more customers’, ‘qualify better’, ‘make more appointments’ or ‘pick up the phone’ isn’t the right approach. The best sales leaders work with their team members. They learn to ask questions to understand where their team members have gone wrong, find solutions to fix the problem and don’t accept mediocrity.
Turn your attention to the early stage pipeline
A lot of sales leaders tend to take a reactionary approach – they focus on the numbers, honing in on lagging indicators, results and outcomes. This is not always ideal. There is no opportunity to make a difference at this point, because little can be done by focusing on deals at the end of the pipeline, or asking ‘what happened?’ when a sale didn’t go through.
The ideal moment to make an impact is earlier in the sales process, by guiding salespeople through the steps, and assisting when roadblocks occur. It is the moment where leaders can make the biggest difference and is also the where the best coaching opportunities lie.
It is important to note that despite their greatest influence, sales leaders can not manage outcomes, only actions. Which is why concentrating on the activities of their team can drive better results.
Focus on actions to achieve sales goals
There is also a need to align the actions – the physical elements that execute a sale – with goals. Actions are tactile and can be learned (or changed), and are one of the few things sales leaders have full control over.
Spend time making sure that each team member is executing the actions of a sale the right way and you should see your sales grow towards your goals as a result. This is where the motivation for each individual salesperson also comes into play. Understanding what incentives motivate your team towards their goals gives you a better chance of reaching your targets.
How can sales managers learn to coach properly?
There are no universities or degrees that cover the subject of sales leadership, so it up to experienced sales leaders to guide others in the role. Which is why it’s important to consider the impact sales coaching could have across your business. Providing a programme that allows knowledge and skills to filter from the top down can do more than give your managers the tools to coach and achieve greater results. It can also train up the next generation of sale leaders in your business.
Management training can be a difficult conversation to have, of course, but it is no different to discussing targets that haven’t be reached month after month, or why growth is mediocre. It is imperative that sales leaders know how to provide first-rate coaching to their salespeople. Without it there is a flow-on effect on your sales strategy that has negative repercussions for the whole organisation.