Sales organisations are always keen to improve their team’s ability to actually make sales. According to the CSO Insights 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, increasing sales effectiveness was cited as the second most important objective of all, ranking only behind capturing new leads.
Coaching has a crucial role to play in achieving this objective, and any programme designed to improve sales performance should contain certain key elements. In this article, we take a closer look at five of these elements.
1. Clarity of Purpose
One of the single most effective things a sales manager can do to help improve the performance of sales staff is to continually clarify the purpose of the organisation itself. Throughout any coaching conversations, and in other conversations too, this purpose should be emphasised in order to establish the need for the salesperson to do well.
“Know both what to do and why you’re doing it at every step along the way,” says John H. Dean, writing for Selling Power. “Begin by understanding your business niche. What do you do best? Who needs what you do? Who are you targeting and why? What are you going to tell them and why?”
2. Time For Coaching
In addition, it is essential that sales managers dedicate a decent amount of time to coaching activities. According to the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report, just 9.6 percent of sales managers spend more than two hours a week on coaching sales skills, with 47.1 percent dedicating less than half an hour.
Even with lead and opportunity coaching, the area that sales managers spend most time on, the most popular response was that sales managers spend less than 30 minutes a week on it. In order to improve performance, sales managers must adopt a formal coaching strategy, put the time in and make coaching a genuine priority.
3. Mutually Agreed Goals
As the name suggests, the ultimate goal behind performance coaching is to improve the performance of sales reps, but in order to achieve this, they need to have specific goals to work towards. These goals should be individual, based on their own areas of weakness, and should be realistic and measurable.
Most importantly, however, the goals need to be mutually agreed. This means that, when meeting with staff, you should avoid dictating too much. Instead, try to point out areas of strength and weakness, and try to agree upon a set of goals, as well as an achievable time frame for improvement to take place.
4. Assistance With Solutions
Once goals have been established, it is no use leaving sales staff to their own devices entirely, as they will inevitably do what is comfortable and familiar, rather than what is new and challenging. For this reason, it is important that sales managers and other leaders play an active role in solving performance issues, not just identifying them.
Time should be set aside for one-to-one coaching, sales managers should assist staff in coming up with an action plan for helping them to achieve their goals and where staff need specific skills training, it should be provided. With that being said, it is important that credit for improvement is still given to the sales reps themselves.
5. Reinforced Changes
Finally, once coaching leads to changes in sales skills and behaviours, those changes then need to be repeatedly reinforced, in order to prevent salespeople from reverting back to old habits, or becoming complacent. Therefore, regular meetings are important and any regression should be pointed out quickly.
“Ongoing, timely feedback is critical to help secure the adoption of a new behavior,” says Matt Hallett from Hallett Training & Consulting. “Remember, most change tends to feel uncomfortable at first, so you may need to focus on the underlying emotions to help drive that change.”
Coaching is essential for improving the performance of a sales team, but successful coaching programmes have a number of key features. The important things to remember are that the company’s purpose needs to be defined, time needs to be set aside for coaching activity, areas for improvement need to be mutually agreed, sales managers need to help to solve performance issues and new behaviours need to be reinforced after they have been adopted.