Make Time for Sales Coaching and Everybody Wins
by Tamara Schenk, Research Director, CSO Insights
When you’re helping people learn a new skill—how to use the newly implemented CRM system, for example—a training session can create a lot of value, assuming it is set up, structured, and delivered the right way. However, when you need to change behaviors and establish new habits, a learning and development program is only the first step. No matter how well designed the training is, lasting behavior change and application of new “soft” skills back on the job depends on ongoing reinforcement and support. This is where coaching comes into play.
The focus of this blog is around coaching skills and behaviors to reinforce new behaviors and habits. There are many examples. Maybe you’re implementing new positioning, a new client engagement process, or need to make sure your sales reps are aligning their approach with your organizational values and expectations. Like many organizations, you may also be focused on ensuring your salespeople have the motivation and habits to drive greater value for customers—particularly in today’s complex, highly competitive environment. In all these cases, training is important for setting the stage, laying the foundation, and introducing new skills and behaviors. However, to drive ongoing adoption and behavior change, frontline managers have to consistently coach their team members to ensure the change really sticks and the desired performance and results are achieved.
What is coaching—really?
At CSO Insights, we define coaching as a leadership skill to develop each person’s full potential. Frontline managers use their domain expertise along with social, communication, and questioning skills to facilitate conversations with their team members and to discover areas for improvement—or opportunities to break through to new levels of success. Often overlooked, but imperative: coaching is not a one-way street. Both the coach and the coachee must be committed to taking action on the outcome of each coaching session. Coaching on behaviors is the only methodology that has the potential to drive lasting change and to leverage people’s true potential.
“But we are so busy; we have no time for coaching!”
We hear this all the time, but in reality, coaching is not as time-consuming as many people think. Based on CSO Insights’ 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study, front-line sales managers lead, on average, between six and seven salespeople. (Depending on the industry, the complexity of the customer’s challenges, the organization’s services, etc., this number might be smaller or larger.) When we asked sales managers how they spend their time, the results revealed that only 20% of their time is spent on coaching their salespeople.
Now, let’s do the math: For a front-line sales manager leading six or eight salespeople, 20% of their time translates into less than one day a week, assuming they spend up to an hour with each salesperson per week. This correlates with our research, as most participants in our 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study reported that they coach between 30 and 60 minutes per person per week.
The message here is that coaching doesn’t have to take up to 50% of a manager’s time, as is so often the assumption. Nevertheless, sales leaders need to adopt a formal coaching process to ensure coaching time is spent in the most valuable, productive way for both parties.
When salespeople are coached, the business benefits.
As our research shows, coaching delivers significant business results. As an example, the win rate for forecasted deals can be improved by nine percent just by implementing and executing a formal coaching process. Would improving your win rate by nine percent make a difference in your organization?
The bottom line is simple: The better managers are developed to be great coaches, and the more formal a coaching process is implemented and executed, the more your business—and your salespeople—win.
In a future blog post, we’ll talk more about what a formal coaching process looks like at various levels and how it contributes to overall win rates.
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