Whether it’s a lack of skills, awareness or commitment to coaching, many managers are struggling to improve their sales team’s skills and behavior.
Companies with superior and sustained sales performance create environments where salespeople have what they need to perform, grow and be recognized. In other words, their sales managers excel at coaching their teams to success.
Unfortunately, according to CSO Insights, the percentage of managers fully capable of mentoring and coaching their teams has been trending down, and a big part of this is due to the increase in newly promoted sales managers:
- Over 40% of front line sales managers are recently promoted salespeople.
- Managers who are newly promoted from a sales role tend to have the lowest coaching effectiveness ratings, with over 65% of companies seeing a significant gap in their ability to coach and mentor.
This isn’t all that surprising. When sales managers are functioning as “super salespeople”—highly skilled at evaluating the team’s sales challenges but less skilled and comfortable with the role of leading and coaching—they often end up focusing their time and energy on filling the gap to help close sales opportunities, rather than on building up the confidence of their team to do it themselves.
This is a problem in and of itself, since the sales manager is now taking on a role the salesperson should be handling, but the issues also self-perpetuate and lead to even bigger problems. The salesperson’s self-confidence may take a hit—or they simply begin relying on the manager to close the deal—while the manager gets increasingly frustrated about having to step in to save the day yet again. The manager eventually assumes that this is the best that employee can achieve and stops challenging him or her to go further. The employee, in turn, recognizes those signals coming from the manager and ultimately plateaus out. It’s a dynamic that we call the Law of Limited Performance.
The problem isn’t just with newly promoted sales managers, though. Whether it’s a lack of skills, awareness or commitment to coaching, many managers are struggling to improve their sales team’s skills and behavior. To successfully break the Law of Limited Performance, sales managers must:
- Understand the belief boundaries inhibiting a salesperson’s success. Managers can increase a salesperson’s confidence to step outside their belief boundaries by seeing more in the salesperson than they themselves might see.
- Help each salesperson set and achieve goals just outside their current performance levels. Great coaching conversations ignite a salesperson’s ability to “own” their own breakthroughs.
Sales Coaching Tips for Unleashing individual Potential
Here are some tips your managers can apply to engage in coaching conversations that uncover inner belief boundaries, increase the salesperson’s ownership and confidence in developing solutions to overcome their challenges, and appropriately challenge them to break through today’s level of performance.
Stay curious about the salesperson’s perspective:
- Ask open-ended questions about goals, challenges and beliefs.
- Resist the urge to have all the answers.
- Listen actively to fully understand the employee’s viewpoint.
- Observe how employees are stepping outside their comfort zones.
Boost salesperson engagement and creativity:
- Solicit ideas for new options to manage limitations and solve challenges.
- Provide positive reinforcement of the value the salesperson brings.
- Offer praise to increase the likelihood of using new skills and behaviors.
- Encourage employees to discover and try new things.
Translate new skills and behaviors into actionable results:
- Link them to delivering organizational value.
- Promote commitments that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
- Recognize progress frequently, and provide course corrections as needed.
- Leverage mistakes as learning opportunities.
Take a look at how you’re developing your newly promoted sales managers as well as your more experienced ones. Are you providing them with the skills and behaviors they need to meet this critical coaching requirement? Stepping in to fill the gap for their salespeople isn’t a sustainable solution. To unleash individual potential and drive long-term sales performance improvement, your sales managers have to take the time to recognize and understand the belief boundaries of each of their salespeople.
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