January 14, 2019
3 Easy Steps to Build a Sales Coaching Program
In our first blog in this 3-part series, we shared some of the many problems that can get in the way of good sales coaching. Do not despair: None of these problems is terminal…….There is hope! You can overcome them and predictably increase the number of salespeople in your organization that make quota. All you need are the right tools, which you can find in our new book Crushing Quota. Let’s see what high performing sales managers do.
Coach to Activities
Top-performing managers coach sellers to concentrate on activities. The research underlying Crushing Quota revealed that coaching to activities is the best way to directly impact quota attainment. Yes, you can coach to results or capabilities, but coaching to activities yields a 24% boost in productivity when compared to the others. Coaching to sales results yields 10%, and coaching to individual salesperson capabilities just 2%.
Successful managers figure out their rep’s most important activities by reverse engineering the outcomes they want. They start with business results, determine the sales objectives/KPIs that will drive the business results and finally, the underlying sales objectives which support them all.
Structure the Coaching Conversations
This is the groundwork for building a coaching program around high-impact activities. Managers prepare and plan their coaching conversations to ensure effective sales execution. As with many things, preparation will ensure the conversation will be focused and thorough. Basic management skills will be useful here, such as setting a clear agenda for the conversation to stay on task and using workflows and check lists.
A successful coaching program rests on coaching conversations that generate the right outputs to ensure effective sales execution. Whether the desired output is a plan for an upcoming sales call or a strategy to unseat a competitor, structured meetings dramatically increases the likelihood of success.
Integrate Coaching into a Manager’s Job
A coaching program can be successful on both points above, but for true success, coaching must become part of the sales managers day-to-day job. And here’s a surprising finding from our research with regard to consistent coaching: Set the bar low. Yes, that’s right, don’t aim for the stars. Forget about stretch goals and overachievement. In this case, more is not better.
Our research is rather revealing on this topic. Counterintuitively, the best performing managers – those with 75 percent or more of their salespeople at quota – don’t coach more hours or more often. They coach differently. High performers:
- Focus seller effort
- Structure coaching to ensure effective sales execution
- Adopt the minimum level of formality
- Coach less frequently for longer
If a sales manager has ten salespeople and wants to do this type of coaching effectively, she may only be able to do it every other week, or possibly monthly. More in depth, one-hour coaching every other week will move the needle more effectively than shallower, weekly 30-minute sessions. How often a sales manager coaches is less important than how well that manager coaches.
Putting it all Together
We’ve shown you the relatively simple formula you need to be a first-class sales coach. Start by creating clarity of task for reps by making a direct causal chain between business results, sales objectives, and high-impact activities. Next, do the preparation for coaching sessions through planning and formal agendas. Finally, apply the minimum effective level of formality to your coaching program by having in-depth, less frequent coaching conversations. Follow the lead of your top-performing peers, and you too can produce the same impressive results!
Michelle Vazzana is the CEO and a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance, a leading global sales management training and development firm. She is co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance. Vazzana is also author of Crushing Quota: Proven Sales Coaching Tactics for Breakthrough Performance. Vazzana is a prolific researcher and sought-after speaker on the topic of sales management and leadership, having conducted the most extensive research to date on the topic of sales coaching practices. She has more than 32 years of successful sales and management experience.