To achieve meaningful and significant improvement in your sales team, you must spend more time coaching your salespeople. Trouble is, there are so many barriers that prevent effective coaching from happening. Here’s a 5-point plan (sound familiar?) for overcoming these barriers and significantly improving your sales team’s performance.
Adopt the sales leadership mindset. Many of the instincts that served you well in your past responsibilities as a peak performing salesperson actually inhibit your performance as a sales manager. Become more of an observer, and less of a doer. Resist the temptation to jump in and take over. If you see a salesperson perform a task poorly, talk to them about it immediately so they know they need to make a change. Remember that sales management is, first and foremost, achieving results through others. Think like a coach, not a player.
Take control of your time. Many sales managers have natural coaching skills – and feel great pride in teaching others. Trouble is, they don’t make the time to use these natural coaching skills because they are constantly “firefighting” instead. By firefighting I mean dealing problems that come up during the day, problems that weren’t anticipated. These supposedly “urgent” problems, often created by others, should be solved by others. Instead, the manager jumps in to problem-solve, thereby diverting attention from performing more important duties such as developing the sales team.
Identify your biggest timewasters, and develop solutions for managing them. When somebody brings you a problem, resist the temptation to immediately drop everything you were doing to solve that problem. As an alternative, ask two simple questions of the person bringing you the problem: “What have you done about it so far? And “What do you think ought to be done?” Expect more from your people in terms of developing their own solutions, to free up your time for coaching.
Field a better team. If two of your salespeople were asked to define the specific skills and attitudes required for peak performance selling at your company, would you hear two different answers? Salespeople who don’t fully understand what you expect will be unable to manage themselves to achieve greater levels of performance and profit.
Define your expectations of your salespeople and communicate those expectations with everybody on your team. Observe your peak performers, identify what they are doing that distinguishes them from others, and then share those differences with everybody on your team. To field a better team, focus your entire sales team on the behaviors they need to achieve greatness.
Coach for success. Often, we sales managers can be our own worst enemy. We jump in, and take over. We don’t truly listen to what our salespeople are saying, and more importantly why they are saying it. And we don’t take the time to help salespeople fully understand the implications of doing (or not doing) certain tasks. But, that’s not what our salespeople need from us if they are to become more productive and self-reliant. Make sure that you have taken the time to ask the 2nd and 3rd level questions regarding their personal goals, their sales call planning, and their preparation for a sales presentation.
Motivate and energize your team. All too often, we look for the cause of a performance problem by looking at the salesperson and trying to figure out what they need to do differently. But, what about looking at ourselves? Look in a mirror, and ask yourself what changes you need to make to help salespeople be more successful. Ask your team on an individual basis, “Is there anything I am doing that doesn’t help you at all? What could I start doing to help you more? And, why would that be helpful to you?”
Peter Drucker, the well know management consultant said “You can’t manage time, you can only manage yourself.”