1. Stop doing e-mail first thing in the morning. Instead, coach somebody.
You know what happens when you check your e-mail. There’s some “hair-on-fire” issue waiting in your in-box that demands your immediate attention. But nine times out of 10, it’s a distraction that is important to somebody else but not to you. And once you head off down that road, another distraction pops up. The next thing you know your day is gone and you never had a chance to coach anybody.
The fix is to make a coaching interaction with a salesperson the first thing you do every day. Schedule a coaching session with a rep for 8-9 AM every day.
2. Coach forwards, not backwards.
Many sales managers wait until a rep badly misses a forecast before “coaching” that rep back to life. It’s as if the manager is saying, “If you’re bad enough I’ll coach you.”
The problem with this backward-looking approach is that your coaching is disconnected from the rep’s behaviors — you don’t really know where the rep went wrong, just that they got a bad result. So you have no choice but to fall back on that tired old sales management maxim, “Make more sales calls!”
To be a more effective coach, intervene much earlier in the sales process so you can “coach forward.” Pay attention to the things your reps are doing during the first round of interactions with a customer or prospect. How good are they at helping diagnose customer needs? At defining solution criteria? At reaching multiple decision makers? Getting better at these early-cycle skills will have a much greater impact on results than simply making more calls!
3. Think outside the box to get salespeople to work harder.
One sales manager I know asked his sales rep what she planned to do if she exceeded her annual sales goal. “Buy a new car,” said the rep. A few weeks later the manager showed up for a ride-along driving a rental car that was the same make and model of car that the rep’s goal was to achieve!
Get creative with the motivators for your reps. Think about both their personal goals (like a new car) and professional goals, such as having them attend a meeting with your company’s senior leadership.
4. Act as if you care.
I recently asked an audience of sales managers, “What is your best-kept secret to being an effective sales coach?” One manager answered, “Act as if you care.”
Everybody in the class broke up laughing, because of course we all already know and do that, right?
Not so fast. As a coach you show that you care through your consistent follow-up on coaching conversations. When you coach a rep to make changes, you must then monitor the rep’s behavior to make sure those changes have been made… and if not, provide more coaching so that the changes are made.
As you can see from this list, improved coaching doesn’t have to be very complicated. I’m sure you know how to implement these four tips … so the real question is whether you are willing to make some simple changes in your own approach so that your team will benefit from better coaching and improved results.