Everyone knows that front-line salespeople need to be coached. It’s an important part of nearly every sales manager’s responsibilities.
However, who’s coaching the coaches in your organization?
If your organization is like a lot of others, the answer is either “nobody” or “we’re not quite sure.”
Well, even coaches need coaching.
Sales leaders – VPs and even CSOs - struggle to complete the mountain of work they face: reporting, budget management, training, recruiting, onboarding, and dealing with key client relationships. All of this must get done. And it often means coaching direct reports gets ignored.
So, there are a couple of choices. Your company can invest in outside coaching or your leadership team can assume the task itself. Either decision is fine. However, without coaching, people’s growth is stymied.
So, let’s assume you want to offer more meaningful coaching. If you can’t get outside coaches, here are a few ideas:
1. Define your sales management process
Unless you clearly articulate what “good” sales management looks like, it’s difficult to coach to it. In other words, the behavioral expectations you have of your managers needs to be defined and observed. Clearly outlining what good sales management looks like allows you to more effectively work with managers.
2. Demand accurate forecasting
Once you’ve defined a sales management process, it’s important to have accurate data to discuss. Having a forecast allows you to engage in conversations with managers around that data, rather than a “gut feel.” Accurate forecasts will quickly reveal a team’s strengths and gaps. This knowledge will help you direct a manager’s coaching effort in the right places.
3. Learn more about coaching
Sometimes, people don’t coach because they simply don’t know how. Find a book about coaching. I’d recommend my friend Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit to you. There are many others. And, if you’re not a reader, consider listening to a podcast like Coaching for Leaders by Dave Stachowiak.
4. Ask, don’t tell
Okay, so let’s say you’d rather not read or even listen to a podcast. The most fundamental secret to great coaching is to ask questions rather than to give answers. Back to Michael Bungay Stanier. He says coaching is about “offering less advice and exhibiting more curiosity.”
5. Carve out time
Truth be told, one of the oldest “time management hacks” is to simply define time for a specific activity. In other words, put it on the calendar. The same is true of coaching. Devote a certain amount of time in your regular meetings to coaching conversations. During this time, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the minutiae. Ask questions about behaviors and focus on the long-term personal and professional development of the person you’re meeting with.
6. Talk about people, not deals
Speaking of that minutiae, it’s easy to get caught up discussing a specific deal. These are important conversations – and can be very helpful in a coaching conversation – to be sure; however, good coaching can go beyond a specific opportunity. Use these kinds of conversations to explore patterns and help managers see how their behaviors impact their teams. Rely on your accurate forecasting to drive discussions of patterns.
7. Require leaders to coach
Many organizations place requirements on their managers to coach salespeople. Do the same for your leaders. And, of course, you’ll need to hold yourselves accountable for offering coaching. In other words, you better live up to your own expectations!
8. Get your own coach
Finally, it’s important that you have your own sounding board. It becomes much easier to pass the benefits of coaching throughout the organization if you have a coach of your own. A great coach can help you implement a coaching approach throughout your organization. Ideally, your boss will be a great coach. But, if that’s not the case, look outside your organization.
What else have you done to incorporate a culture of coaching that allows everyone to get that valuable feedback?