We recently introduced the Sales Coaching Best Practices Series—a mini-series designed to highlight the high-gain coaching activities that EcSell Institute—a research firm specializing in sales coaching, leadership, and management—has identified through their research as having the greatest impact on a sales rep’s ability and willingness to produce at higher levels. We’ve already dug into One-to-One Sales Meetings, Sales Team Meetings, Joint Call Sales Plans, and Evaluation and Feedback, so check them out in case you missed them.
Today we’re discussing Career Development Plans—the opportunity to discuss your sales reps’ personal and professional goals in order to create a roadmap for reaching them.
According to the Chicago Tribune, lack of career opportunities is the No. 1 reason employees say they leave an organization. Top sales performers want to develop their skills and tend to seek upward mobility, so organizations that are able to attract and keep top sales talent are very intentional about how they communicate career development.
Follow these 3 tips to make sure your reps know from day one that you’re invested in their career development—both inside your organization and beyond.
1. Gain an In-Depth Understanding of Each Member of Your Team
Your sales reps aren’t just employees, they’re people. If you want to connect with them and coach them in the most effective way possible, you really need a deep understanding of who they are on a basic level—their underlying motivators, values, learning style, communication preferences, etc. Where do they prefer to spend their energy, time, and money? Do they have any passions or interests that as their manager you can work to align with their career path?
Incorporating personal assessments into your talent management strategy gives you access to this information and allows you to tailor your coaching style to match their unique needs. You can get a better idea of which path is best suited for a rep once you understand what drives them.
2. Create a Plan with Short and Long-Term Goals
Dedicate a specific time to meet with your team members individually to have a career conversation and develop a plan to track progress. Playing a part in the plan creation increases reps’ engagement levels, and having something concrete to measure against helps to guide their development efforts.
Discuss how they can reach their current role needs and goals by leveraging their talents more effectively, as well as what steps need to be taken to prepare for potential future roles.
Ask questions to gauge where they need coaching attention, such as:
“Where do you see yourself in the company next year?”
“The next step in your career here would be _____, what do you feel you need to work on before being ready for that position?”
Within his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink writes that people are already intrinsically motivated toward mastery, self-direction, and purpose. You just need a road map for helping them get there.
3. Promote an Environment of Open Communication
According to research from EcSell Institute, little over ½ of sales reps have an annual career discussion with their manager. People care if you take a genuine interest in their future, and when the manager initiates those discussions a salesperson can see that the organization is committed to their development, and is much more likely to open up.
You can further foster that open communication by taking an interest in your team’s personal lives on a regular basis, and sharing a little of your own. One suggestion is to open your sales team meetings with a weekly “Headlines” update. Allow each salesperson (and yourself) to share one personal headline (fishing trip, daughter’s graduation, vacation plans, etc.) and one professional headline (positive client meeting, positive deal progression, strong referral, etc.).
Effective professional development is tied closely to motivation levels, and establishing personal connections and open communication increases loyalty and a salesperson’s drive to excel within your organization.
Top sales performers are interested in developing their skills and progressing their career, so branding your company as a place that provides ample growth and developmental opportunities will help to attract and keep the talent you’re looking for. Career development plans don’t have to be elaborate or costly—they simply require the intentional effort of sales leaders to understand their people and guide them to succeed on the path that is best for them.