Getting sales coaching right – don’t do too little, too late

Sales Coaching

Sales Coaching

Sales leadership talks about it all the time.  Sales consultants advocate it and sales managers say they would like to do more of it if they had the time.  The “it” of course is sales coaching.

Yet if you nose around, you will often find less sales coaching is occurring then might be expected given all the voices of advocacy.  Why?  Well there are a number of reasons but four seem to be particularly telling:

  • Conflicting Demands. Sales managers are the key for great sales coaching but they get bogged down doing all sorts of administrative stuff.  So sales coaching gets put off until Friday and it never happens. 
  • Great Numbers. Last quarter’s numbers get tabulated and they look good.  So the impetus to get serious about sales coaching wanes.
  • Zombie Ideas. Sometimes bad ideas just won’t die.  They keep coming back to life in the corporate culture like: “We have an experienced sales team so sales coaching is not really a necessity” or “Instead of worrying about coaching we put in place some great sales training.”
  • Seduction. Sales leadership is distracted by bright shiny objects and their attention and commitment to the sales coaching effort is lost.  Without leadership, sales coaching does not happen in a pervasive fashion.

In many companies not much sales coaching is occurring but the sales team seems immobilized to do anything about it.  The question is: Does it really matter?  Is sales coaching really a big deal – must it be one of those must-do priorities?

Here, it is important to be clear – the answer is: absolutely yes.

A company cannot sustain a competitive advantage today by product and service alone; a superior sales team is required and the notion that a superior sales team can be maintained year after year without great sales managers doing a great job sales coaching is not a viable proposition.

In case you get tasked to convince others to get serious about this sales coaching message, here are five reasons why the idea is a good one:

  • Shows Leadership Commitment. It demonstrates that the top sales leadership is serious about providing support to developing the strength of the sales team.
  • Coaches Get Smarter. If sales managers increase the time they spend in the field coaching on sales calls they will get smarter about the sales team and the customer base.  They will be better able to be an effective early warning system of changes in the market and what to do about them.
  • Leverages Knowledge. Think of the cumulative knowledge possessed by sales managers in an organization.  Sales coaching provides an effective and efficient method for leveraging that knowledge to the sales team.  Worse case without sales coaching that knowledge is lost if a sales manager leaves the organization.
  • Reinforces Sales Training. The research indicates that proximately 80% of the skill-gain in a sales training program is lost in 3 months without reinforcement.  Without a doubt, sales coaching is the most effective method to reinforce the skills learned in sales training.
  • Grows the Business. A better skilled sales team is an important piece of the puzzle for generating increased revenue and optimizing profits.

So is sales coaching really necessary?  The answer is yes – lots of good things happen when you get it right and unfortunately bad things occur when you don’t.

As a note about urgency – the need to get coaching right increases as the scope, scale and speed of changes in the buying environment increase.  There appears to be little doubt that presently one can label the degree of change on all three of these dimensions as transformational.  Best advice – don’t be the one who does too little, too late.

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©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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