Sales coaching – too bad it doesn’t happen more often

sales coaching

Sales coaching

People who are knowledgeable and experienced in sales excellence know sales coaching is worthwhile; it can make a difference; and it needs to be a priority.  Sales pros agree sales coaching is a necessity if you want a world-class sales team.

While most sales leaders agree about the importance of sales coaching, most also admit “the job isn’t getting done.”  Many great companies start sales coaching initiatives with tremendous energy and commitment.  Far fewer exit the other end of the tunnel.

Two developments increase the urgency for a renewed dialogue about getting sales coaching to happen.

Sales force performance is a bigger piece of the competitive advantage puzzle.  Presently, it is extremely difficult to sustain a competitive advantage by product alone.  Even if you have a winning product, the competition is likely to get a product to market that is just as good, at half the price … in half the time it took several years ago.  Although a superior sales force is extremely difficult to assemble and train, once you have one, it is of the few sustainable advantages left.

Sales excellence is more difficult to achieve.  Not only is superior sales performance more important than ever; it’s harder to get there.  Today, salespeople must develop their knowledge and skills to an unprecedented level.  Now top sales performers have to know more and know it at a higher level of competency than ever before.  In many companies, a substantial number of the top performers 15 years ago would not make the first cut for this year’s President’s Club.

One step for making it happen is addressing a critical stumbling block for achieving sales excellence – getting serious about sustaining a coaching effort.  In that regard it’s not that folks don’t think it’s important; they do – also is not primarily a lack of skill.  Sure some front-line sales managers need to improve their coaching but even when they do, sales coaching often still does not occur.

We would submit the fundamental culprit is lack of commitment and discipline.  Consequently another high priority sales coaching initiative or a new sales coaching training program, by themselves, are unlikely to fix the problem.

Enter Trigger Events

In organizations certain events occur that create an enormous amount of organic energy and focus.  This is due to the strategic importance of these events and the time, effort, and financial resources the organization has committed to making them happen.  Let’s call these occurrences – Trigger Events.

Launching an important new product, initiating a rebranding effort, implementing a merger/acquisition, and instituting a strategic sales shift like moving from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution are all examples of Trigger Events.

When it comes to sales coaching, Trigger Events are important because if you initiate a targeted coaching effort for making them successful, the importance of the Trigger Event will provide the focus and commitment necessary to make sure the sales coaching happens.  All Trigger Events represent some type of strategic shift so the sales team will indeed need to adjust and adapt their selling skills to the new reality.  So sales coaching is clearly needed and warranted.

Example – New Product Launches.  Let’s take the example of a new product launch.  In this case let’s assume the new product is a potential game changer.  In such a case the company would have committed substantial R&D and Marketing dollars and lots of people would be interested in creating a success story.

In is also true if the product is a game changer, then the sales team will likely face new sales challenges and a need to upgrade their selling skills.  So it will be easier than normal to get everyone behind the idea of implementing a six-month targeted sales coaching effort for helping the sales team get smart about selling the new product.  And if needed, it will also be easier to get the budget to implement manager coaching training or purchase a coaching software package customized for the new product.

Summary.  When it comes to sales coaching our observation is the problem is not so much about bad coaching but the fact that coaching does not systematically occur.  When it does occur, it works.

So one answer to the dilemma is connecting the sales coaching effort to a high priority Trigger Event that has everyone’s attention and focus.  Then our bet is the right people will get serious about sales coaching, its merits will be demonstrated, and perhaps sales coaching will become institutionalized.  And if the latter thing happens – that’s a good thing.

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©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


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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