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In my last post I told you about my lunch with a VP of sales who was frustrated because the members of his sales management team were focused so exclusively on results that they neglected the care and feeding of their salespeople.
That executive sees the role of the sales manager as developing his or her people to the best of their potential. I agree with his a longer-term view that by developing your people, you get improved performance and better retention and you essentially develop a pool of succession candidates.
So how exactly do you know if your managers are effective coaches?
1. Asking vs. Telling
You can tell much about a manager's coaching ability by observing the interactions with his or her salespeople. If a majority of the interaction includes the words "do this" or "why are you not doing that," your manager is in "tell mode." This highly directive and subservient communication makes salespeople feel like robots and produces mediocre performers. Frankly, it strains their relationship with their manager.
Coaching is about asking thoughtful questions. It is based on the belief that individuals have the answers to their own sales challenges. The manager's role is to help individuals develop their ability to self-direct and solve their own problems. A coach would spend a majority of the time asking "how do you think you can best accomplish this goal?" or "how would you like to address this opportunity?"
Spend 15 minutes in one of your manager's sales meeting and you'll quickly determine if the manager operates in "coach" or "tell" mode.
2. Time Spent in the Field
Like many of us, managers tend to spend their time on the activities they are the best at and most enjoy. A manager who focuses extensively on administrative tasks like submitting reports on time probably is less comfortable coaching. The manager who finds creative ways to get into the field and spend more time with sales reps probably sees the value of this time. Remember that administration doesn't generate revenue or help develop your salespeople and that time spent in the field improves your reps' ability to be the best they can be.
Do you track the number of days each manager spends in the field? The best coach likely is the one who does so most often.
Coaching is about accelerating a sales rep's growth and ability to achieve personal goals and reach full potential. It's a four-step process that: (1) identifies opportunities for improvement, (2) gains commitment, (3) develops a plan and (4) sets an accountability meeting to discuss progress. Set aside one hour a month to review your manager's field visit reports. Why not go farther and follow three or four field visits with the same rep to see if the accountability for the reps to carry out their self-improvement plan is being reviewed by the sales manager? You are looking for progress toward improving one or two areas of the rep's development.
4. Sales Rep Engagement and Turnover
Many companies track two metrics: One, they perform an annual engagement survey in which the key is to drill down to the level of the sales manager. This provides insight into the differences between managers as well as the managers' effectiveness in coaching their reps. Effective coaches will score much higher in sales rep engagement. Second, turnover is also a sign of reps' relationships with their managers. In fact, 70% of top performers who leave will do so based on their relationship with their manager.
5. Get out in the Field
Spend a couple of days in the field each month and get to know your reps. Ask them about the level and quality of coaching they are getting. Another approach, the dreaded "co-work with," involves sitting in with the sales manager and his rep for a day. You observe the coach at work and get a firsthand perspective on the coaching effectiveness. I have never personally done this but I do know a sales director who has utilized this approach and I applaud his resolve.
Here's to good coaching!
Steven Rosen, MBA is the founder of STAR Results. STAR Results is a sales leadership consulting, training and coaching organization dedicated to leadership development in the Pharmaceutical industry. Steven works with sales executives to; hire top performing sales reps, develop a team of top sales managers and achieve greater personal and professional success
Steven is also a and you can read more about him here
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