Updated: May 29, 2021
Sales is not necessarily every CEO’s competency. Yet these very CEOs seemingly under-invest in Sales leadership and capabilities. The symptoms of the resultant illness are not hard to find – sales chokes up, and business gasps for growth. Sales is the Oxygen of Business!
A popular HBR article cites the case of the insurance sector which to-date continues to battle sales employee turnover of over 50% in the first year, and over 80% in three years. This unprecedented statistic was apparently observed over 35 years with millions of dollars spent researching the challenges.
The impact of such turnover is not difficult to assess – wasted sales costs, unsuccessful compensation and incentive programs, lost sales and poor company outcomes overall. In some ways, this is the story of Sales across most industries. What could be done to overcome it? I believe that a systematic and sustained Sales Coaching approach to sales organizations would be a good start.
Sales enablement can’t be reactive. It has to be a full-blown strategy that’s woven into the fabric of the company. RODERICK JEFFERSON, Sales Enablement Thought Leader
There is evidence to show that a reasonably motivated sales person, when coached and mentored well, produces superior results. While there might be natural superstar sales reps on one end of the spectrum and rank poor performers at the other end (who probably need to rethink their choice of employment or careers), the BIG middle offers the highest potential for improving sales performance.
Some business and sales leaders make the mistake of rewarding only their top sales reps with coaching and mentoring support. This could become an overkill, as the rep is already ahead of the game. On the other hand, Coaching cannot become a corrective program for poor performers.
True that even one superstar sales rep can take your business ahead of the game, but they are hard to find and harder to keep (and then, why should they join you?) It’s the solid middle players who can be enabled the most from development, but are often ignored. This group could potentially create the highest incremental value to the business, through proper coaching and mentoring.
Formal Sales Coaching helps
Sales people usually get trained on products they are required to sell. Their competency is typically assessed in terms of how well they know their product and sometimes competitors’ as well. What does not get addressed enough is their selling competency - a combination of selling aptitude as well as attitude! This is very evident at the recruiting stage, and also is seen as the challenge with managing experienced sales reps and even sales managers.
Sales Coaching is can be summarized as having a combination of three deliverables.
Method Training and Baselining to build the capability to develop an executable game plan
Coaching to help open up the mind, explore individual motivations and address inhibitors and mental roadblocks that could prevent execution
Mentoring over a medium term horizon to monitor progress, and raise the bar on execution over time.
As with sports, Sales coaching helps systematically build competency. This has four distinct aspects namely
Planning their goals (like sports champions plan their tournaments)
Creating a Foundation for high performance through proactive self-calibration (like sportspersons plan their fitness regime)
Determining and finely detailing their execution plans (like sportspersons actually decide how to play in each match)
Put together a method to measure and review their own performance on a continuous, repeatable basis, so that they can find out how they are tracking towards their goals (like champion athletes review their moves and identify how to correct them for the future)