One of the most important positions within a company is that of a Sales Leader. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most precarious. The most recent estimate of a Sales Leader’s tenure is only 19 months. While this is an extremely concerning development, there is an investment that every Sales Leader can make which can change that downward spiral.
Sales Coaching is the single most significant investment that a Sales Leader can make. The returns on this investment relate to win-rate, revenue increase, margin, client political positioning, higher team to quota attainment, and more accurate forecasting. If these are the results of a Sales Coaching culture, why don’t more organizations and Sales Leaders invest in the practice?
The first reason is that of prioritization. A Sales Leader must balance the demands of the company, the team, and clients. As a result, Sales Leaders may find themselves, “majoring in the minors.” If the activities demanding time from the Sales Leader were ranked based on the return, many of these activities wouldn’t be worthy of investment. Time is a capital that can never be replenished. With that in mind, Sales Coaching is one of the few activities where an abundance of time must be invested. The recommended investment is close to 50% of a Sales Leaders time but the average investment is closer to 15%.
Another key reason for the lack of investment is the lack of understanding as to what Sales Coaching is and what it is not. In many organizations, Sales Coaching is either “deal reviews” or “deal mechanics.” The former is simply an inspection of the deal and prescriptive feedback. It is essentially the same as playing checkers one move at a time. It is a tactical approach that checks boxes. It neither advances the deal strategically nor the individual. The latter is related to the structure of the deal and emphasizes the offering, with a focus on product, solution, and pricing.
True Sales Coaching is concerned with the underlying vulnerabilities of an opportunity. It involves personal discussion with the individual or team around strategy, decision process, key relationships, alignment with power, value proposition message, and the linkage of the approach to key client initiatives. Coaching is not a singular event but rather a cadence of recurring interventions that are structured to advance the deal and the team.
Sales Coaching is a competency. It is a skill set that is rare to see without appropriate training. The pre-requisites for world-class coaching are: Sales Leader experience, a proven methodology, and objective tools that measure the evidence related to the 6 key vulnerabilities highlighted earlier. The application is not about checking the boxes, nor is it about the components and synergy of the offering. Sales Coaching is about helping teams play chess (over checkers) within the complex sales environment and investing the appropriate amount of time to ensure that it happens. If every Sales Leader conducts an honest evaluation of where their time is invested, they would immediately make changes within their time portfolio.
Personal Challenge: Review the demands and activities that you are involved in on a daily/weekly basis. Prioritize them from an ROI perspective and arrange them from best return to least. The goal is to increase the amount of time that you can provide Sales Coaching by at least 25%.