Sales is hard work. And it’s not getting any easier. These days the majority of sales reps don’t meet their sales goals. It’s up to management to motivate them. Like SC Johnson’s Bryant Davis shared on the latest Field Sales Guide podcast from Map My Customers, “As you start thinking about a frontline sales team, they’ve got a million things coming at them. Your role should be simplifying the agenda for them. Here’s what I need you to be focused on. Don’t get too high on the wins, don’t get too low on the losses. There’s gonna be plenty of both, hopefully more wins than losses. Then continue to motivate and keep your team hungry.”
But 75% of sales organizations waste resources on random and informal, ineffective coaching approaches. So what makes for effective sales coaching?
Stellar Sales Performance Doesn’t Always = Effective Sales Coaching
Sales leaders typically get to their position by being stellar sales people. However, excellent selling skills don’t necessarily translate to coaching skills or knowing how to successfully lead a sales team. Just because you’re good at an individual contributor role doesn’t mean you’d be a good manager overseeing others in that same role. It’s a different skill set.
Podcast host JT Rimbey of Map My Customers describes having had this experience in his own career. He was a top salesperson, but when put in a leadership position to teach those skills to others, he found it to be an entirely different skillset that he didn’t have.
So What Makes an Effective Sales Coach?
When considering this question, Davis says to forget the sales component. “Just think of who are leaders across your organization,” he says. And look for those who display integrity. Or, as Davis puts it, who “know how to treat people. You don’t want to bring in someone who’s going to be bad for the locker room.” A good fit is someone who will be consistent and even-keeled. Someone who can step into the role of advocate and supporter.
Davis says, “If you want them to follow you, they’ve got to believe that you’re in the boat with them,” that you’re there to help them succeed. Be an advocate for them in moving their careers forward. And take joy in their career procession. Let them know you’re in their corner. Your coaching sessions should energize your team. Sales turnover is almost three times higher than in any other profession. There’s a lot of pressure there, and sales is hard work. An effective people leader needs to act as a motivator and encourager.
Tactics of an Effective Sales Leader
So, let’s get practical. What are some ways an effective people leader can motivate his or her sales team?
Make Coaching Sessions Effective
A good sales leader is one that does some homework before coaching. They know what the rep they’re meeting with has in the pipeline, what they’re working on, what accounts they’re targeting. That way they can give specific advice and get into important topics immediately.
The opposite of this would be coming in blind to a session and asking the rep, “So, what have you been up to?” Much time is wasted if the rep needs to bring his or her leader up to speed. Any solution the leader can offer at that point will be one they have to come up with on the spot.
Use Your CRM as a Starting Point
An effective people leader doesn’t rely on their gut as to who needs coaching. Instead they use data-driven sales coaching strategies. Look at your sales metrics in your CRM to see which reps need help, and which part of the sales process might be difficult for them.
And some suggest that sales coaching efforts might be best spent on middle-performing reps. Bottom performers are often that way because they’re a poor fit for the job, and no amount of coaching can correct someone who’s a bad fit for their position. A leader might need to focus on getting these reps into a different position. Top performers are limited in how much better they can actually do. But those in the middle tend to be a good fit for the position, they just still have room for growth. Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson call this the middle 60%.
Get In the Trenches With Your Team
An effective sales leader spends time with their team. They maintain a culture of openness, making themselves approachable and friendly with their reps. Learn what motivates them, and get beyond the desire to make more money—are they trying to pay off student loans? Upgrade to a bigger house for their family? Take their kids on a nice vacation?
Then help them work to those ends—get in the trenches with them. Send them a lead, go on a cold call with them, strategize on a deal together. Give public displays of appreciation to motivate them, in the form of specific compliments, and celebrating small wins, not just the big ones.
Think Outside the Box With Incentives
Let reps pick their own incentives. Does a bonus or increased time off light them up? Or would they be more motivated by something like you paying to have their house cleaned, or a fancy dinner out with their spouse or some friends, or a full day off at a time they don’t usually get it?
If your whole team has earned a reward, take them to a movie in the middle of the day, or take everyone to a sporting event.
Effective Sales Coaching is an Organizational Win-Win
Sales isn’t easy. Sales reps need leaders who truly care about them and will work to support and motivate them. But this work isn’t easy either. Check out some free sales coaching templates here and listen to Bryant Davis share more about how good sales leaders motivate their teams on this episode of the Field Sales Guide podcast.