This is part II of a two-part Q&A with David Jacoby, president of Sales Readiness Group, about sales management and sales coaching. Questions are from a July 27, 2011, Webinar hosted by Selling Power. (To listen to the full recording of the live Webinar, click here. To read part I, click here.)
Question 6: How do you coach a rep who has more experience than you do?
A: This is a common situation in professional sports. LeBron James is undoubtedly a better basketball player than his coach. Still, players need great coaches to succeed.
A key consideration in coaching an experienced rep ” or one who may not be open to coaching ” is for the sales manager to get reps to agree to take what they learned in the coaching process into the field and put it into practice. Some techniques include asking the sales rep to “help” you by trying new techniques and citing the success other reps have had using these same skills.
Question 7: How can you coach effectively without demotivating the sales rep?
A: Sales reps get demotivated when sales coaching is done only in response to poor performance or when the sales manager doesn’t coach properly.
Sales managers sometimes think that coaching is merely an opportunity to correct a rep’s mistakes. But coaching should never be remedial; it isn’t a punishment for poor performance. Sales organizations need to create a coaching culture where all reps ” stars, average reps, and poor performers ” receive regular and routine coaching.
Question 8: What is the ideal amount of time per rep to spend on coaching?
A: Allocate approximately 25 to 40 percent of sales management time for coaching. This generally averages about one day per sales rep, per month.
Question 9: Doesn’t the company need a coaching culture to be effective in coaching?
A: Yes. Sales managers and sales reps look to senior management for leadership. If senior management actively promotes and supports coaching, the rest of the organization will follow.
Question 10: You talked about the need to measure coaching. What metrics would you use?
A: Start with activity metrics for the sales managers. Has the sales manager created a coaching plan for each member of his or her team? How many coaching conferences [is the company] doing a month? Does each sales rep have a personal development plan?
Over time, start looking at sales force effectiveness (e.g., close ratios, velocity of deals in the pipeline) to measure the positive impact of the coaching program.
Question 11: So how can we improve coaching by managers?
A: Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the sales organization to make sales coaching a priority and then provide managers with the skills and tools they need to be successful. Coaching is a skill that can be learned, but for best results sales organizations should view the skills development as one component of an overall coaching system that includes 1) creating a coaching culture, 2) implementing a coaching process, 3) developing the coaching skills of the managers, and 4) using metrics to measure success and hold sales managers accountable.