Monday, January 19, 2009

Sales Manager: Stop Wasting Your Time On Coaching Meetings!

I get complaints from both sales people and managers on the topic of coaching. Sales people don't feel they are getting the coaching they need---their managers don't have time. Managers, don't feel they are providing the coaching they should---they don't have time (and they don't know how to--but that's another post).

Somehow, people have the notion that coaching is something that you do differently, it's kind of like the performance review, a specific coaching session or meeting is scheduled and the manager has to devote a certain amount of time to the "coaching meeting." The reality is the meetings are scheduled, then rescheduled, then cancelled, then combined to be part of the annual performance review.

Is that the way we should be coaching and developing our sales people (this message also applies to any other business professional--just do a global replace of sales with whatever function you manage)?

Coaching has to be integrated into the daily business. The impact of the immediacy of the feedback is phenomenal, and, pragmatically, it's the only way it gets done.

Every sales manager that I know conducts reviews. Pipeline/funnel, account, territory, deal/opportunity reviews. Usually, these are focused on the business, but sales managers miss the opportunity to use these normal reviews to coach their teams and each sales professional.

The review process is part of the normal set of activities sales professionals are involved in every day. They present the sale manager not only an opportunity to monitor the status of the business, but also to coach. In these review meetings the manager can:

1. Reinforce strategies, priorities, processes, even the use of key tools (like CRM).
2. Identify best practices within the team or individual performance and reinforce these great behaviors.
3. Identify weaknesses or disfunctional behavior and correct them.
4. Use the meetings to subtly develop new skills and capabilities by suggesting changes in approach---even discussing them in the meeting.

These review meetings are a tremendous opportunity to accomplish a lot of things, let's not just limit them to sharing information about the status of the business. (If you are interested in more information about how to leverage these reviews, we've written some white papers on these, just email me and I'll send you a copy).

Separately, managers travel with their people (or should be). These represent great opportunities to catch your people doing something right, coaching to reinforce the good behaviors and eliminating the bad behaviors. Unfortunately, the tendency is to focus exclusively on the business issues, and even worse, managers push the sales person to the side and "take over" the sales process, acting as super sales people. This usually doesn't help the deal and certainly has a negative impact on the sales person's performance.

Traveling with your people is a great opportunity to move business forward (only if you can add value that your sales people can't), and to coach and develop your sales people in real time.

Coaching is critical! The only way managers will be successful and have the impact they need is to integrate coaching into the daily business process. We need to stop the notion of scheduling specific coaching meetings and use every opportunity we have to coach our teams and people.


Top Sales Blog said...

I agree, sales managers need to include some sales coaching in their daily activity. I also agree that meetings are a bad place to do this as well. Never forget that most sales managers have at least one top performer, and passing on basic sales advice in "generic" meetings can be seen as an insult to this crowd. Each salesperson has their own strengths and weaknesses, therefore doing this "one on one" is far more effective.

Will Fultz

Dave Brock's Blog said...

Will Fultz: Thanks for your comment. I don't want to confuse coaching and development with training. While there may be some subtle training in coaching sessions, effective coaching is more far reaching. Additionally, the purpose is coaching is to make each individual more effective and to help them grow.

Top performers need coaching and development. Some of this is accomplished in the review process, some is accomplished in the one on one's when a manager is traveling wiht the sales professional.

Thanks for the comment.