Virtual (and local) Sales Manager Coaching Playbook
Admittedly this blog targets coaching sales rep, however these coaching principles, processes and skills transfer to general manager-coaches. Swap out rep for employee and modify elements for your world.
Some enduring truisms are worth repeating. “You get what you pay for,” “You reap what you sow,” and…
“Reps who receive just 3 hours of coaching per month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing close rate by 70%.” –Corporate Executive Board
However, unrelenting day-to-day pressure on sales managers often bleeds time away from vital sales coaching and training efforts. Successful sales leaders who create effective coaching cultures have seemingly executed the Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. Simply stated, driving sales by dedicated coaching efforts is a critical lead indicator for performance.
Name a single activity that will grow the long-term sales success of your organization more then a sustained and competent 1:1 and team sales coaching and development program?
“Every great performer has a great coach.” –Anthony Iannarino
Playbook Skills and Best Practices
The tips below are sourced from currently successful sales leaders in a wide range of industries. Steal them, edit them for relevancy in your world, and make them your own!
#1. “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” (Stephen Covey)
A growth mindset is critical. Sales coaching must be viewed as a long-term strategy, not a nice-to-have activity. Your competition may beat you on price, but they will never match your culture’s zealous drive for continuous learning and excellence. Hope is not a strategy. Your calendar is where hope is replaced with high-leverage priorities.
Your Playbook Actions
- Schedule 3 coaching hours per sales rep, per month. That’s only 2% of your monthly workload! The spacing effect on learning instructs you to schedule 75 hours of coaching per rep, per week.
- Elevate your coaching to the elite level. Download the free 4% Championship Sales Coaching and Training Plan.
Master Sales Coaching Tip: Establish two distinct 1:1’s
- Accountability one-on-one’s. Current results to goals, health of pipeline, market obstacles and opportunities, current strategy and tactics.
- Coaching one-on-one’s. 100% focused on developing the sales reps skills, knowledge and abilities to be successful in achieving sales goals.
The risk of merging these two conversations is that the well-intended sales manager can’t remove their Mr. or Mrs. Fix-It hat and the business review dominates the entire hour. The result? The rep can’t wait to get the meeting over and with five minutes to go the sales manager says, “We have a couple of minutes left, what’s on your mind?” All business, no development and no clear action plan for how the rep will achieve success.
“I believe that wherever there is mastery, coaching is occurring, and whenever coaching is done, mastery will be the outcome.” –Andrea Lee
#2. Sales observations + metrics drives a focused coaching agenda
Think like an elite athletic coach who customizes each athlete’s training session based on measureable and observable performance results. Sales managers and reps report mixed benefits of the full day ride-along, often a company mandate. Sales leaders and their reps should collaborate to ensure these don’t become lackluster or a simple box to check. However, you can’t effectively coach what you don’t observe!
Example: A data-centric sales leader observes her sales rep hitting their outbound lead generation metrics, but these efforts are not leading to sales opportunities. Their coaching agenda goal might be to review the sales rep’s scripts and outbound communications to identify gaps, and thus, the rep’s targeted sales skill development focus area.
Your Playbook Actions
- Prepare for one-on-one’s. Review rep’s current sales metrics and recent observables, and identify 1-2 development areas for focused coaching.
- Implement your 0.75-hour, 1:1 sales coaching agenda. Play with the agenda. Keep it fresh, but ensure major focus is on the rep’s growth and success.
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing…That’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar
#3. Inbound sales scenarios – overcoming the space-time coaching barrier
Many sales leaders say they wish they could spend more find time observing their reps in action. A rigorous development process to consider is inviting the sales action to your inbox or phone. Require your reps to send in a weekly vexing sales situation, an audio recording of a sales call, or a video of the rep presenting their value proposition.
Your Playbook Actions
- Request that reps send you a weekly, current sales scenario or audio/video recording along with the skill or capability area they’ve identified to strengthen.
- Review sales scenarios and craft your weekly 1:1 coaching agenda. This development process has powerful benefits:
- Encourages a collaborative, two-way coaching partnership
- Leverages your rep’s autonomy (a key source of employee engagement)
- Loudly communicates that coaching, learning and development is a competitive, long-term strategy
#4. Sales leaders must coach each rep, but enlist peers to help train
Technically, coaching is not training. Training is requiring a rep to repeatedly practice (role play) a sales skill, such as handling various sales objections while the coach provides constant stimulus and feedback.
Providing dedicated coaching to ten or twelve reps easily stretches and stresses sales managers. Creating a peer-to-peer training culture leverages your resources. Giving your top performers training responsibilities is also an excellent way to provide leadership advancement opportunities.
Peer reviews of calls, scripts and outbound emails helps build a collaborative and fun learning environment while shifting co-ownership of sales training to the team. Not everyone will be thrilled, but harmony isn’t the objective, continuous learning and performance is.
Your Playbook Actions
- Involve the team and establish training/mentoring buddies. Delegate this task! You are off-loading training to the team. Require team members to co-own development and have skin in the game.
- Expect weekly (30-minute) mentoring sessions. These micro-training sessions are often part of the rep’s weekly SMART action plans. Inspect progress during your weekly one-on-one’s.
#5. Monthly team sales training sessions…A rising tide floats all boats
We acknowledge that most sales reps eat what they kill. To incentivize collaboration, many organizations weight individual compensation with team results. Either way, individual sales wins do not naturally scale, so how do teams and organizations leverage sales and marketplace insights and wins? Sales leaders must leverage team IQ by creating a monthly collaborative and continuous improvement platform.
Your Playbook Actions
- Set 45-minute monthly team collaboration and learning sessions.
- Delegate that each team member assumes monthly leadership role by:
- Surveying and collecting rep’s universal (ideally) or on-going sales challenges
- Creating and sending out the learning agenda with a singular focused topic two days in advance
- g. Skills and strategies for gaining access to C-Suite clients
- Requesting that each rep comes prepared with a question and a success story related to a topic or a best practice for overcoming sales obstacles
- Requesting that reps come prepared to role-play and receive feedback
- The antidote for boring meetings? Keep them highly engaged, relevant, and hold everyone accountable for showing up!
- Having the monthly team leader assume the lead facilitator role
- The sales manager plays a supporting role (in other words…don’t talk too much)
A dedicated sales coaching program is a strategic investment, therefore it’s an opportunity cost. But can you measure the ROI (return on investment)?
In closing, I’ll let legendary CEO and extraordinary manager Andy Grove answer this honest question:
“Training is the manager’s job. Training is the highest leverage activity a manager can do to increase the output of an organization. If a manager spends 12 hours preparing training for 10 team members, it increases their output by 1% on average. The result is 200 hours of increased output from the 10 employees (each works about 2000 hours a year). Don’t leave training to outsiders. Do it yourself.” –Andy Grove, High-Output Management
Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Definitely keep it inspiring. -Steve