The Challenge: Sales managers must simultaneously balance and command two key things to consistently succeed:
Allowing an imbalance, as tends to happen, limits their ability to succeed, and by extension, restricts revenue and other success.
Manager: Sets clear expectations, guidelines or rules; some may be flexible, others non-negotiables. Including specific activities, frequency, timelines, coverage levels, etc. The goal is to ensure proper inputs to achieve the desired output.
While revenue is the ultimate output/measure, it is a Lagging Indicator, to achieve the desired outcome. Managers must proactively manage Leading Indicators.
Coach: With the rules and expectations set, the ‘Coach’s’ role is to help their people achieve the expectations, especially revenue. Since no one is perfect, markets continuing to change, even at the top of their game, reps need continuous developing in order to meet/exceed expectations.
Rep development takes longer than a month or quarter, the traditional short-term measures for their teams. Too many sales managers get stuck on the short-term, easier to measure, Lagging Indicator. This is why many managers find themselves out of synch between short and long term, and fail to fully develop their reps in both the short and long run.
There is good news in the form of a discipline, a clutch if you will, allowing you align and be both an effective Manager and Coach, without compromising either. You can make steady progress with both short and long term results and development. The bonus is that it’s a tool you’re already using to drive numbers, which you can also use for effective coaching and performance management.
Your sales process captures key leading indicators, including the high-value revenue related activities. Each stage outlines objectives, activities, tasks and tools that progress sales in the most efficient fashion. Each stage has a review and decision mechanism, allowing for an objective Go/No Go decision, including prospect buy-in in the form of next steps. This sets you up to establish key metrics to gauge leading indicators, and ongoing development of reps.
Short-Term: The process as a basis for conducting “Activity Reviews." ‘Managers’ can simultaneously inspect the quality of execution, reinforce expectations and facilitate the sharing of best practices across the team. These “Activity Reviews” replace long, laborious and unproductive pipeline/opportunity meetings, with brisk focused Leading Indicator oriented reviews. Each rep speaks to a predefined number, (not all) active opportunities in their funnel.
Opportunities without next steps are deemed inactive, and not part of this meeting/call. The format is productive, even with 10 reps, it is less than an hour, especially when you stick to the facts, and eliminate back stories. ‘Managers’ can quickly understand what’s moving, why, and how reps are executing key activities, driving desired results within each stage of the process, while driving sales and rep development.
Long-Term: The process as a Platform for On-going Development. Coaching works on a parallel path, but longer horizons. The ‘Coach’ needs to create an annual coaching plan for each rep, focusing on three or four behavioral traits they want to change or improve with each rep. It is this long range planning that seems foreign to many sales managers.
The reason for focusing only on three or four traits, is twofold. First, it may require eight or more weeks to introduce, work through and alter a given behavior trait. There will be things that arise through the year, often during “Activity Reviews” and observations in the field. As well, once reps see that the coaching is consistent and benefits them, they will begin to bring areas they want to address, and you want to ensure you can incorporate them.
Change involves leadership and a plan. Coaching does not need to be laborious. Coaching sessions based on a plan are focused, delivered weekly; recommended length of 15, at most 20 minutes, following a familiar flow:
This allows the ‘Coach’ to provide consistent feedback, and course correct early and in small consumable increments.
The Coach must commit weekly. Get it into all calendars and stick to it. There may be occasional misses, but when it fails, it is because The Coach blows off too many sessions, sending the wrong signal to reps. Again, with 10 reps, and a solid plan, it’s under 3 ½ hours per week, a small investment for the return. You don’t need to cover off everything in one session because you’ve built in time to effectively change in a year. Consistent application makes continuous improvement part of your sales culture and success.
Using your sales process to manage and impact short-term results, and building the foundation for coaching long-term changes, allows you to create rep buy-in, a positive means of feedback and change, and most importantly, results that can be measured in revenue growth, rep retention, and by extension, client satisfaction and growth.
Tibor Shanto is a principal at Renbor Sales Solutions Inc. He is an award winning author, speaker, and B2B sales execution specialist. Tibor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 416 822-7781. Follow him on Twitter at @TiborShanto.
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