Many argue that sales managers play the most important role in the salesforce. They can drive adoption of your sales process, or they can blow it off. Too often managers default to tribal knowledge around processes, which decreases win rates and isn't scalable. World-class sales organizations focus their energy on gaining buy-in from sales managers.
And when that happens, everything just ‘clicks.’One global technology company recently implemented a new sales process. Before the process was deployed to the sellers, they prioritized front-line sales managers. All sales leaders were first trained on the importance of behavioral coaching. This approach to coaching focuses on diagnosing and supporting improvement in underlying rep activities vs. inspecting outcomes.
As part of this company's training, over 3,000 sales managers across two dozen countries participated in sessions (in-person training - you know, like we did before Covid!). During these workshops, sales managers were introduced to the importance of differentiating between behaviors and lagging outcomes.
One training session took place at the Steigenberger Hotel in Frankfurt. In the room for 1.5 days were 73 sales managers from Germany, Russia, Switzerland, and Austria. All of the participants were experienced sales managers. In a way, they already knew what to do to be successful. The challenge was getting them to adopt and lead their teams in a new sales process.
Delivering a training session to veterans requires a great deal of thought and planning. There must be laughter, fun, seriousness, and reality in each hour. Most importantly, participants must first understand the 'why' of a new program, while also comparing their current behaviors to a new way of doing things. Without this realization, all can be lost in terms of training.
What happened that day at the Steigenberger Hotel was somewhat magical. Sure, the trainers did their best to get the ideas across. But what really happened was all 73 sales managers committing to not only knowing that they can improve, but embracing the power of a behavioral focus. In hallway conversations and later at the lobby bar, they shared their main takeaways. Here are some key quotes straight from the sales leaders.
“We're not really coaching right now. We are telling. We don’t take the time to coach, so we end up directing people on what they should do. But that's not the style I want. I need to spend more time coaching. That’s how we get increased performance. And right now, that is not happening.”
“I settle for poor performance. And I spend too much time stressing over ‘old news’ – the bad sales results.”
“Taking the time to get to the root cause behaviors isn’t easy. It takes a ton of time. But I now get it – it’s now clear to me that I gotta do this. If not, I'm destroying the culture of my team. I’m just setting up an endless cycle.”
“Every sales report I have just details outcomes - no focus on inputs, the behaviors. No wonder my coaching isn't great!”
It was a lot of "aha's" for this group of sales leaders.
That day at the Steigenberger Hotel saw a commitment by the managers to what can seem like a simple idea. But a sales leader's commitment to changing the focus from lagging indicators to behaviors can be transformational.
This mindset shift brings a major change in the quality and impact of sales coaching. It's the key to unlocking more quality time with sellers. It also enables engaging sellers with good questions to uncover root causes instead of just telling.
This one training was a moment of reflection, learning, and change. But overall, it was a day when the full power of sales coaching really hit home.
We'll explore more on this topic in our upcoming virtual master class on Sales Leader Excellence.
About The Author
Researcher, consultant, and sales leader, Brian uses a data-driven approach to drive sales effectiveness. His clients include leading sales organizations in financial services, technology, healthcare, and professional services. Using insight from academics and change management, Brian helps senior leaders and sales enablement teams understand and succeed in today’s more demanding market. His research has been published in Harvard Business Review and other outlets.