5 Ways Smart Sales Managers Optimize 1:1 Coaching Time

qstream logoIn a perfect world, sales managers would spend quality time coaching their teams. The challenge is that sales managers are always pressed for time, so they need to be continually armed with specific feedback on how individual reps can improve their skills and win rates. While the needs of reps will vary from session to session, and potentially quarter to quarter, there are some consistent things effective sales managers do again and again to derive the most impact from their coaching time.

Understand the specific sales competencies and behaviors necessary for success

Just as no two salespeople are alike, the same can be said for no two sales positions. Regardless of whether your rep is a new hire in his first sales role or a more experienced professional who has been selling for a dozen years, there are dynamics that are unique to each industry, business segment and product or service offering.

Understanding these dynamics, and the specific competencies required to successfully navigate them is critical to effective coaching. You don’t simply want your reps to be better salespeople, you want them to be more effective at selling your products and services.

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Understand the skills and knowledge gaps of their team

Generic selling tips or techniques might work for some, but smart sales managers understand that each of their reps are individuals with specific strengths and weaknesses. Steve might be a terrific prospector with a strong early pipeline, but require additional help with negotiation and closing to consistently hit his quota.

In contrast, Christine might possess a strong complement of selling skills, but lacks the market or technical knowledge to successfully win over customers. By focusing their valuable coaching time on the individual needs of each rep, supported by real-time performance data and analytics from solutions, sales managers can maximize their coaching impact and help each rep progress along their own personal development path.

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Understand the underlying motivators of each individual seller 

Some sales leaders believe that a quota and a compensation plan are enough to motivate sellers to perform. Yet, research has proven that for many salespeople it’s a little more complicated. People are motivated by any number of factors (not always money), and it’s the sales coach’s job to determine what that is from seller to seller.

SiriusDecisions released a report on what high-performing sales reps really want, and the results might surprise you:

  1. 93% of high performers said meaningful work was more important than compensation
  2. 82% of Millennials ranked access to leadership, meaningful work and company vision as equal to targeted earnings in importance
  3. 70% of high performers see coaching and collaboration as very important to their job performance

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Ask a lot of questions

One of the biggest mistakes sales managers (well, really any manager) can make is believing they personally have all the answers. When a sales manager treats a coaching session as a “let me tell you” conversation, they miss the opportunity to help their reps develop a strong sense of self-awareness and independence.

Asking good questions – whether it’s about a specific deal you’re trying to close this quarter, or a common business scenario your team is facing in the field – forces your reps to think critically about their own behavior and focus on the quality of their execution.

Asking good questions drives deeper engagement, and allows your reps to be an equal partner in their own growth and development.

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Consistently document the actions and follow-up steps 

The best coaching session in the world will be wasted if your reps don’t understand the expectations for follow-through, and if you, as their manager, don’t hold them accountable for progress and change. This can be as simple as a bulleted email that documents your agreed upon steps and can be reviewed during your next meeting together. The secret is to capture the notes quickly and accurately and then set the expectations for follow-through and reporting.

One of the simplest ways to hold your reps accountable? Don’t leave a specific coaching session before setting up the next one, or just set a regular cadence with each rep, perhaps once every few weeks, and schedule them ahead for the whole year. This helps make coaching a habit for both managers and reps and delivers a message about its importance to the organization.

Any time a sales manager meets with his or her rep, they should be helping their sellers maintain high levels of focus, energy and enthusiasm to perform. Sales managers must rise to the challenge of building up their team from the inside out, rep by rep. This can be achieved by tapping into both the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for the individuals on their team. A customized approach to coaching time with individual reps allows sales managers to equip every single rep with the skills and knowledge they need to reach their unique goals and improve win rates for the whole team.

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