Building a Sales Manager Coaching Program

Sales and marketing alignment

Helping sales managers become more successful in their own coaching behavior is easier said than done. The first challenge with sales coaching programs is, they’re often positioned as a task (i.e., “go coach”) and not an ongoing approach fundamentally impacting the continuing relationship between managers and reps. In other words, sales coaching has to do with supporting the conversations and connections between people and not managing a process.

This begs the question. What’s the business problem that sales manager coaching needs to address? Many sales managers aren’t clear “why” sales coaching is essential. They also aren’t clear on “why” sales enablement is focused on coaching them to become better managers/coaches.

The key is designing and implementing a well-thought-out sales manager coaching initiatives and clarify that to sales managers. For example, if sales coaching programs intend to improve the performance and effectiveness of salespeople, while clearly defining the role of manager. Not just designating the role of manager “as a coach” or the position of sales manager as “people manager,” but defining and clarifying the role of sales manager specifically — and why sales management exists in your company in the first place.

Sales management and sales enablement leaders often have different expectations when it comes to the role of first-line sales managers in the first place. Sales leaders typically want their first-line sales managers to drive sales results more quickly. They want them to close deals. In contrast, sales enablement professionals want sales managers to provide more valuable feedback to internal stakeholders and build the right high-performing culture. These unclear expectations are exposed when we look under the covers of many sales coaching initiatives that target sales managers. For the most part, those “programs” are workshops on “how to coach sales reps to go do what they just learned,” treating sales managers as the people who reinforce the random mandate that just came down from HQ.

What’s the business purpose for sales manager coaching in the first place? Is sales manager coaching creating clarity and focus? Does it have a purpose?

Sales manager coaching helps managers create an ongoing relationship between reps and managers. It’s not just a moment in time one time a week. The foundation of the sales coaching relationship is built on meaningful conversations, relationship building, and the skills and trust of managers as they engage with their reps. Managers who are successful at helping their team succeed are the best at tailoring conversations to match the needs of individual reps. That’s sales coaching.

Sales Coaching

To ensure the success of new or existing sales coaching initiatives, follow a three-step process to building long-lasting sales coaching relationships that drive business results.

Step 1: Determine the most common sales manager coaching scenarios.

This is an often overlooked step. Because many reps are now expected to communicate customer outcomes or sell to executives, it’s crucial to analyze the associated sales objectives and identify the specific activities that should trigger a sales coaching conversation by frontline sales managers. This has to happen in the context of real work. Not as an “additional task.” For example, if sales managers determine that reps are having trouble creating a shared vision of success with buyers, they can leverage a post-call sales coaching conversation to help reps troubleshoot their approach. Or, if the rep is not able to gain access, sales managers can utilize the account planning process to embed a sales coaching conversation. ·

Step 2: Enable tailored sales manager coaching conversations.

While most sales managers recognize their sales coaching skills need improvement, these same sales managers often don’t have access to sales coaching content, skill-building programs, or coaching tools. As a result, it’s hard to have relevant, developmental, and motivational conversations consistently with reps. Providing sales managers with the right content, skills, and tools means starting with an analysis of what sales managers need to be successful in all phases of the relationship they have with their reps. For example, for sales managers to prioritize their sales coaching efforts, they need a way to assess their reps and make smart sales coaching decisions objectively, and they need a way to meet reps where they are across a variety of situations ranging from motivational to performance intervention. And because managers also need to tailor their approach, they need tools to help facilitate rep-manager conversations consistently. Finally, sales managers need to improve over time continuously, so they need a way to document their efforts so they can build momentum for sales manager coaching.

Step 3: Plan how to drive sales manager coaching conversations.

For sales coaching initiatives to be successful, sales enablement professionals must ensure that they address the current reality of the situation and press the right impact. That means the purpose, function, service level, and roles of those involved need to be designed, communicated, and managed. This plan requires activities for achieving the goals of the sales leadership team, (for example, selling at higher levels), and the program needs to factor in the long-term needs of facilitating and supporting changes in salesperson behavior. They aren’t robots. Salespeople need support, content, knowledge, and leadership to achieve key behavior change goals. This happens one salesperson at a time.

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