I spend a lot of time with sales managers, at all levels. Too often, I hear the lament, “I don’t have the time to coach!”
I ask to look at their calendars. As you might expect, the calendars are packed with meeting after meeting–on all sorts of things. Endless forecast and pipeline discussions–usually between managers and not with people. Endless discussion on “the numbers” and the challenges of achieving them. Sometimes, task forces to address these challenges.
We see them leading team meetings, but usually these are fairly one way discussions, “You aren’t hitting the numbers, you need to do more!” Sometimes there’s a bit of a training agenda to these meetings. One on one’s are irregular, and easily pushed off when something the manager prefers to do. There is also a frequency bias toward high performers–largely because those are easier discussions. And every once in a while, they see a customer with their sales people.
They spend endless amounts of time pouring over reports, looking at data. I talk to them about it. We talk about pipelines. They see pipelines are anemic. I ask them what’s causing it and what they plan to do with them. The universal response to anemic pipelines is, “They need to do more prospecting!” Alternatively, it’s marketing’s fault, “We aren’t getting enough inbound!” But then I ask them about win rates, deal/pipeline quality, average deal size, sales cycles. Most don’t know that data. Some do, they have software tools providing endless amounts of data around this. They refer to the reports citing the data.
We see plummeting win rates. For some reason, most managers think 15-20% win rates are acceptable, their people just need to do more prospecting! Some are still sticking with, “They need 3X pipelines,” though anyone that has passed grade school math knows that with 15-20% win rates, they need 5-6 times pipeline—or usually much more because the quality/integrity of the pipeline is terrible.
While some have endless amounts of performance data, when I ask the question, “What’s causing the low win rates,” they don’t know. When I go further, “What might you do to increase the win rates,” the response is, “We need to win more deals!” Hmmmmm……..
In some cases, I’m not helping the problem with these conversations. They worry, they have more meetings with each other about the numbers. They decide they need to buy more technology to provide them even more data and numbers, so they a distracted with a buying motion.
And they have less time to coach. And for that coaching they do, they don’t know what to coach. And they don’t know how to coach.
But there are tools for that! I can imagine thousands of managers breathing sighs of relief. “We can provide them reports about their numbers, so they see the problems themselves! We have conversational intelligence, we can give them data about the number of questions they asked, how much time they spent listening, and so forth.”
In their minds, since they don’t have the time to coach, the technology solves that problem, absolving them of the responsibility to coach. Again, I can imagine thousands of managers breathing more sighs of relief, “We don’t need to be talking to our people…..”
But they fail to realize something that my friend, Mike Kunkle, speaks of, “Feedback and information isn’t coaching!” While all of this is helpful, it doesn’t enable the person to think about why these things are happening. It doesn’t help them consider what they might change. It doesn’t help them figure out what things to focus on. It doesn’t help them learn and think differently. And it doesn’t develop their skills in figuring things out. Coaching is what helps them do this, changing their behaviors, improving performance.
And, ironically, all these tools are supposed to free up manager time to do more coaching. But instead, it absorbs more of their time looking at numbers and data they don’t really understand.
And we see the data, time spent doing any coaching is plummeting. We see managers spending less than an hour a week coaching–anybody, not an hour per individual. And we see performance continue to plummet.
But there’s more. When I speak with CROs and other sales leaders I ask, “How do you hold your managers accountable for coaching? Do you set objectives and measure performance around coaching? Do you train them not only in how to coach but why they should coach?” And then the coup-de-grace, “How much time do you spend coaching your managers?”
Of course, you know how these executives respond to this, so I won’t belabor the point.
I can understand the fear and aversion managers, at all levels, have around coaching. Most have probably not received very good coaching through their careers. Most have no role models or past experience from which to draw. Most have little or no training. Most don’t understand the data, what it means, and how to get under the data to understand what’s driving the results. And most are fearful of engaging in real human to human, collaborative conversations. They are afraid of their own and their people’s vulnerability, they are afraid of the potential conflict and how to resolve it.
We have moved to such a mechanized model of the organization, how we interact with each other, how we act with customers. And we see the results of this. People are disengaged (our own and our customers). They move from job to job, trying to find some sort of fulfillment. Managers do the same.
Leadership is all about human beings. Bot’s don’t need leadership, they need training on algorithms. Leadership is about engaging our people. It is having the courage to have collaborative conversations. To be open to learning from each other and figuring out how to improve and achieve our shared goals.
We owe our organizations this. We owe our people this. We owe ourselves this.
Ironically, once one start doing great coaching, we see results/performance change. We see attitudes and engagement change. We accomplish more and we feel much better about our own performance and engagement.
And when we recognize this, we always find the time to coach!