This problem is more serious than many might think. Two years ago, we conducted a survey of sales managers. In one question, we asked them how frequently they had coaching/mentoring meetings with their people. For companies having revenue of $100 million or more, we found 5% of managers had weekly coaching/mentoring sessions with their people, 27% had monthly meetings, 38% had quarterly coaching/mentoring meetings, and the remainder were either annual meetings or not done with any regularity. Smaller companies were slightly better with 46% of the managers having weekly or monthly meetings.
Coaching is one of the most critical activities a manager can undertake in improving the performance of their people and producing real results. Unfortunately, I think people have a misunderstanding of what coaching is, when, and how to do it. People tend to think of a formal “coaching,” meeting, often confusing coaching with performance reviews. While the outcome of coaching and performance reviews is similar, coaching needs to be conducted differently and more frequently than performance reviews.What Is Coaching:
Coaching usually focuses on the development of specific skills or behaviors. Making sales calls that have higher impact. Developing and implementing territory plans that maximize growth within the territory. Developing deal strategies that have higher probabilities of winning. Working more effectively with team members. Managing time more effectively.
When Do You Coach:
Coaching needs to be integrated with the manager’s daily process and routine. It doesn’t need to be a separate session, but part of the daily conversations managers have with their people. For example, after every customer call, managers should take the time to debrief the people on the call, looking for opportunities to improve both the overall sales strategy and the results their people produce with calls. In doing account reviews, opportunity reviews, pipeline reviews, manager should look for the opportunity to coach. An account review is the perfect time to develop a person’s skills in developing and executing their account plan—not a separate meeting a month later when everyone has forgotten what went on.
“Strike while the iron is hot!” This works perfectly for coaching—managers have the greatest impact in developing their people when there is an immediacy to observing both good and bad practice and discussing it with people. The more time that lapses, the less the impact.
Incorporating coaching into your daily interaction with sales people, the whole process becomes less cumbersome for both the manager and the people she is coaching. It becomes a natural part of the way people work together.How Do You Coach:
Much of our business culture seems oriented around “telling.” We tend to tell people what they did right, we tell them what they did wrong, we tell them what they should do differently.
“Telling” is very ineffective for coaching. We want our people to be thoughtful about what they do, we want them to own the responsibility for their performance and development. We can’t achieve this by telling, we can only do this by engaging our people in a conversation or dialogue about their performance in a certain area. The only way we engage our people in this discovery process is by asking questions. Effective coaching is about asking and engaging the person in thinking about what they do and how to improve.
Coaching is critical to maximizing the performance of everyone on your team. It is critical in developing people to reach their full potential. Coaching is easy when you incorporate it into your daily interactions with your people, engaging them in thoughtful discussions.