Is Your Training on Sales Coaching Only One-Fourth Right?

By Michelle Vazzana

Companies expend a tremendous amount of energy training sales managers to coach, but much of that energy is invested in a single aspect of sales coaching—observing sales calls and providing feedback to sellers. But is that all there is to sales coaching? Do sales managers need training on how to coach sellers on other sales activities?

The answer is yes. While conducting calls is an important activity, it’s not the only sales activity worthy of coaching. There are at least four categories of seller behaviors (including making sales calls) necessary for seller success. It stands to reason that, if success depends upon these categories, sales managers should be trained to coach sellers in these key areas. Below is a look at the categories and the corresponding skills sales managers need to effectively coach sellers to succeed in all four areas.

Opportunity Management Coaching

Before sellers make sales calls, they need to identify and qualify opportunities to determine if they are worth pursuing. This process can be classified as “opportunity management.” In order to effectively coach sellers, sales managers need to be trained on how to establish an opportunity management process that equips sellers to navigate complex, multi-stage deals.

The process may include methods that help sellers examine the competitive landscape, qualify opportunities, form a strategic approach, determine which resources are necessary and manage project plans. Once managers understand the opportunity management process, they must determine which elements of the process are the best targets for coaching. Managers often dedicate significant effort toward the late stages of the process at the expense of early stages.

Account Management Coaching

For sellers responsible for multiple, large-scale accounts, sales coaching should include some level of strategic account planning to find sufficient opportunities for sellers to meet quota. Account management entails all activities related to maintaining and growing existing accounts. To help sellers succeed in this area, sales managers need to be trained to develop effective account strategies that align the goals of the seller’s organization to those of the client, not the other way around.

These strategies must be client-focused and translated into action plans. The manger must then determine which accounts warrant this type of intense effort and how to align their coaching efforts to help sellers develop and execute these plans.

Territory Management Coaching

If a seller has a large number of accounts in a territory, proper segmentation and allocation of effort toward high-potential accounts is critical. To successfully coach sellers on territory management, sales managers must be trained to prioritize and segment accounts to determine which accounts have the most potential. Once accounts have been prioritized, seller effort can be allocated accordingly.

Finally, sellers can then execute according to plan. Managers who understand which elements of territory management benefit from coaching efforts are better equipped to coach sellers to prioritize, allocate effort or determine if sellers are attending the accounts based on the prioritization.

Call Management Coaching

That brings us to call management, which involves sellers planning for and conducting individual sales calls. Once sellers are focusing on the right areas to find business, a sales manager can then turn efforts toward coaching sellers to build a game plan to pursue deals. To do this, sales managers need to be trained on how to develop a call management process that helps sellers align their activities with the objectives they are tasked with achieving. Managers can then coach sellers in call preparation, observe calls that are conducted and provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of call execution.

As you can see, planning for and conducting sales calls is only one of four key sales activities. Most sales managers often over-allocate field time – defined as “going on sales calls” with their reps. This is the most time-consuming type of coaching sales managers can do and it may not provide the best return on investment.

In fact, if your sales manager training efforts are focused exclusively on call management coaching, you may only be investing in one-fourth of the pie. Having a more balanced approach to sales coaching helps build healthy pipelines, eliminate peaks and valleys in seller performance, and improve forecast accuracy. How’s that for a whole new definition of sales coaching?

 Michelle Vazzana is a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance. Reprinted from TrainingIndustry.com

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