5 Steps to an Actionable Sales Manager Coaching Methodology

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sales manager coaching methodology

Our C.O.A.C.H. Sales Manager Coaching Methodology integrates actionable sales coaching into your day.

Recent research has proven that the number one skill that separates average managers from highly effective ones is coaching. While the leadership and management world at large has known this for quite some time, sales management specifically has largely been left out of this important development trend.

Because, as a sales manager, you operate in a fundamentally different environment from your management peers, you continue to lack serious coaching and development training in the context required to be successful. What you need is an actionable sales manager coaching methodology that works within the context of your daily life.

Our C.O.A.C.H. method is a sales manager coaching methodology with a simple, yet actionable structure that provides flexibility for the realities of the fluctuating sales environment. It employs five simple practices that sales managers can easily integrate into their daily workflow: Commit, Observe, Assess, Communicate, and Habituate.

1. Commit to Coaching Opportunities

The job of the sales manager is inherently one of the most difficult jobs in the organization. Amid the chaos of your daily life, you’re now being asked to shift your thinking—shift the dynamics of the interactions you have with your salespeople—in a fundamental way by incorporating coaching. This is not something that comes naturally for many people, but it is a critical skill that can be developed with practice and commitment.

Committing to developing your own coaching skills includes actively seeking out coaching opportunities in every interaction you have with your team. You already have frequently scheduled meetings for pipeline and opportunity overviews, forecast reviews, activity management, etc. Within all of these interactions, coaching opportunities present themselves.

2. Observe Seller Behavior & Interactions

You can’t coach what you don’t observe. By observing seller behavior in their daily interactions with leads and clients, you are able to pick up on those cues that tell you where actionable coaching opportunities lie.

Sales managers often observe the interactions their reps have with clients and prospects during the onboarding phase. It’s less common to consistently observe more experienced seller interactions. This leaves a gap in your ability to continue to grow your sellers’ professional careers.

Observation isn’t just about watching for mistakes. It’s more about understanding the interactions that are happening every day between individuals on your team and your market. It allows you to collect insights into what is working well, what isn’t working well, as well as market trends that might affect your organization. This is information you can use to improve your team as a whole in addition to assessing and coaching individual sellers.

3. Assess Seller Performance

sales manager coaching methodology - assessMake an assessment of the seller’s performance you’ve observed. Did they start with an agenda? Did they keep control of the conversation? Did they build rapport? Did they establish next steps? These are the very basics of every effective sales call that you should be looking for in seller interactions. There may be additional assessment criteria for your sales process as well.

Take a moment to determine what the most critical elements of a sales call at each step of your sales process is and map them out in a spreadsheet. Then, assess each seller interaction on a scale from Not Present (red) to Excellent (green). We call this an assessment map, which we work with our clients to create to standardize manager and seller assessments and provide a clear visual path to which elements need the most improvement and which are “gold standard”.

Your assessment maps will help you determine specifically what areas individual sellers need coaching and development work in so you can focus your time with that person on exactly what they need to be successful.

4. Communicate Through Asking Questions & Active Listening

Using your assessments, you are able to identify exactly who needs what training, empowering you to activate as an effective sales coach.

In the communication practice of an effective sales manager coaching methodology, the seller does most of the talking. Your role is to ask deliberate questions and actively listen to the responses. If you are talking more than your sales rep, you’re not doing it right.

As part of CommercialTribe’s sales team development solution, we observe and assess thousands of manager-rep and rep-customer interactions for our clients. This service provides sales leaders and managers with unbiased reports that identify skills gaps and highlight “gold standard” performance. I was recently assessing a sales manager and seller interaction that illustrates our C.O.A.C.H. sale manager coaching methodology quite well. The sales rep was relatively new to the company and was working with a mentor who had taken him under her wing. The manager had observed a meeting that the sales rep and his mentor had with an opportunity recently.

Like many manager-seller interactions I’ve observed, the meeting began with inspection: what activities had the seller completed since they last met, what was his pipeline looking like, etc. Then, the manager shifted into a mentorship role, providing the seller with specific advice for some objections and issues he was facing.

Then, the manager did something that I rarely see during the first assessment. He asked the sales rep about the meeting he’d observed. While the meeting went well and they were able to close the deal, the manager noticed that the rep had let his mentor do all of the talking. He asked, “Why did you let Karen do all the talking with your contact?”

The rep replied, “Well, Karen knows the product better than I do. I didn’t want to step on her toes or say the wrong thing.”

This moment would have been lost (and often is) on someone who had not committed himself to seeking out coaching opportunities. But it was a great catch. The sales manager uncovered a development gap that otherwise could have gone unnoticed to create a great disservice for the sales rep in the long run.

Communication also includes establishing engagement through agreement. It’s not enough to simply tell a sales rep what their goal is. You must establish an agreement for next steps before ending the meeting.

The sales manager in our story could have said, “I want you to take the next sales call without Karen present.” and moved on. Instead, he asked, “What can you do to make sure you’re comfortable with the information to take the lead on your next sales call?”

The seller responded, “I can practice the pitch and do a roleplay with Terry to practice objection handling.”

“That sounds like a great plan. How many times will you practice the pitch before scheduling the roleplay?”

“At least three times.”

“Good. And when will you have this completed by?”

“By the end of the week.”

“That sounds great. Is there anything you need from me to help you?”

sales manager coaching methodologyCoaching interactions take patience and practice to navigate successfully. However, the end result of consistently conducting meetings with your sales team in this way will produce far greater long-term results than taking the “easy” way by telling. The next time the seller in our story feels uncomfortable with messaging, will he wait until his manager asks him about it? Or will he take the steps he knows are necessary to make him successful?

5. Make Coaching a Habit

This last step in our C.O.A.C.H. methodology is critical for two reasons. First, developing a coaching habit will help you stay focused on becoming a great coach even during times of high production and stress. Second, it helps coaching become more effective as both you and your reps will grow more comfortable with the methodology and expectations, and will interact more thoughtfully.

Two keys to creating a coaching habit are to keep a consistent schedule of meetings that follow a fixed agenda and set expectations with your reps up-front.

You know you need to develop your coaching skills to grow in your own career as a sales manager, as well as to improve the performance of your team. The problem is that you are, understandably, overwhelmed and under-developed. While this has historically been caused by the chaos traditional in the sales environment, the reality is that you have to take charge of your own growth mindset to succeed. Use this simple sales manager coaching methodology to develop your sales coaching habit and create long-term, sustained revenue growth.

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