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Traditional coaching by sales managers tends to focus on results, specifically number of opportunities in a rep's pipeline and a how well a rep is filling their quota.

Both tend to be lagging indicators, especially quota filling as that 's outside of a rep's control (stick with me).

One of David Sandler's rules is, "never manage your numbers, manage your behaviours." In this case a "number" is a closed sale or a percentage of quota achieved and a "behaviour" is a proactive prospecting activity like asking for an introduction, making a prospecting call or attending a targeted networking event with a specific plan for meeting attendees.

Instead of having the same old conversation about a rep's pipeline or close ratio, below are three questions for sales managers to ask themselves that will create real coaching opportunities with their reps.

  1. Are they doing the right behaviours? Your reps' automatic response to this question is "yes," but the question isn't "behaviors most comfortable for them." Plenty of reps can attend 10 networking events per week or make 20 prospecting calls per week to prospects who will always take their call, but never meet with and/or buy from that rep.
    Doing the "right" behaviour means that behavior specifically, measurably advances an opportunity or attempts to start a new opportunity with the "right" prospect (see below). 
    By the way, the "right" behaviours will be different for each rep. Some reps may be awesome at getting introductions, but loath prospecting calls and some might be great at prospecting calls, but be highly uncomfortable asking for an introduction. The first rep would weight their prospecting to introduction asks and the second would weight their's to prospecting calls. Sandler recommends that in both cases each rep include a little bit of the activity that makes them uncomfortable (prospecting calls and introduction asks respectively) so they can pivot their prospecting if their introduction sources or call lists stop working effectively.
  2. Are they doing enough of the right behaviours with the right people? One of the downfalls of creating a prospecting plan happens when rep and manager assume the ratio of prospecting activity to conversation with decision maker is 1:1 (been guilty). This manifests itself by a rep creating a prospecting plan with 20 prospecting calls and 4 networking events per week, which is a lot of activity, but won't generate a lot of results when this rep's success rate of activity to conversations to meetings is 10% and 50% (2 out of 20 calls results in a conversation and 1 of those conversations turns into a meeting).
    If we assume that this rep's meeting to proposal rate and close rate are both 50% (every 2 meetings results in a request for proposal and ever 2 proposals results in 1 closed deal) then this rep will close 1 deal per month (80 calls results in 8 conversations, which results in 4 meetings, which results in 2 proposals, which results in 1 closed deal). 12 closes per year sounds great, but this rep might need to close 3 per month to hit their annual quota.
    When building a prospecting plan best to work backwards from close rate to conversation rate (percentage of time that a prospect attempt results in a conversation with a prospect). If you don't know your numbers assume 50% straight across the board and adjust after tracking for four weeks.
  3. The "right" people being "people who can say 'no' and 'yes' to doing business." As Sandler said, "only decision makers can get others to make decisions." If a rep is comfortable going to networking events or calling on non-decision makers then their sales cycle will lengthen and they'll likely get discouraged when all of their behavior doesn't result in many closed sales.
  4. Are they doing the behaviours right? If the answer to the first two questions is "yes" then a rep likely has a skill gap. Using the success rates from question 2, it appears that that rep either has an issue with reaching decision makers (possibly by getting caught by a gatekeeper), effectively conversing with a decision maker (possibly because they are selling on the phone instead of prospecting) or leaving a voicemail that gets a call back. Any of those can be fixed, but if that rep's manager just assumes they have a "prospecting" problem they're misdiagnosing the real issue and will ineffectively coach their rep.

Coaching, like selling, is about uncovering the real issue. To discover the real issue, start with the questions above with your reps', keep asking questions until you sense their real issue is on the table then use your reps' data to show them the gap between where they are and where they need to be to be successful.

Because your rep can't argue with their own data (Sandler rule) they will be more open to coaching.

Until next time, go lead.

Six Ways To Be A More Effective Manager

Part of your responsibility as sales manager is to help your sales team increase their capacity to perform and improve the outcomes of their performance. To that end, you conduct regular sales meetings to hold them accountable, you provide coaching to keep them on track, and you provide training when needed.

What do you do to improve the outcomes of your performance when you’re conducting those sales meetings, providing the coaching, and delivering the training? In other words, what do you do to become a more effective sales manager? Most sales managers would answer, “Not much.”

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  • Ways to improve your performance to be a better manager, mentor and motivator.

  • To adapt your behavior to turn roadblocks into building blocks.

  • How to delegate responsibilities to your salespeople and provide guidance when needed.

So, what can you do to improve your performance and be a better manager, mentor, and motivator?

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