There’s no more important job for a sales manager than coaching his or her salespeople to close business. Yet most sales managers spend 20 percent or less of their time doing so (leading one to wonder what they’re doing with the other 80 percent).
Ask your sales manager to write down everything they do and everything that takes up their time. Now have them write down the percentage of their time spent doing other things that generate absolutely no revenue. Most likely, that figure will come to between 60 and 80 percent.
What are they doing with that time? Paperwork, reports, e-mails, meetings, putting out fires—that’s a good part of it. Instead of proactively managing the salespeople they’re ultimately responsible for, they’re doing everything but (though not intentionally).
Senior executives need to make it possible for sales managers to focus on sales. Sales managers need to be trained to focus their attention on coaching salespeople to close business. Sales managers need to learn to be successful coaches.
One quota at a time
Just as every tennis player needs a good coach to win tournaments, every salesperson needs a good coach to win sales. Salespeople may have plenty of potential, but who’s coaching them? If with coaching they still don’t succeed, they may need to find another profession. There’s absolutely no reason to have salespeople performing poorly quarter after quarter. They should be coached for success, and if that doesn’t work, counseled into another line of work.
To continue the sports analogy: A football coach takes his team to victory one game at a time. He sets the strategy, then helps his players understand how to implement it. He never plays the game for them but may demonstrate needed techniques.
When a player is doing poorly, the coach gives him a pep talk. When the game’s over, he helps the team members analyze the results so they can continue doing what they did right and learn from their mistakes. The coach constantly provides training experiences that improve the players. He keeps the players and the team motivated.
Coaching salespeople is really no different. A manager helps his salespeople reach their quota one sale at a time. He sets the strategy for the territory with them and helps the salespeople implement it. He never does the selling work for them but demonstrates sales techniques when needed. If a salesperson is having a tough time, he gives him a pep talk. Whether a salesperson loses or wins a sale, the manager helps him analyze the results. The manager constantly provides training in the areas that the salesperson needs improvement and keeps his sales team motivated.
In order to do this successfully, the ratio of managers to salespeople needs to be about one to 10. Sales managers need to be taught to be good coaches, given the time to coach and need to be rewarded for coaching their salespeople to success. Every 10 salespeople should be able to pay for their “coach” 10 times over if he or she is doing the job properly.
Vistage Associate Alice R. Heiman is president of ARH Consulting, LLC, a sales consulting and sales management firm based in Reno, Nev.