Some things change, and some things do not…
Many years ago, as a Sales Manager at the Sheraton Oman Hotel (Muscat, Sultanate of Oman) as the Gulf War started, I recall being tasked with “doing more with less.” I remember feeling bewildered about how I could get ahead in the then ‘new normal’ and my sales director looking somewhat lost. Today, there is no doubt that, once again, we need to innovate to do more with less. The need to coach, develop and assist our sales teams is more critical now than ever, however the needs of coaching have changed.
Today, our leadership teams have unprecedented challenges on their plates, and may not possess the experience they need to coach effectively in the current, largely virtual selling environment. Tactical reviews and guiding deals take priority, but how about effective coaching for mid to long term sales and personal performance in a changed sales landscape?
Solving for coaching needs to deliver enhanced sales performance behaviors
Assuming we have the right people in their role, we need to create a consistent and sustainable coaching program for our sales leaders, managers and reps. To do this, we need a different approach. Training programs without thorough reinforcement do little to sustainably enhance performance. To reinforce effective ways of working, and more importantly, to drive greater sales performance, we need a coaching program that transcends all levels of the sales team. Doing this in today’s environment means solving for these three challenges:
- Time – leaders are ‘busy’ often shuttling from meeting to meeting, call to call. When time is made to engage with their teams it is often focused on the tactics required to address short term business needs. Rarely is time made for longer term discussions or coaching development of the individual.
- Coaching ability – both ability and emotional intelligence need nurturing, especially in leaders who have been promoted based on purely revenue results/performance and not on leadership capabilities, a common issue with sales leaders.
- Coaching style – in the context of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’ many leaders may struggle to create an authentic relationship as well as relevant content with their team. This is necessary to build the trust needed for successful coaching interactions.
To solve for these challenges, I recommend developing a program across the sales organization to provide a coach to the coaches/leaders/managers. Leaders are unlikely to be ignoring the need to coach their team members, however with the constraints mentioned above, it is most often lost to other priorities. With a program focused on coaching, and by providing tools and resources to support it, leadership will be more inclined to make the necessary time. The Coaches Coach is there to provide confidential guidance and counsel to each member of the leadership team, helping them develop specific coaching focuses for each member of their team.
I am a keen triathlete, and when considering the parallels of developing as an endurance athlete, and those of developing corporate athletes the principals of Specificity, Consistency, and Progression resonate. Using these as a base for developing this program would align these fundamentals:
Specificity – develop an iterative program for each team member focused on two key topics per eight weeks.
Consistency – ensure the team member is receiving both structured (scheduled, focused time) and un-structured (in the moment) coaching.
Progression – evolve the focus topics every eight weeks to ensure sustained growth with each team member.
The role of the Coaches Coach is twofold:
- Guide and support the leader with thoughts on areas of focus such as pipeline management, networking for consensus, etc., integrating performance behavior coaching and challenging/catalyzing thought on how to evolve the team.
- Check and validate by engaging in meaningful dialogue about the approach and progress being made with each team member.
Establishing coaches for sales leaders and coaches will take time. You will need to carefully consider those team members who have a passion for developing people and will not overwhelm them with attention. The Coaches Coach also assists the leader in preparing a bi-monthly review with their manager on the focus and progress of their coaching with each team member. This role is fulfilled through engaging with each leader on a monthly basis, face to face, to review outcomes and progress, whilst providing support and stimulus to the leader to evolve the program for each team member.
The role of the Coaches Coach is not to become involved, nor to discuss performance management of individuals on the team or engage in speculation. Neither is the role to act as an informer for senior leadership. As highlighted above, it is for the leader being coached to provide their manager with an update.
In order to measure the effectiveness and impact of this program, I recommended developing a behavior index survey. This index measures the behaviors and beliefs of the team to provide a metric that can be used to determine progress. With that in place, you will have a program that is focused on growing the team, at all levels, while also being measurable in its impact.
Paul Nevelos is a trilingual, internationally experienced leader with comprehensive experience in sales, marketing, operations and technology. Key capabilities include delivering revenue through an agile organizational structure while training, coaching and leading global sales teams.
Paul previously served as Vice President, Sales Operations at Atlas Oil Company; Director, Training Delivery & Implementation, Americas, at the InterContinental Hotels Group; (IHG) and Director of Client Services, Europe, Middle East, Africa (based in England) for Newmarket International.