Leader in sales management and coaching, Michelle Vazzana, breaks the sales training process down into manageable components, so you can make sales coaching a realistic, meaningful part of your staff’s job. It all comes down to three critical points that the vast majority of sales managers today are missing.
We know from our research that effective sales coaching involves three critical steps.
- The first step is to create clarity and tasks for your salespeople by making the link between sales results, sales objectives (or KPIs) and sales activities.
- The second important step is to ensure that you structure your coaching efforts toward execution of those activities that are most critical to seller success.
- Finally, as a manager, you must be diligent about applying the right level of formality to your coaching efforts, preferably the minimum amount that will get the job done. This simple, yet effective approach to coaching separates high-performing sales managers from the rest of the pack.
Although our research suggests that these three steps are a comprehensive recipe for success, we also know that many managers struggle to implement these steps. Why? Because they miss the detail necessary to execute, while avoiding typical yet thorny pitfalls. There are small nuances that have outsized impacts on coaching effectiveness and we share them in this blog. The balance of this blog includes specific types of activities and the nuances of coaching to each type to drive maximum impact.
Four Sets of Activities Requires Four Different Types of Coaching
We will begin our discussion of activities by starting with the least complex and move to the most complex. We examine call management (C), opportunity management (O), account management (A), and finally territory management (T). Think of these four types of activities as being related, yet distinct. The acronym COAT can help you remember these activities more readily.
Call Management involves the planning, conducting, and capturing of individual sales interactions. Call management is necessary when each sales call is somewhat unique and has a significant impact on the outcome of the sale. High-performing managers are more likely to proactively request call planning sessions with their salespeople, plan calls that they don’t attend, and attend calls that are at the early stages of the sales cycle as compared to their lower-performing peers. Another interesting twist of high-performing managers is that they are more realistic about their expectations for formal call planning. Top-performing managers only require formal call plans for a subset of sales calls rather than all sales calls – which is a common practice of low-performing managers.
Opportunity Management involves the navigation of multi-stage deals that are relatively complex, often have multiple decision-makers, and require a series of interactions to pursue and close. Although all levels of sales managers tend to formally schedule opportunity coaching sessions, high-performers are significantly more likely to conduct sessions as planned rather than rescheduling or cancelling these important discussions. In addition, high-performers are much more likely to orient their coaching toward the early stages of the sales cycle when compared with lower-performers. High-performers are also significantly more likely to use opportunity coaching time to dig into detailed call planning for key opportunities.
Account Management involves a set of seller activities that help sellers obtain, retain, and grow large accounts. Account management involves in-depth strategic account planning, as well as tactical plans to execute account strategies. High-performing managers of account managers are more likely to require formal account plans and action plans for all accounts compared with lower performers. Top-performers also orient their scheduled account planning towards more strategic topics compared with their less-successful peers. In addition, managers who do not formally schedule account planning sessions are three times more likely than their more formal counterparts to spend coaching time discussing account service issues.
Territory Management is a set of seller activities that ensure maximum return on effort. It is the most efficiency-driven set of activities sellers can perform. Sellers who get this right work smart, not just hard. Managers who do effective territory coaching enjoy a higher percentage of their salespeople at quota. What are they doing differently than their lower-performing peers?
The most significant difference between top-performing managers and the rest of the pack was that high-performing sales managers were significantly more likely to have an account segmentation strategy in place. Segmentation is the groundwork that ensures sellers know where to apply their effort for maximum impact. The high-performing managers with segmentation strategies in place were also three times more likely than low-performers to use scheduled coaching time to discuss targeted messaging. So, in a nutshell – high-performing managers ensure their salespeople are focused on the right accounts with the right message.
Although this blog has just scratched the surface of call, opportunity, account, and territory coaching, we hope that we’ve offered some new and interesting insights you can put into practice immediately. When managers implement these three practices, they get 30% more of their salespeople to quota and generate on average $3.5 million more revenue per year as compared to managers that have an ad-hoc approach to coaching. Now this is advice you can literally take to the bank.
Michelle Vazzana is CEO and a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance, a leading sales training and development firm. She is co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuring and Managing Sales Performance. Vazzana is also author of Crushing Quota: Proven Sales Coaching Tactics for Breakthrough Performance.