This is the fourth in our six-part series on using social learning and mobile technology to improve sales force productivity.
Millennials value coaching and mentoring above all other developmental opportunities.
But too often coaching – real coaching – doesn’t happen in a sales organization.
Effective coaching centers on helping reps focus on things that matter and that can be managed, influenced and measured directly. But sales is a numbers-driven game and many managers focus on sales objectives and quota. Yet sales objectives such as revenue – while important– cannot be measured directly; they are the results of decisions made by buyers and can only be influenced indirectly. What can be managed directly are the sales activities and behaviors that lead to achieving these sales objectives. From an individual rep productivity standpoint, these include:
Sales managers face several other obstacles in providing effective coaching. When we talk to VPs and Directors about why their sales managers don’t coach, they say three “reasons” often come up:
Let’s dig a little deeper:
No time to coach: This is the #1 reason managers give for not coaching their people as much they should. There’s no question that managers today are buried by incoming texts and emails, virtual and face-to-face meetings, management and stakeholder reports, compliance and regulatory concerns, customer problems – and sometimes the expectation that they are available 24/7 to solve them.
No coaching skills: Why aren’t managers making the time to coach? Many may not know how to. Sales managers are often promoted up out of the ranks, but individual sales professionals aren’t required to coach. As new managers, they need to learn how. Fortunately, coaching is a learned skill. Once leadership trains managers, gives them the tools and holds them accountable for coaching, most managers will develop into effective coaches. And leaders often tell us that managers, with practice, often find they are more skilled at coaching than they originally thought.
No structure: Even given the time and willingness to coach, many managers say they don’t have the structure or context to think from when it comes to developing their people. Managers need to stop confusing weekly or monthly check-in meeting regarding the numbers, on-going projects and customer activities with coaching. It’s not. But sales leaders tell us that managers don’t “get it”; they insist they are coaching when in reality they are just managing the day-to-day activities of the business.
In our experience, there are two other factors that contribute to why managers don’t coach:
No accountability: Many leaders mention that there are no real metrics to determine if coaching is really happening, and if it is, how effective the coaching is. Just asking reps about their manager’s coaching skills often backfires. The rep tends to over-report the amount and effectiveness of coaching – either out of fear of retaliation by the manager or the fear that they manager actually will start coaching and the rep has neither the time nor desire to be coached!
No way to scale: Teams today are increasing virtual, geographically distributed, and organized around projects or customers rather than functional areas. Travel is expensive and time consuming. Some technical solutions for collaboration and communication are available, but most are not designed specifically for coaching and skill development.
Is there a solution to helping managers coach more often and coach more effectively?
There is and it’s called microcoaching.
Microcoaching are coaching sessions conducted in very small periods throughout the day, week or month. These brief bits of coaching increase the number of “touches” between the coach and the trainee. And that is the secret to its effectiveness.
The way SkillFitness works is by having learners view a short, bite-sized video of the concept or skill they want to master on their smart phone or tablet; use the built-in camera on their mobile device to practice and capture a video “selfie” of themselves demonstrating what they’ve learned; and then submit their best attempt to their manager for feedback and coaching.
How does SkillFitness help address the issues around managers not coaching?
Time. SkillFitness turns the rep and managers mobile devices into a powerful anytime, anywhere coaching platform. Managers tell us that using SkillFitness allows them and their teams to squeeze learning and coaching into spare moments in their busy schedules.
Coaching skills: SkillFitness breaks skill and performance development into small, bite-sized chunks that make sense to both the coach and trainee. The coach only needs to provide feedback on that specific skill, making the process of coaching much less overwhelming and much more focused.
Structure: SkillFitness is designed around adult learning techniques that are focused on the proven way adults best learn, incorporate coaching and feedback, and produce outcomes and results.
Accountability: Built-in dashboards track trainee, manager and team engagement, mastery and effectiveness. You’ll know who is coaching and how good they are at it.
Microcoaching works to encourage more coaching and better coaching. For teams using SkillFitness, it’s not unusual to see coaching sessions increase from once a month or a couple times a year, to daily or even several times a day. And managers report that the multiple, easily executed coaching sessions improve their coaching skills.
The results are worth the effort; Research by the Miller Heiman Group shows that coaching – especially a structured coaching program – can have a dramatic effect on achieving forecast.
Win Rate of Forecast Deals
Formal coaching process– 53.6%
Informal coaching process – 45.7%
Discretionary coaching process – 44.7%
If your managers aren’t coaching, try microcoaching. Sometimes a little coaching, delivered the right way, goes a long way.