The ICF International Coaching Federation defines coaching as:
partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.
By that definition, the thought of ‘coaching’ seems very fluffy and certainly gives the impression that is a long-term endeavor. However, if we look at coaching a little differently, it can hit both the short-term and long-term needs of the manager, sales rep, and the company overall. No one has to sacrifice this quarter’s number and especially the pipeline creation that fuels future growth.
Let’s look at coaching and personnel development through the lens of a sports coach. A sports coach sets the tone of an organization or team in terms of preparation, accountability, and continuous learning. A sports coach is maniacal about reviewing film to make adjustments to how his/her players practice the following week. They think about what each individual needs to work on at a fundamental level and then how the team needs to operate as a collective. The focus and attention on improving those fundamental skills week over week, helps the player with his or her short-term performance in terms of the next game and most importantly the behavioral changes that will have long-term, sustainable impact.
For example, a front line manager who is prone to only deal coaching often finds themselves having a discussion about a singular key piece of information missing from a deal forecasted to close. In this scenario, let’s say a rep has yet to uncover or speak with the ultimate decision maker – or the manager uncovers that there are contractual issues that have not been raised proactively by the rep. A good manager in this case will coach the rep on how to acquire or obtain that information in order to make that deal more winnable, but they will also recognize this gap in skill or behavior that led to that late-stage deal risk in the first place. They will then set up time to coach them on the fundamentals.
The front-line manager who excels at coaching is teaching, not telling. When the manager addresses the root cause of why the rep is not acquiring or obtaining this key piece of deal qualification in the first place (which has likely occurred on other opps in the pipeline), and truly coaches them on how to improve, the impact on productivity is immediate. Existing pipeline opps get tighter (or some get DQ’d) and the new ones added to the pipe will have much higher win rates and velocity. By focusing upstream, the rep can build new muscle (and new muscle memory) around this key part of their job so they don’t find themselves having to deal with the same issues over and over again. Coaching drives results and drives scale.
In his Podcast number 27, Brent Adamson (author of the Challenger Sale) said his research showed that coaching helps us retain our A players, and significantly boost productivity of our B players. It can also help you quickly determine if your C players can be moved ‘up or out’. That is where the impact is most immediate. It doesn’t take that long. If you are coaching week in and week out, results start to materialize quickly. Look at this quick math.
The real payoff from good coaching lies among the middle 60% — your core performers. For this group, the best-quality coaching can improve performance up to 19%.* In fact, even moderate improvement in coaching quality — simply from below to above average — can mean a six to eight percent increase in performance across 50% of your sales force. Often as not, that makes the difference between hitting or missing goals.
*Defined performance as a rep’s gap to goal (i.e. percentage of quota attainment)
By Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, author of “The Dirty Secret of Effective Sales Coaching” in the Harvard Business Review
Figure out how to instill a culture of coaching and improvement. Lead with vulnerability and certainly by example. The impact will be evident in your next game and in the season’s final win/loss record, for sure.