Recently we had the pleasure of the Managing Partner at CSO Insights, the leading international sales research company, speaking at one of our forums. He was reviewing their most recent research and one of the key findings was that those sales organisations that had a coaching culture were seriously out performing those that did not.
About twenty years ago ‘Manager as a Coach’ was the fashion in terms of management training. The advance of CRM systems has, to some degree however, marginalised the role of the sales manager. The essential one on one sales manager / salesperson dialogue has been usurped by automated reports and probability factors based on spurious criteria. That is a great shame.
Educate yourself and understand the context of coaching
One of the needs recognised by Abraham Maslow is self-actualisation so presumably we are all keen to learn, develop and move on. Yet how many of us either shy away from feedback or fail to learn from our mistakes. Surely we should all be open to having others help us realise what we need to do to improve.
Abraham Maslow was a clever bloke. Along with his hierarchy of needs he also proposed that we have four stages of learning;
- Unconscious incompetence
- Conscious incompetence
- Conscious competence
- Unconscious competence
The next stage is back to the first – as performance drifts because of a lack of focus.
Recognise the value of effective coaching in practice
A boss of mine once said that you should only hold any job for three years. The first year you are learning, the second year performing and the third year it is time to move on. A little crude but it is a field general’s observation based on years of experience tallying nicely with Maslow’s well researched academic theory.
If we want to improve ourselves and there are critical phases where we need to be awakened from our unconscious state, then surely coaching is the most effective means by which to develop our abilities. The old sport analogy; “which high performance athlete can perform without a coach”.
Know what good looks like
How can you know what to aim for if you are working in a vacuum? Your business should have a template of what works for your business to win sales. An opportunity management process, an account management process or a territory management process that it knows gives you the best chance of success. This, in theory, well-documented and well-trodden path should be the benchmark by which you and others can test your progress and advise on what to do next. Without this everything is subjective.
Hire yourself a good coach
If your business has got it right, it is developing managers as coaches. The last thing you need is to be reviewed by an interrogation committee. You will be defensive and they will learn little. Reviews should be empathetic and take account of the simple rules of engagement such as “this is what you do well, this is what you need to improve and this is what you will achieve if you do”.
Refresh things every now and then
There are times when the same old routine just tends to tire. Most athletes need a change of scenery now and then, so why not get different opinions. Peer groups and even customers are a fantastic source of advice and guidance but make sure you are still focussed on the principles of ‘what good looks like’ so that you don’t fall in to the trap of subjectivity.