We held a dinner last night at The Home of Cricket, in the Lord’s Pavilion (great venue by the way with an incredible history) where we invited Barry Trailer, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of global research firm CSO Insights to discuss the results of their 2014 Sales Effectiveness survey amongst a group of senior sales and business leaders. CSO has been doing these now for over ten years, and provide, in our opinion, the best data and insights available regarding the performance of the sales function.
I will not go through the report in detail – it is their livelihood after all, and you can get the full report here if you would like it – but just a ‘heads up’ that that the role of Manager as a Coach sadly seems to be a dying art. It is evident however that where coaching is an integral role of the sales manager, overall sales performance is significantly improved.
Nearly twenty years ago, I went through my training of Manager as a Coach and the lessons I learned have stuck with me and shape much of what I do in terms of dialogue with my reports. Sure there are times when you expect to have difficult performance conversations, but I am always aware that I need to give something back in order to be adding value both to my organisation and to my people.
Later in my business life I was involved in a programme for BT in developing a World Class Sales Management programme and had the opportunity to benchmark world-class organisations. I spent two days with Marks & Spencer (not exactly B2B but an organisation that was (and still is) known for world class management. My main observation was how involved the senior management were in the day-to-day running of the business. Whenever they visited a store it was compulsory for them to tour the shop floor and to advise on retail issues. This meant they had to be experts in the subject matter and able to contribute to operational discussions. Being a decent coach is not just about counselling and facilitation. It is about being expert, keeping current and getting involved.
CSO Insight’s observation might seem straightforward, but the devil is in the detail. Achieving the benefits of a coaching culture requires commitment not only in terms of behaviour but also in terms of process and systems support. An observation we made some while ago was that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems actually marginalise sales management because senior management now relied on the system to provide insight in to the sales pipeline without having their own dialogue with their sales leaders.
Our reason for being is to counter that trend – to add the ‘how to do’ of selling to the ‘what to do’ of CRM and to create a platform for informed discussion and decision making. Our recommendation is that we should all re-commit to building a coaching culture that both supports sales people and drives sales success.
As for the Cricket, let’s just hope that the future England coaching staff and support structures are in place to ensure our players’ future success during the upcoming Tests against India and Sri Lanka.