It’s Monday, Roberta is having a productive day engaging her clients in discussions and scheduling appointments for the week. She takes a break from her desk to grab a quick bite to eat between calls when suddenly she realizes it is already Monday afternoon which means she has her weekly ‘one-on-one’ or the “60 minutes ’til freedom” call as she affectionately calls it. During the call, Roberta’s manager asks a serious of rapid-fire questions about the key opportunities she is working on and when she expects to gain the business from the account. Each week, they review the same accounts; the manager asking the same rhetorical questions (i.e. how confident are you this is going to close this quarter?). Roberta courteously provides updates based on meetings and customer actions, which have been entered into the customer relationship manager (CRM) platform. After reviewing each account and opportunity, the call ends with an “Okay, let’s talk next week to see how far you’ve moved these along’, and a long exhausting sigh from Roberta!
Sadly, Roberta’s Monday afternoon or ‘60 minutes ’til freedom’ may sound all too familiar to many of us. We shudder to reflect on those times when we (yes, I have been there too) were required to spend valuable time on invaluable ‘check the box’ activities as a Manager or engaged with a boss who was completely out of his/her element in respect to effective management. Somewhere along the way, we developed a false sense of entitlement to crowd our teams’ calendar with weekly meetings to obtain account updates (code for CRM Stalking) from each member of the team regardless of the availability of information in the organization’s CRM platform or periodic updates. Sadly, this approach is a missed opportunity to create value by challenging our team’s strategies and/or perceptions of an account, key stakeholders and the likelihood of successful outcomes.
Today’s sales professionals seek a collaborative coaching environment designed to accelerate sales, revenue generation and ultimately their own performance. While working with clients and candidates I like to gain their insight on this question; Coaching is a critical component of success, so how could your one-on-one meetings with your manager’s be more effective? The answers are not locked inside a riddle or some secret vault; rather they are candid reminders of effective ways to engage develop and coach sales strategies to increase business outcomes.
Effective ways to engage, develop, and coach sales strategies
- Focus on the Individual – Don’t paint the entire team with the same broad brush. Managers often recognize the individual needs of their team members, yet when it comes to performance management it’s easy to revert to a standard approach to managing. The ‘right brush approach’ is not about creating inequitable opportunities or favoritism among the team (we will cover that shortly). As leaders, it’s our role to identify the strengths and weaknesses (oh yes, I said the ‘w’ word) of each team member and coaches them accordingly. Roberta has demonstrated an ability to have strong revenue months each quarter. A wise manager would tap into this potential and collaborate with Roberta to find similar opportunities or allocated new opportunities aligned with Roberta’s strengths.
- Build equity– To retain talent, it is critical to establish equity of time, resources, opportunity and mindshare within your team. Reality is talented people leave organizations last, but poor managers first. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to understand the developmental goals for your team members. To take this a step further, effective managers collaborate with their team members to build and implement a development plan. When you consider the cumulative costs of replacing an employee from interview to onboard, the costs are staggering. It is estimated the average cost to replace a mid-level employee is approximately 150% of their annual salary. Let’s translate this statistic – Mid-Level Employee salary – $80,000 / yr x 150% = $120,000. This nearly equates to 2 years’ annual salary. We all know that budgets are tight and backfills require multiple levels of justification/approval. Which is more equitable, retention or replacement?
- Bring it – If you are going to consume more than a vacation’s worth of time (50 hours annually) find a way to bring value to the calls, not redundant questions week after week. There are a variety of coaching models available today, however, the most effective coaching models focus on developing coaching skills which challenge your team’s thought process and strategy for client engagements. It’s no longer sufficient to simply ask a series of questions in rapid-fire succession, hoping to gain information that only benefits the person asking the questions. The content and context of the questions should be composed to encourage rich dialogue about the specific strategies, which can be executed to achieve the desired outcome.
A year later, it was not a surprise to learn Roberta decided to move on from the organization after observing no foreseeable change in her manager’s ability to effectively coach. I asked, “what led to the decision to explore other career options considering your success?” Roberta’s answer was simple, yet profound, “I realized I had become a task with a name. I was tired of donating my time to an inefficient process that served as a distraction rather than a benefit.”
I couldn’t resist the urge to ask Roberta about her new employer’s coaching philosophy and the impact it was having on her performance. She was happy to share. Her new manager monitors her funnel, partners to build and vet her strategies for qualified opportunities which have led to Roberta producing the strongest revenue quarter in four years. Their partnership is creating value for the clients, the organization and Roberta.
Is your team selling with strategic intent? Is your coaching style enabling or disabling their ability to do so? When your name shows on the caller ID do your colleagues think, ’60 minutes ’til freedom’ or ’60 minutes of strategy’?