Most sales managers get to spend 50% or less of their time in the field with reps. But researchers have concluded that time spent managing the sales team has the most impact on sales. You may not be able to get into the field more often, but you can get more out of the time you have by viewing every interaction with your reps as a coaching opportunity and managing those opportunities as customized coaching plans.
Effective coaching leads to new behaviors.
Many managers already dispense advice whenever possible. And that’s a good start. But that approach doesn’t cause people to change behavior. And if you want sales reps to improve, you need to help them develop good habits over time. Ideally, whenever you spend time with a salesperson in the field, he or she gets better at the job as a result.
Make everyday interactions part of a personalized development plan.
That means that you need to find learning opportunities that let you coach each rep in the skills each one needs most and help them turn deliberate effort into natural ability.
Here’s an example:
You have a team member who needs to improve her listening skills and there’s a customer meeting on her calendar this week. You can use this meeting to work on her listening ability.
- Meet with her beforehand to discuss specific steps she’ll take to practice listening in the meeting.
- Attend the meeting, either in person or on the phone, and pay attention to how well she does.
- Afterwards, review her accomplishments and areas for improvement.
- Find the next opportunity she can use to keep practicing.
- Hold her accountable by continuing to coach on this skill until good listening becomes second nature for her.
In essence, you create a personalized learning plan for each rep and use any time you have together to practice and coach.
[Learn why learning by doing works so well.]
You can work on any number of skills this way:
- Active listening
- Good questioning
- Rapport building
- Trust building
- Phone communication
- Clear, concise presentations
- Webinar management
- Proposal writing
- Follow up
Your leadership is providing focus and accountability.
This approach instills constant learning and improvement into the sales team, but as a manager, you have to lead the way. You need to track what every rep needs to work on make sure you take advantage of those opportunities. If you forget to coach important skills over time, your reps will forget to practice them.
Make the most of your team’s interactions with others, too.
And don’t overlook how much the team can learn from daily interactions with others. You can direct reps to improve their knowledge with the help of other people in the company.
- Product reps can learn about enterprise customers from the account managers.
- Account managers can learn how to identify new sales opportunities from the product reps.
- Sale people can learn how to leverage current marketing campaigns and content marketing efforts from the marketing team.
- Field sales can learn about product updates from the sales engineers.
And don’t forget that your team can learn a great deal from their customers. They can improve how they move customers through the buying cycle and uncover ways to provide a better buying experience.
If you can’t get more time in the field, do more with the time you have.
It may seem obvious that all these learning opportunities are out there, but it’s very easy to miss the learning forest for the trees. As a manager, you have to keep all sales reps focused on what they need to do to improve. You have to know their schedules and make them accountable for learning goals as well as for sales goals.
However, if you can harness the myriad everyday training moments, you’ll have a team dedicated to the habit of constant improvement – learned, applied and adopted in the field – where it makes a difference.
Are you interested in a tool that can help you turn everyday interactions into a personalized learning plan? Learn more here.