I have yet to meet a senior executive who doesn’t agree that agility is important in business. At Forrester’s 2011 Sales Enablement Forum, Forrester CEO George Colony shared some of his research with fellow CEOs. He asked a simple question; "Are you satisfied that your sales force is advancing your strategy?" The answer was a resounding "No!" Giving their sales forces an average grade of C- [read the full post here]. George’s research found that CEOs have the following problems with their sales forces:
“Speed.” The sales force is always 12 to 18 months behind strategy.
“Calling too low.” Sales reps aren’t getting to power.
“The sales force can’t tell the story.” The focus is on price and not on the full value and quality of products.
“We have the wrong people.” Not smart enough; not tuned in to the market.
Technology vendors continue to focus on implementing sales coaching programs. I'm finding that sales coaching programs mostly focus on providing sales managers the skills they need to be more "coach-like" with their reps. When you step back and look at what kind of skills sales managers need to be more coaching oriented, you end up with a broad ranging list like objectively assessing reps and where they're at, or clearly defining future rep behaviors, or using technology to help inform sales coaching decisions. Along with this focus on skills, some sales coaching programs focus on defining the critical elements of each sales coaching conversation (like increased relevance, giving developmental feedback, and providing motivation). Yet, despite these efforts, the sales enablement professionals we talk to share their frustration that sales coaching doesn't quite take off with frontline sales managers like they were expecting.
For example, in one technology vendor, sales coaching didn't take off despite sales coaching training, top-down sales leader support, and feedback from reps demanding more coach-like interactions with their managers. In another technology vendor, it seemed massive communications and sales coaching training efforts were a non-starter (and dare I say it, dead on arrival). Why is that? Why are technology vendors seemingly doing the right things, but not getting the traction they expect?
It seems that one critical and often overlooked aspect of helping sales coaches be more successful is the ability to help coaches get started: 1) defining their sales coaching approach, and 2) starting each and every interaction with reps in a valuable and meaningful way, especially when those interactions are around previously identified sales coaching scenarios.