A Tale of Two Coaches

Marc Miller Sales Training 2 Comments

This is the story of two sales managers who want to improve the selling effectiveness of their teams – but go at it in two VERY DIFFERENT WAYS.

You be the judge which drives the best results.

Our first sales manager, who runs the east region, flies to Boston for two days of diligent, vigorous four-legged coaching calls.  Our second Manager, who oversees the Midwest region, is attempting to coach as well – but from a remote lake cottage in Wisconsin.

Whom do you think impacts selling effectiveness the most?

The one in Boston predictably incurs cancelled calls, poor opportunities, and occasionally gives in to the need to sell (spoiling any potential teaching moment).  To be fair, our Boston road gladiator is working admirably hard, but possesses no magic crystal ball to indicate the most promising coaching calls in advance.

Net result for the Bostonian – 10 sales calls scheduled, but only a single coachable event.  Good seafood aside, most would consider this trip unproductive – a lot of hard work and expense for small, incremental gain.

Our sales manager at the lake cottage coaches a bit differently.   Over the same two days, this manager of a Midwest field team had 10 highly effective coaching sessions – not one.   How could that be?  Our lakefront warrior coaches virtually.  She listens to critical moments from real-time field sales calls uploaded every day from the field.  These calls are often broken down like game film, directing her to the most critical, coachable moments. With synthesized data to review, her performance feedback is delivered crisply, firmly, and efficiently.

Does our coach-on-the-lake have a crystal ball to know the good calls from the bad ones?  Not really, but she does have a filter that sorts field calls by pre-determined criteria.  And, since she coaches after the fact, and only on good coaching opportunities, she doesn’t have to waste her valuable time on sales conversations that have little teaching value.   Remember, she doesn’t hope for good teaching opportunities, she waits on them to present themselves – new ones arriving every day.

FYI – our cottage coach gave feedback to 80% of her team in two days – the Bostonian 20%.    How?  The math is simple.  For the latter, twenty hours with two salespeople nets only one teachable event.  Conversely, it takes our virtual coach about 45 minutes to review and deliver coaching insight – whether rookies or average producers.   With all ten coaching events pre-filtered to insure good coachable data, it’s no contest – literally 10x the coaching in less than half the time.

Hold on.   Won’t the East-region field sellers change behavior more quickly due to the high touch, personal contact?  Sadly, as soon as that sales manager got back on the plane, the sellers reverted back to the old ways of selling – out of sight out of mind.  And, the team knows he won’t be back for another lobster dinner for at least 4 months.

Bad habits may die hard, but in the East region, they don’t die at all.

That won’t happen in the Midwest due to two factors – accountability & transparency.   Remember – more calls coming in each day.  That means our forward-thinking sales manager can soon visit a new set of field calls to ensure mistakes have been corrected, new skills perfected, and contemporary messaging executed flawlessly.

As for travel expense, the Boston Trip cost about $2,500.00.  What were the T & E costs for our virtual sales coach?   You know the answer to that one – zero expense!

Was our Sales Coach on the lake using magical technology to rapidly improve rookie ramp and core seller effectiveness?  Not really, but, then again, good solutions are indistinguishable from magic.  A look behind the curtains exposes the mystery – Midwest field salespeople using tablets to capture meaningful interactions that are instantly routed to a centralized library of sales conversations.  A sales coaching process is layered around the platform, and “presto” – more productive salespeople!

The most important job of a Sales Manager is to improve team selling effectiveness.  With selling effectiveness as the #1 driver of revenue growth, Sales Manager involvement is increasingly critical to selling effectiveness.  By removing planes, trains, and automobiles from the equation, sales managers can now do 10x the field coaching – and everyone the better for it.

There is one drawback – fewer seafood dinners on the company tab.  Then again, most Sales Managers prefer home-cooking.

 

 

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Comments 2

  1. Jessica Bledsoe

    Very interesting ideas here.

    It seems to be a rule in sales that in-person always trumps virtual. That has carried over to sales coaching as well — it’s heresy to say otherwise. But I think you made a compelling argument here, specifically in scalability and efficiency.

    95% of my company works from home, including the sales force. About 90% of our selling is done virtually as well. It has moments of weakness, specifically when collaborating with large groups, but we’ve seen plenty of benefits with a virtual set up as well.

    It’ll be interesting to hear what sales leadership says about this post.

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