How 'sales management rhythm' can enhance sales coaching effectiveness

Sales coaching is a critical tool in the development of sales talent. When businesses get it right through effective meetings, forums and training initiatives, they enjoy the benefits of higher satisfaction and effort, lower flight risk and greater sales performance. But where do leaders turn when sales coaching in their businesses is not working?

Conventional wisdom says improve the coaching capability of managers – better coaches must equal better coaching. However, what if the problem is capacity, not capability? A recent client case study showed that solving fundamental challenges with how managers use their time can be a potent solution for enhancing coaching outcomes.

A top-ten Pharmaceutical Company found the extent and quality of coaching within the business was well below expectations. They had recently shifted to a national operating model to reduce cost. Sales Managers had previously worked under a state-based system with a single team based in a major centre; now they found themselves responsible for much-larger teams with different salespeople based in multiple states.

Under the previous operating model coaching had been less-formalised due to the high day-to-day contact between sales managers and their teams - there had always been time for quick catch-ups and managers had the flexibility to organise ride-alongs with salespeople at short notice. The new  operating model altered how managers interacted with their teams; contact became lower and coaching had to compete with a host of other priorities. Managers sensed a drop in productivity because they had to run similar meetings and deliver the same message multiple times in multiple cities.

The business knew the situation was untenable: if it left coaching as it was, its long-term pipeline of sales talent would be materially lower, which risked its future capability to compete. But how could the business create more coaching time? It wasn’t as simple as getting managers to “coach more” - the commercial necessity had forced the shift to the lower-cost national model, nor could it hire more managers or indulge in expensive professional coaches to lift coaching.

The solution was to think bigger and to look at fixing the coaching problem in the context of how the business was operating and how managers were spending their time. The three main steps the business took to improve it’s sales management rhythm and create more coaching capacity for managers were:

1. Streamline The Key Forums & Initiatives Which Managers Drive
The business had a strong suspicion its sales managers were involved in too many forums and activities to be effective coaches. The business did two things to rectify the problem: it reduced managers’ roles back to their principal function of managing sales, and it undertook an organisation-wide redistribution process where non-core tasks were given to other stakeholders in the business. For example, the leadership of important business-wide change management initiatives were given back to the leadership group to run. Similarly, every manager nominated a salesperson in each state to run the less-important forums in their absence. This dual process had two main benefits: it created a large chunk of time for managers to devote to higher-impact tasks (such as coaching), and it also fostered greater development in the business as it elevated salespeople to leadership roles and gave them a chance to experience sales management.

2. Improve Forum Cohesion & Efficiency
Managers having to run similar meetings with different teams in multiple cities was a major contributor to a drop in productivity. For example, a manager may have had to sit down with the marketing team in one state, fly back to debrief a team in another state, only to return to the first state the week after to do one-to-one coaching with the sales team – a significant burden and waste of managers’ time. Greater cohesion in how forums were planned reduced manager travel time significantly and aligned people across the business into the one operating rhythm.

3. Explicitly Measure & Report Coaching Provision
The business elevated coaching to an organisation-wide priority and for the first time it introduced coaching as a distinct metric in managers’ annual performance reviews. The increased emphasis worked because it raised the behavioural expectation within the business - it was no longer acceptable for managers not to coach – and it incentivised and rewarded managers for being great coaches.

The results of the rejuvenated rhythm were considerable: managers utilised the new capacity to create an extra day per week of ride-along coaching, resulting in a 50% increase in coaching provision. The greater contact also facilitated a better standard of coaching – the majority of reps reported a material uplift in the prevalence of high-impact, personalised coaching.

While the pharmaceutical company’s problem of low coaching is common, the solution was novel because it focused on solving the problem of coaching in the context of how the broader business was operating. This holistic approach had two main benefits: it saved the business from the expensive cost of investing unnecessarily in coaching skill development, and it set the leaner, more-eective business up for longer-term success.

For greater detail on how to achieve this, be sure to check out our whitepaper Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact.

Or understand how Blackdot’s solutions help your sales organisation achieve an immediate uplift in frontline sales capability and performance.

Worded by Chris Horn

Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact
Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact

Understand what Best Practice coaching looks like to accelerate frontline salesperson development and performance.