We all know that coaching salespeople is a critical part of a sales manager’s job, but just how much coaching is necessary to make an effective impact? How many hours should a sales manager spend on coaching salespeople? Who benefits most from coaching – top performers, core performers, or under achievers? And, what constitutes great sales coaching – how does a sales manager best implement it?
These were my questions as I set out to research definitive answers. It turns out there are several studies that have been done on these exact questions. So, here are the answers…
How many hours should a sales manager spend coaching? About 5 hours per month, per salesperson. Therefore, if you have 10 salespeople you should be spending 12-13 hours a week on individual coaching or roughly 1/3 of your time. The Sales Executive Council’s research study showed that salespeople who received more than 3 hours of coaching each month performed at 107% of goal, with 5 hours per month, per salesperson as the optimum amount.
A study reported in the London Business School’s Business Strategy Review found some startling results as well. A sales manager of a large insurance company freed up 2 hours a day to dedicate to coaching her salespeople. In the course of just 3 weeks, sales were up 5%! The article points out that this required her to pass off some admin work to others and decrease her attendance at internal meetings, which brings us to our next question.
Given that coaching salespeople is the number one thing a manager can do to increase revenue, what is keeping them from doing it? The answer is mainly two things – too many other time draining tasks (being bogged down by administrative work i.e., paperwork, reports, emails, phone calls, internal meetings, etc. that have no direct impact on revenue growth), and lack of training. This is backed up by what the research says is the problem as well as what sales managers themselves say they need.
Most sales managers spend almost half their time on administrative tasks and selling (results of a study by the Sales Management Association). In contrast, top performing sales managers spend almost half their time on coaching and motivating sales people, according to Objective Management Group research. Additionally, only about 15% of all sales managers even spend as much as 25% of their time on coaching, even though salespeople that are coached daily outperform other salespeople by 30%!
The other issue that prevents coaching is a lack of training for sales managers. Many sales managers are promoted because they were of course, top performing salespeople. However, they often receive little training in how to effectively coaching others. Only 7% of sales managers were found to be effective at coaching without training in Objective Management Group research. Sales managers themselves seem to know this because increased training was cited as a top item that they feel would make them more productive, along with better time management, increased admin support, and less paperwork (Pace Productivity Inc. research).
Who benefits the most from sales coaching? The answer may surprise you. The Sales Executive Council research study found that great coaching from a sales manager does not improve the performance of all salespeople equally. In fact, great coaching impacts the middle or “core” salespeople the most. Core salespeople who receive ineffective coaching average 83% of goal attainment. However, when they receive great coaching, that jumps to an average of 102% of goal. Coaching had very little impact on under performers. While the research didn’t show coaching to have a large impact on increasing goal attainment with star (top) performers, it did have a significant impact on RETAINING those star performers. Top performers were 50% more likely to stay if they received good coaching. In essence, the study found that you coach your core performers for increased productivity and the top performers to keep them happy.
What is great sales coaching and how do you implement it? It’s important to remember that coaching and training are not the same thing. Training is more about teaching and acquiring new skills. Coaching is more focused on how those skills are applied, the “doing.” I think this graphic outlines the essential elements of sales coaching.
The Sales Executive Council research found that what separated top performing sales managers from others was not just about who and what they coached, but HOW they coached as well, starting with the commitment to 5 hours a month per salesperson. The research identified ten “hallmarks” of outstanding sales coaches as outlined in this graphic.
Where do you go from here? My suggestion would be to first get a true handle on where you are spending your time. You can track your time with a planner or there are online resources too. An easy, and free way to do this is at www.MyHours.com. Track yourself for two weeks and then look at the resulting data. You will probably be surprised at what you find out!
- Why Your Salespeople Quit
- Tips For Coaching Your Salespeople
- 10 Things You Should Know About Gen Y Salespeople And 4 Of Their Most Common Mistakes
- 10 Phrases Your Salespeople Want To Hear
- The Number 1 Thing Your Employees Want More Of… (No, It’s Not Money)
Sales Managers Time Priorities Infographic: