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In the article Investing Wisely in Coaching we discussed which performers on our teams Sales Managers should focus their coaching skills on and how much time we spend coaching them.  Understanding who we coach is certainly the first step, but that’s just the beginning.  Determining what we coach and when is just as integral in garnering the most from your coaching time investment.

How much time do your sales reps dedicate to planning for the sale? A recent study by the Sales Executive Council found that most reps spend the majority of their time in the Sales Activities Phase of the process, meaning that most of our sales reps time is spent interfacing with their customers.  This makes sense as we hire sales reps that have the great personality and people skills to interface with our customers. The same study showed that a limited amount of time is spent planning for the customer interaction. What can be gained if we focus our coaching skills, efforts, and ultimately our reps time more to planning for the sale or the Pre-Sales Activities Phase?  

A study by American Express showed that by shifting their reps from 31% to 37%  time spent in Pre-Sales Activities, they were able to increase their productivity metric by 71%.  How would you like to see a 71% increase in results?  This is a great example of why the most effective Sales Managers should spend their coaching time focusing on behaviors in the Pre-Sales Activities.  No sales rep will automatically want to spend a significant amount of time planning and preparing for a sales call as it's not typically in their nature. As Sales Managers, your time spent coaching your sales reps in Pre-Sales Activities is imperative to shift their behavior and focus to planning for the sales call. 

What does planning and preparation look like?  What should Sales Managers train the reps to focus on?  The behaviors the Sales Manager will coach the sales rep to focus on in the Pre-Sales Activities Phase are things such as Lead Generation, Competitor Analysis, Customer Needs Analysis and tailoring your company Value Proposition to align with the needs of the customer.  This will help focus the sales rep when they are interfacing with the customer as they will be more prepared to overcome objections and in the end to close the sale.

After your coaching, the effective Sales Manager will also spend time with the rep on the sales call or during the Sales Activity Phase.  This time should be focused on observation, not selling, so the sales manager can focus their coaching skills on providing feedback on the implementation of the plan.  Because most sales managers were the Star sales rep, they will have to force themselves not to take over the sales call as doing so will lessen their ability to understand their reps strengths and opportunities when it comes to executing on their Sales Plan.  By staying focused on observation, you will be better able to provide specific behavioral feedback to the sales rep on where they can improve.

By shifting your time in coaching to the Pre-Sales Activities you will be leading by example and will begin to see a behavior change in your reps as well. This will allow for better execution of the sale as your reps have walked in better prepared and with the knowledge they'll need to overcome objections and to gain competitive advantage.