One of the many roles a sales manager has is coaching their sales reps. This is an ongoing effort that can be easy or challenging or downright impossible depending on where the rep is at any given moment. And sales managers know that there are very few days when one of their reps doesn’t need a little extra support. Whether a sales rep is experiencing a string of rejections, personal problems, or an unexplained slump, a good manager can help get them through the down times.
Managers are responsible to stations for revenue. They set budgets, give reps their individual goals, and sometimes hope for the best. It’s part art, part science, and part bowing to pressure from above. Great managers clearly communicate what is expected and try to make sure each person has the tools they need to reach these goals.
When something goes sideways for a rep, that is when the coaching comes into play. Reps want to make goals and earn commission and/or bonuses. They want to be winners, not whiners! Unless they are simply behaving badly by not showing up on time, missing deadlines, or not doing reports, all of which are pretty easy to identify and correct, we have to help them find the answers.
At this juncture, it’s important to get on the same side of the desk as the rep. Let them know you want to support their success. The resulting conversation may be a combination of diagnostics, brain trust, and a little tough love. Coaching is more about listening than talking. What’s going well? What’s holding you back and how can we fix it? How can I help?
Often, reps need to return to the basics, whether they are experienced or new to the job. It’s easy for senior reps to get a little lazy after a few years. They’ve built good relationships with their clients; business is stable for the most part and life becomes pretty predictable. This is when a rep may not realize that their client is making a change and not telling them. Suddenly the client cancels for no reason, or so it seems.
For newer reps, they may have hit a plateau, or need reassurance that they are engaging in the right activity, even though sales seem to be lagging. Minor tweaks can help. Or, at times, a kick in the butt!
Back to basics time! Here are a few places to dig:
1. Conduct a needs analysis.
Did the rep do a needs analysis this year when the client renewed? What did they learn (or fail to learn)? It may help to go through a needs analysis on your rep to see how well they know their clients and their clients’ goals.
2. Make sure they’re planning in advance.
What is their specific plan for each client? Might a little brainstorming help? What have others in that business category done to be successful? When are they up for renewal and when does the rep plan on presenting the next offer? I used to work for a commercial station where the GM would renegotiate the rights for the local NFL and MLB franchises more than a year in advance. That way nobody else stood a chance of stealing them away. Reps should always be thinking about what they can present to their clients that is better than last year. And they should start thinking about it at least six months before renewal.
3. Explore options for time management.
Dig into time management issues. Does the rep have a plan for each week and what does that look like? Do they have time set aside each week for new business development or does it all happen Friday afternoon in a rush? Would they like to have activity goals to help them keep track of progress? Ask for permission to hold them accountable. This makes it feel much more like helping than scolding.
4. Spend time with them in the field.
Be sure to go on calls with reps regularly. It can help them secure appointments since they will have “The Boss” with them. Make a plan for the calls: Who will lead the meeting, what will be discussed, etc. This is an important opportunity for you to work together with the rep and may yield better results than if they went alone. If one person is talking the other can be listening and will be far more attuned to the body language of the client. At the very least you’ll see for yourself what the rep is doing in front of clients.
Salespeople are a weird and wonderful breed. They face rejection daily and keep coming back for more. It’s up to their managers to support them through the tough times. What’s your coaching strategy? Share it with me and others in the comments below!