The Sales Executive Council’s five years worth of data proves that coaching is a trademark that differentiates a star manager from an average one. Coaching can improve sales performance by as much as 19%. Coaching drives salespeople to work harder and increases their intent to stay. Yet, coaching continues to be one of the areas where managers consistently under perform.
According to the Sales Executive Council’s most recent data, 66% of salespeople indicate that their manager does worse at coaching than other manager behaviours e.g., planning, assessing risks, championing new initiatives, etc.. Additionally, an alarming 47% of salespeople report receiving under the magic 3-5 hours of coaching per month and 6% of salespeople report receiving no coaching at all.
Should the manager spend more time actually coaching? An argument can be made that managers are good at coaching to known skills gaps but are less attuned to spot and correct the unknown skill gaps. Or, that managers’ position of authority and focus on delivering the number can trump their dedication to continuous teaching and their unselfish passion for facilitating high performance for others.
An answer could be to “outsource” some coaching responsibilities to a dedicated group of specialist coaches who are more passionate and, sometimes, better equipped to deliver high-quality feedback. After all, why do we assume that direct managers are always best positioned to coach?
Outsourcing coaching or, at least, part of it, is not that uncommon. SEC has found that organisations typically use one of the following approaches:
1) Train-the-Trainer Approach – Specialist coaches provide behind-the-scenes coaching to managers, while direct managers are responsible for delivering coaching to reps and overseeing salesperson development and performance. This is the least intrusive approach that does not encroach on managers’ authority and is used to support managers as they build their coaching muscles.
2) Division of Labor Approach – This is a joint process where specialist coaches often focus on rep development/career coaching while managers are responsible for sales skill coaching. This approach can generate some risks by creating opportunities to deflect the blame for underperformance. To mitigate these risks, managers should still be held accountable for the coaching “environment” (e.g., measures/volumes/quality of coaching) to ensure consistency and collaboration between the two coaching parties.
3) Intervention-Based Approach – This approach fosters co-ownership for skill coaching between the manager and a specialist coach and is often used to reinforce a particular skill or bolster managers’ coaching capabilities. While often used for short-term interventions, this approach can undermine manager credibility in sales persons eyes and, as such, can be somewhat demoralising for managers. It is essential to define clear expectations for the roles upfront to ensure that managers and specialists are clear on the intent and how to best work together.