Sales Coaching Tips: Structure Manager Feedback
Sales managers are charged with training, motivating and coaching sales professionals on a daily basis. Your salespeople look to your front-line managers for professional development and expect to be provided the necessary resources, guidance and knowledge to be successful in their role. Remember, people quit managers before they quit companies. Drive talent engagement and improve retention by enabling your managers to give reps the critical feedback they need to improve current and future outcomes.
Help Your Managers Make an Impact on Talent Retention and Growth
No coach becomes a great coach just by being a great player of their game. Often top-performing salespeople are promoted to manager and given the responsibility of building and coaching an elite sales team. Unfortunately, most of these managers are not given critical training and support for their important roles, which makes their ability to provide value to your reps that much more challenging.
The impact of poor coaching can gnaw away at a company's success over time, as poor performers never gain footing and top sellers are neglected, leaving the company for better work environments. Oftentimes, underdeveloped managers genuinely attempt to coach but instead, find themselves taking over the sales process for a particular account, ruining the sales rep's credibility with the client and providing no skill development in the process. Underdeveloped managers may also attempt to coach but end up focusing too much on what a sales rep did wrong without helping that rep build skills and adopt new strategies. Sound familiar? Enable your managers by helping them improve their feedback skills.
Improve Your Manager’s Ability to Give Great Feedback
Providing effective and actionable feedback can help your managers successfully improve seller capabilities and performances. Encourage your managers to use a SMART feedback model when executing opportunity reviews and coaching sessions. Here are the key components to the model along with actions they can take to execute it in a way that gets results.
A common sales coaching error is to deliver feedback that’s too vague to be of any value to the rep. Feedback should identify expectations and outcomes that are precise and well-defined. Your managers can make a bigger impact on rep success and skillsets when they don’t just give their reps a to-do list after an opportunity review, but instead, use that time to help their reps understand how to execute the most critical activities on that to-do list.
Essentially, managers should focus on providing the how to their reps, not just the what to do to progress deals efficiently. When managers provide "the how" they’re actually teaching their reps repeatable skills that those reps can use to make an impact on current and future deals.
Not only should feedback be specific, but the objectives provided through feedback should be measurable as well. Providing sales reps with key benchmarks when defining specific expectations clarifies how achievements will be measured.
Focus your managers on being straightforward in explaining how they will judge achievement against expectation. Support them in measuring success by providing your managers with a cadence they can use to check in on rep progress and consistently hold reps accountable for executing and hitting critical benchmarks.
Setting unachievable goals wastes the goal-setting process. Your managers should be able to help their reps set achievable goals and next steps when giving feedback. As your managers give feedback, they also need to help their reps identify any obstacles that could hinder their rep’s ability to achieve a certain outcome.
For example, if a manager tells the rep they need to get access to more decision makers to progress their deal correctly, how will your managers help that rep make this goal achievable? Maybe your reps don’t think they can get in front of other stakeholders higher and wider in their customer accounts.
What resources and support can your managers provide to make this situation achievable for their sellers?
Similar to achievable goals, when communicating expectations, sales reps need to feel that all of their objectives are realistically within their capabilities. Otherwise, their motivation will suffer. If a sales rep feels like they’ve left an opportunity coaching session with unrealistic tasks to execute on, they may struggle to progress their deal and make a negative impact on their progress.
For example, if a rep needs to secure a champion in their account, what are realistic steps they can take (based on where they currently are in the opportunity) to land meetings with high-level buyers? Do they have the skills necessary to build and enable that champion to help them with the deal?
These situations are where it’s critical to have managers that are great sales coaches.
Timeliness plays a key role in helping to motivate salespeople and keep them on track. Just like the expectation itself, deadlines need to be feasible and clearly stated. If there will be milestones to reach or progress checks along the way, these should also be spelled out by the manager during the deal review process.
When it comes to deadlines, managers often have a difficult time managing for impact versus compliance. The best sales leaders and managers move away from compliance exercises. Instead, they focus their sales managers on staying connected to their reps on a daily basis. These leaders use this time to coach and support their reps.
Feedback Resources and Strategies for Your Managers
We’ve compiled our top resources on giving effective feedback. Share them with your managers to help them improve their ability to coach repeatable sales skills and support reps in effectively progressing pipeline deals.