A sales leader can do more than ensure their team sells and makes money for the company with several innovative sales leader tactics. One of their most critical jobs is to be a coach, helping their salespeople become their best. Coaching should account for 50% of a sales leader’s activities.
You might wonder, “Why should a sales leader spend half their time coaching their team?” Spending more time developing sales plans or helping sell to customers might seem better for them. But, spending a significant amount of time coaching can help the team and the whole company in ways that will lead to consistent sales and revenue growth.
Here are essential areas sales leaders should focus on during their time as coaches.
Enhanced Team Performance
A sales leader who spends time coaching their team can significantly improve their performance. Coaching provides individualized feedback and instruction, helping each salesperson identify and overcome weaknesses while enhancing their strengths. Sales skills can continuously be improved, and regular coaching can lead to continuous performance improvement.
Three sales leader tactics on how to improve performance
- Individualized Feedback: When a sales leader takes the time to coach, each team member receives tailored advice. This helps pinpoint areas needing improvement, allowing salespeople to grow and excel in their roles.
- Focus on Strengths: Through coaching, sales leaders address weaknesses and amplify each team member’s strengths. This ensures that their best qualities shine even brighter in their roles.
- Continuous Growth: Sales skills aren’t meant to plateau or become stagnant. With ongoing coaching from the manager, salespeople are equipped with the tools (Personal Development Plans, Weekly Check-Ins, Goals) and knowledge to constantly better their performance. This means the team never stops evolving and reaching new heights.
When employees receive adequate support and coaching, they are more likely to feel valued and stay with the organization. Remember, supporting your sales team goes beyond monetary rewards. It’s about creating an environment where they feel valued, heard, and empowered to grow professionally and personally.
Three sales leader activities proven to increase employee retention
- Invest in Regular Training and Professional Development: Continuous learning opportunities not only sharpen the skills of your salespeople but also show that the organization values their growth. Offer workshops, courses, or even sponsorships for external conferences. This keeps them updated with industry trends and fosters a culture of growth and advancement.
- Provide a Competitive Compensation and Recognition System: Recognize and reward outstanding performance. A competitive compensation package, which includes a base salary, commission, and potential bonuses, is fundamental. Non-monetary recognition such as “Salesperson of the Month” awards, public acknowledgment in team meetings, or other perks can boost morale and motivation. Employees who feel their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated are likelier to stay loyal to the company.
- Foster Open Communication and Feedback Channels: Salespeople, being on the frontlines with customers, often have valuable insights about market dynamics, product feedback, and more. Create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing their experiences and suggestions. Regular one-on-one check-ins, team meetings, or anonymous feedback tools can be instrumental. When salespeople believe their voice is heard and their input can lead to fundamental changes, they feel a stronger connection to the company’s success.
Team Morale and Culture
Regular coaching helps establish a learning and development culture. It communicates to the team that their manager is not just concerned about meeting sales targets but also about the professional growth and development of the team members. This can foster a more engaged, positive, and productive team culture.
Three approaches to ensure the team remains engaged shares a strong bond and feels a part of a shared mission and culture
- Themed Sales Challenges and Retreats: Introduce monthly or quarterly themed sales challenges where team members compete in a friendly manner to meet specific goals. The theme could be based on popular culture, holidays, or even historical events. Winners could be rewarded with themed prizes. On a grander scale, consider annual sales retreats in unique locations or settings that focus on strategy and training and integrate fun activities and bonding experiences.
- Sales Story Sharing Sessions: Dedicate a portion of regular team meetings for members to share their most intriguing or challenging sales stories from the field. This practice allows for learning from real-life scenarios and celebrates the diverse experiences team members face. It’s a way of turning everyday experiences into shared narratives that shape the team’s collective identity.
- Mentorship Circles: Pair seasoned sales professionals with newer team members in mentorship circles. Instead of one-on-one mentorship, these circles would involve small groups, encouraging various perspectives and experiences. Every few months, rotate the groups. This approach ensures knowledge transfer, fosters camaraderie across different experience levels and strengthens the bond among team members.
Fostering Future Leaders
By spending significant time coaching, a sales leader is improving their team’s performance and preparing future leaders. Many skills that are important for leadership, such as strategic thinking, problem-solving, and communication, can be developed through coaching. By creating opportunities for salespeople to explore and exercise leadership in various settings, a sales leader can nurture a culture of continuous leadership development, ensuring that individuals are always ready to step up when leadership opportunities arise.
Three ways a sales leader can cultivate leadership skills among their salespeople
- Rotational Leadership Roles: Introduce a system where salespeople take turns assuming temporary leadership roles, such as “team leads for the week” or “project captain.” This allows them to experience the challenges and responsibilities of leadership in a controlled environment. They can organize meetings, spearhead special projects, or mentor a colleague during this period. This rotational approach gives everyone a taste of leadership, helping them understand its demands and hone their skills for potential future roles.
- Cross-Functional Collaborations: Encourage salespeople to collaborate on projects with members from other departments, such as marketing, product development, or customer service. Leading cross-functional initiatives exposes them to different perspectives, teaches them to communicate across diverse teams, and develops a holistic understanding of the business. This broader insight is essential for any effective leader.
- Leadership Book Clubs and Workshops: Create a monthly book club where the team reads and discusses books on leadership and personal development. The shared learning experience can spark discussions on various leadership styles, strategies, and philosophies. Additionally, periodically invite guest speakers or leadership coaches to conduct workshops, ensuring the sales team is exposed to diverse leadership principles and practices.
A well-coached sales team will better understand customer needs and provide effective solutions. This will lead to improved customer satisfaction, which can drive repeat business, customer loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth – all critical for long-term business success. Prioritizing customer satisfaction is vital for long-term business success and relationship-building. By embedding initiatives into the team’s routine, a sales leader can create an environment where customer satisfaction isn’t just an afterthought but an integral aspect of the sales process.
Three creative ways a sales leader can inspire their sales team to elevate customer satisfaction
- Customer Journey Role-Playing: Organize workshops where salespeople role-play as customers and sales representatives. This exercise helps the team deeply empathize with different customer journey stages. They can experience firsthand the concerns, questions, and emotions a customer might feel. Afterward, discussions can revolve around enhancing each step for optimal satisfaction, ensuring that the team understands the value of the customer’s perspective.
- Customer Appreciation Initiatives: Empower your sales team with a budget or resources to surprise and delight their most loyal customers occasionally. It could be a handwritten thank-you note, a small gift, or a personalized discount. Encouraging salespeople to express genuine gratitude strengthens customer relationships and underscores the importance of valuing each customer as an individual.
- Feedback Loop Meetings: Host regular meetings where salespeople can share customer feedback, both positive and negative. However, the unique twist here is that for every piece of negative feedback, the team collaboratively brainstorms actionable solutions or strategies to address the issue. This proactive approach emphasizes the importance of listening to customers and creates a culture of continuous improvement based on real customer needs.
Problem-Solving and Decision-Making Skills
Sales is a dynamic field that requires quick thinking and decision-making. Through coaching, a sales leader can help their team develop these skills, enabling them to respond more effectively to unexpected situations and complex sales challenges.
Cultivating problem-solving skills in a sales team can differentiate good salespeople from great ones, enabling them to tackle challenges effectively and creatively. Unique exercises can offer salespeople fresh perspectives, enhance their creativity, and make them more adept at handling the varied challenges they face in their roles.
Here are three unconventional techniques a sales leader can use to foster these skills (keep an open mind)
- Escape Room Challenges: Organize trips to escape rooms, where teams must work together to solve puzzles and challenges within a set timeframe to “escape.” These games are designed to require a combination of creative thinking, logical reasoning, and teamwork. By facing and overcoming these fictional challenges, salespeople can learn to think outside the box and apply similar problem-solving strategies in real-world sales scenarios.
- Sales Scenarios Sandbox: Create a “sandbox” environment, perhaps in regular workshops, where team members are given hypothetical, complex sales scenarios. These scenarios can range from demanding customers to tricky logistical issues. Teams must then brainstorm and present their strategies to address these challenges. After the exercise, solutions can be discussed collectively, and feedback can be shared. This controlled environment allows salespeople to experiment without real-world consequences, fostering creativity and adaptability.
- “Swap the Role” Days: On designated days, have your salespeople switch roles with colleagues from different departments, such as customer service, logistics, or even marketing. This gives them firsthand experience of the challenges other parts of the business face. When they return to their sales roles, they’ll have a broader perspective, understanding the company’s wider ecosystem and thinking more holistically when problem-solving.
Adaptability to Change
The sales environment is continually changing with the introduction of new products, market conditions, customer behaviors, and technologies. Coaching can prepare sales teams to adapt to these changes by helping them learn new skills, understand new tools, and develop the flexibility needed to succeed in a changing environment. By creating experiences that simulate evolution or introduce diversity of thought and approach, a sales leader can nurture a team that copes with change and thrives amidst it. Adaptability to change is paramount, especially in dynamic sales environments where market conditions, customer preferences, and product offerings can evolve rapidly.
Here are three creative approaches a sales leader can employ to cultivate adaptability among their salespeople
- Change Immersion Workshops: Organize workshops where the rules and scenarios change unexpectedly. For instance, halfway through a role practice, introduce a sudden change in the product’s features or the customer’s requirements or temperament. This forces salespeople to adjust their approach on the spot. The unpredictability of the exercise emulates real-world market changes and trains salespeople to remain composed and resourceful when confronted with sudden shifts.
- Rotational Challenges: Every month or quarter, assign salespeople to different product lines, customer segments, or even roles within the sales process (e.g., from direct sales to customer relationship management). Such rotations expose them to various aspects of the business, making them more versatile. It also equips them with broader skills and insights, making adaptation to future changes more seamless.
- Cultural Exchange: If the company operates in multiple regions or countries, consider setting up short-term exchange programs. Salespeople can spend a week or two immersing themselves in a different market or cultural context. This broadens their horizons and hones their ability to adapt to diverse customer mindsets and market dynamics. If physical exchanges aren’t feasible, virtual meetings with international peers, sharing experiences and challenges, can serve as an alternative.
It’s easy to see that being a sales leader is more than just focusing on hitting quotas and analyzing spreadsheets. They also have to be a coach to their team, which is a crucial part of their job. And with over 20 new techniques to try, fun too!
The time a sales leader spends coaching is well worth it. It leads to better individual and team performance, leading to success for the whole company. By acting as a coach, the manager is not just helping their team deal with the present but also helping to create future leaders who will keep the company successful.