Sales force design
One sales coaching question frequently asked is – Where should we focus our sales coaching efforts to optimize the impact on revenue generation? Fortunately that question has been answered. The answer is – focus on the 60% of the sales people that are in the middle of the performance curve.
While the above answer is widely accepted, it does not mean that coaching top sales performers should be totally neglected. Unfortunately that happens more frequently than it should. So, let’s take a look at some of the issues starting with the main perceived reasons for not coaching top performers.
If you listen carefully to conversations among sales managers and get the story behind the story, two rationale for not coaching top sales performers pop up more than others. The first is a takeoff on the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” notion. “My top performers are doing just fine so I leave them alone – the main thing is don’t mess them up.” The second reason is – “they don’t want to be coached.”
We would suggest both of these reasons are more about what’s not true than what is true. Let’s take the second one first. Attrition – one of the main reasons top sales performers leave organizations is the lack of opportunities for personal development. This is particularly true among younger sales professionals in the Millennial generation.
As to the first reason, if it was true why is it that every Olympian has a coach and companies are spending up to $3500 per hour providing executive coaches for their senior leadership. It is a safe to say that top performing sales people both need and want coaching.
One of the underlying reasons why these untruths persist is the notion that sales coaching is strictly about fixing something that is wrong or not working right. If that is the perception then why would sales managers need to coach top sales performers and why would top sales performers want to be coached. In fact sales coaching can be about leveraging strengths as well as improving deficiencies. In the case of top performers sales coaching is more about the former.
Assuming the myths have been put to rest and one is serious about coaching top performers, what should be top of mind for getting it right?
- Try innovative assignments. Top sales performers love challenges and enjoy trying new ways to address perplexing problems – plus they are able to make tactical adjustment quickly and effectively.
- Don’t forget blueprinting. It is a good idea to keep track of what and how top sales performers do what they do. Many ideas can be translated into techniques that can be transplanted to the rest of the sales team.
- Provide actionable feedback. Contrary to some popular opinion, top sales performers do want and appreciate feedback as long as the feedback is thoughtful, concise, and actionable. And, the really good news is they can implement it in an imaginative and creative fashion.
- Use multiple approaches and people. Because top performers assimilate information quickly and reach a boredom plateau sooner than most, using all the resources available is a good coaching idea.
- Solicit feedback. Due to the fact that top sales performers are good at doing what they do, they expect their ideas to be considered in formulating how the coaching takes place.
- Provide recognition. Not unlike the rest of us, top sales performers appreciate awards and recognition. Even though they have received many, it is still a good idea. In this case the rewards can take on many different forms – such as the aforementioned innovative assignments.
- Don’t confuse confidence and arrogance. There is little doubt that top sales performers are extremely confident. Sometimes if that confidence is viewed through the wrong end of the telescope it can come across as arrogance – most of the time it is not.
When considering whom to coach the middle 60% should be kept front of mind. However, one neglects top performers at their peril. They are extremely intent are developing their skills and talents so if not with you, then with somewhere else.
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