Training sales managers to coach employees successfully

Despite your best intentions, traditional training methods are no longer relevant or rousing for sales staff. In the past, teaching and coaching was designed to improve employee expertise on an individual level.

More often than not this would assess their performance, identify knowledge or skills gaps, develop a plan of action, implement this strategy, assess employee progress and then repeat for other members of staff.

While this approach can go some way in enhancing competence, it doesn’t inspire a long-lasting change for the entire sales force. What’s more, it means that sales managers can become complacent and stagnant when conveying their own experience and knowledge.

While the professionalism and proficiency of senior staff should be passed on to junior employees, it is also imperative to train sales managers so they can coach employees successfully. That way, their combination of wisdom and worldliness can always be capitalised on.

Not only does this increase the confidence and capabilities of every employee, it can also go a long way in securing more sales and meeting organisational objectives. But how do you go about training sales managers?

Problems associated with sales managers that coach

The biggest trap that a lot of business fall into is to believe sales managers are capable of coaching simply because they are experienced. However, convincing potential prospects to convert and teaching staff on the secrets of selling are two very different things.

Another reason why training isn’t adopted for sales manager is due to the fact they are constantly busy and additional coaching would be a waste of time, effort and resources. This money could be used to train the actual workforce instead or set aside for other areas of the business.

But all of these problems can actually contribute to a strategic failure. The whole purpose of training your sales team is to ensure they have the skills, supplies and support to increase turnover and generate a profit.

This is something that has already been achieved by sales managers who posses the necessary requirements to succeed. By ignoring this invaluable resource and continuing with antiquated coaching that does little to spur on sales teams is like shooting yourself in the foot.

How to implement training for sales managers

So, if you recognise the need to train sales managers before getting them to coach employees, how do you go about doing this? Well, here are a few steps you might want to consider implementing.

Bring sales managers up-to-speed with training materials – Seems fairly obvious, but first off you should bring sales managers up-to-speed with the training materials they will be giving staff. The nature of training and its associated resources will depend on the company in question, but it might be a good idea to adopt principles and practices the sales manager is already familiar with. If not, they will have to spend a fair bit of time understanding what is included and may not be in the best position to coach employees.
Learn how to teach in an effective way – In addition to understanding what employees will be learning about, sales managers must also know how to teach these materials in an effective way. This might involve attending a course on the basics of coaching and how to become a convincing teacher. Although this might seem like the kind of traditional training you want to avoid, it is far more beneficial to send just one person on this kind of program rather than every single employee.
Put these processes into practice – With an understanding of training materials and how to effectively express them, sales managers can then start to coach employees. A lot will depend on the business in question, but training can take the form of one-on-one sessions or exercises involving entire sales teams such as role-playing. Employees will be much more receptive to an authoritative figure they already know, respect and trust.

Training techniques that sales managers might want to adopt

The aforementioned process is quite a traditional way of enabling sales managers to coach employees, but will still have the desired affect. However, there are a handful of additional techniques available, which might be more appropriate for today’s complex sales forces. What’s more, it still allows for sales managers to impart their experience and expertise.

E-Learning and spaced repetition

There is a good chance that your sales team will need to know about the in-depth details of numerous products or services and how these can best serve the customer. But there are various problems associated with trying to retain and recall an abundance of knowledge.

Firstly, they may not have the time to learn about elaborate facts and figures while working. Furthermore, absorbing lots of information in one go does little to improve retention rates either.

But through e-learning and techniques like spaced repetition, sales staff can brush up on their product knowledge at a time and place that suits them. This kind of training allows sales managers to come up with the teachings but also change materials at a moment’s notice and monitor employee progress.

Recognising and rewarding progress and achievements

In order to truly increase competency, your sales staff will need to know what areas they need to improve upon but also receive rewards for doing a good job. This will motivate employees to do better but also create greater job satisfaction.

Sales managers can listen in on calls, review recordings, analyse performance and provide constructive criticism or positive feedback. Try and do this in a timely fashion so that the employee doesn’t forget about specific examples.

In terms of rewarding achievements, sales managers should personalise praise as this makes successes tangible, meaningful and more beneficial for the business as a whole.

It will come as no surprise that employee engagement and morale can severely affect bottom line conversions. Therefore, sales managers are responsible for creating a sense of unity and satisfaction among the sales force, which can be done by sharing success stories.

Think about making everyone aware of a significant sale or major deal. The vast majority of sales managers command respect and if they are seen endorsing the prosperous actions of individual employees, the entire team could well up their respective games.

After all, research by the National Business Research Institute found that employee attitude affects 40 to 80 per cent of customer satisfaction; so sharing success stories makes a lot of sense.

You may not have previously thought that training sales managers was important, or even considered this as a way to boost the ability of other employees. But if your business prioritises this approach instead of adopting traditional training techniques, greater sales team success is a distinct possibility.

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Published: 14 May, 2015