In an online world where encyclopedias of information are readily accessible, sales manager coaching is still the best way for an SDR to learn.
To explore the topic of sales team coaching and the secrets to SDR leadership, we spoke with Ron Holm, co-founder and CEO of Track Selling Institute.
Ron has decades of experience teaching the Track Selling System, an approach to selling that has stood the test of time for over 60 years.
We’ll begin by answering two of the most important questions about coaching for sales managers and how to boost SDR performance.
Keep reading as we review five tactics you can use for more effective sales manager coaching.
Why don’t sales managers coach?
Of the many reasons a sales manager doesn’t coach, chief among them is time.
A sales manager is already busy overseeing their team and managing the relationship with their client.
We asked Ron why – in his experience – sales managers don’t coach.
“[Sales managers] are so encumbered by being the ‘junk drawer’ of managers in a company, or in other words, if a responsibility does not neatly fit into [another] manager’s list of responsibilities, often it’ll fall to sales managers.“
“The cumulative effect of that is that they are so encumbered and burdened by all that ‘stuff’ that they don’t have bandwidth available to coach.”
Another common reason is a sales manager often doesn’t know how or what to coach.
In this case, “it’s easier not to do it than to feel foolish.”
How much time should sales managers spend coaching?
Regardless of how they feel about sales coaching, it’s still a critical part of a sales team that hits their numbers.
According to the Sales Readiness Group’s 5 Hallmarks of High-Impact Sales Organizations research report, high-impact (where more than 75% of sales reps achieved quota) organizations spent the most time coaching or prioritizing the coaching of sales managers.
Nevertheless, it also found that 73% of all sales managers surveyed receive no such training.
It’s an exclusive group of organizations that see an improvement in results from training their sales managers to coach.
This raises the question: if sales manager coaching is effective, how much time should they spend doing it?
To help us answer, we again turn to Ron.
“We suggest sales managers hold a weekly sales meeting and carve out time for training/coaching/role-play when the entire team is together. Then do some spot coaching as the manager perceives needs for each rep throughout the month.”
Sales managers’ time is valuable, as we’ve seen. They need to be involved in the day-to-day, working with their reps in the field.
“As an added bonus, tag along on a sales call with a sales rep and simply be there to listen and observe; not take over the call, then debrief with the sales rep when in the prospect’s parking lot.”
Additionally, Ron adds, that a sales manager’s team needs a manageable number of reps. How many exactly?
“The ideal number of salespeople for a front-line sales manager to oversee is six or seven. More than that, and their efforts become too diluted, the peanut butter is spread too thin on the bread and loses savor.”
5 tactics for effective sales manager coaching
Now that we know a successful sales team’s coaching process starts with managers, what are some of the most effective tactics for coaching?
To make it easy, we’ve selected 5 actionable tips for effective sales manager coaching.
1. Create a database of strategies
There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for our clients.
But to help our sales managers and SDRs learn from one another, we keep an index of successful strategies on hand.
Either in Notion or Google Docs, lay out the steps through messaging or touches your team took to land a meeting.
This collaboration across teams and verticals has allowed us to develop insights on how to penetrate new markets with strategies other teams have already used.
Recording what has worked is a process of affirmation that can be used by sales managers coaching into the future.
2. Role-play tough conversations
For cold calling and all other conversations with prospects, the practice of acting out the scenario is invaluable.
Repeated, consistent practice in general should be applied throughout your coaching playbook.
But role-playing those difficult moments that pop up on a sales call is especially important.
Coaching not only what to say but how to act and discover what a prospect needs is paramount.
Feedback on performance is the first step to improvement.
These conversations can be recorded and reviewed later in your database of strategies.
3. Set a practice schedule
To build the muscle memory necessary in preparing reps for conversations, they need to practice.
Regular practice sessions like the role-playing mentioned above are important to the process of recall and retention.
It’s one thing to learn in the abstract, but it’s another to apply what we’ve learned in a real-life scenario.
This is as true for product messaging as it is for the tactics a rep uses to assess a buyer’s need.
A lot of sales development falls into the complicated psychology of how people buy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice or coach the skills it takes to understand it.
4. Use a mix of data and observation
Modern SDR teams are swimming in data. Which data points are useful to your team depends on your unique sales goals.
However, there are still data points such as open and positive reply rates that can tell you if your cold email campaign is reaching prospects.
Sales managers coaching with data need to understand how all the dots connect. They need to know how to interpret the data well enough to influence a winning strategy.
SDRs rarely schedule meetings on data alone.
For a more comprehensive view of their team, sales managers should measure their campaigns with a mix of data and observations.
Data can uncover patterns in the selling process while observation can assess the finer details of individual SDR behavior.
5. Stay aligned on product and messaging
Understanding the complicated solutions of a SaaS product can be a challenge.
Addressing the needs of a buying committee at an enterprise organization with an email is another level of difficulty.
Consistency is once again key. The details of the product your reps are talking about need to be the same across all teams.
The industry, title, and vertical may change, but sales managers need to make sure the messaging their reps are delivering is updated and consistent.
Our sales managers have used “boot camp” and training sessions that review the basics to coach these points.
These have been particularly useful in aligning SDR teams with marketing during a new product rollout.
Final thoughts [and the most important sales manager coaching tactic]
If you take anything away from this article, it’s that coaching is an essential responsibility of a sales manager.
Thankfully, it’s a skill that can be learned and taught.
In the spirit of saving the best for last, we’ll conclude with what Ron believes are the most important sales manager coaching techniques.
“We believe the two most important coaching roles a manager can play is to review with a salesperson after an initial sales call to inquire what’s the ‘agreement on need’ that the sales rep discovered, and therefore what are they planning to present regarding their company [i.e.] ‘sell the company,’ and the products and services [i.e] ‘fill the need.'”
Which coaching tactic best prepares an SDR to identify and fulfill a prospect’s need?
“Some occasional role-playing with them with the manager playing the role of the prospect.”