Connecting The Dots Between Sales Enablement And Coaching

How do you learn a new sport? You attend regular training sessions to learn techniques and methods, you practice regularly and you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
You get coaching sessions to adjust your practice based on specific lessons learned and your individual progress, and you get coaching to focus on specific skills that are complemen-ting the practice to leverage your potential. And all these elements of practice, training and coaching are well connected to each other.

In sales, people are sent to training sessions that are perceived as events rather than elements of an ongoing development journey. Often coaching doesn’t happen. If coaching happens, it is often disconnected from salespeople’s daily practice and the training sessions they attended. Furthermore, the trained sales methodologies are not reflected in the enablement content salespeople should work with. The problem is that all these elements are isolated; not based on one integrated approach to drive sales execution. The big picture is missing. A general design point is missing. What happens is that salespeople cannot get the expected value from all these different elements that should help them to sell, and guess what – they don’t use it. They just switch off the noise.

Enablement and coaching frameworks have to be based on one design point – the customers

A customer core approach is one of the non-negotiables to evolve sales enablement to the next level, to sales force enablement. That means, to focus on the entire customer’s journey and all relevant buyer roles at each stage and at all levels. Given this customer’s journey as a core design point, enablement services have to be tailored to the specific phases and the relevant buyer roles. That’s true for client-facing content and pure enablement content. Additionally, sales training (sales process, sales methodology, product training, and competencies) has to map all their services the same way, to be clear about what is only relevant at a specific phase of the customer’s journey and which services are relevant for all phases.

When it comes to frontline sales managers’ regular coaching practice, we focus on tactical coaching that’s based on leads, opportunities and accounts. If we want a frontline sales manager to coach their salespeople along the entire customer’s journey, it’s obvious that the coaching framework has to follow the same design point – the customer’s journey. If we look at the enablement services as the specific services for salespeople, the frontline sales managers’ coaching guidelines work as an embedded reinforcement element of implemented enablement services. Coaching guidelines are a natural mirror that helps to reinforce and to sharpen the impact of the implemented and provided enablement services. Designed this way, both services – enablement and coaching – reinforce each other and make sure that the investments create sustainable business impact.

Connecting enablement and coaching – mapping the customer’s journey

Connecting both services requires mapping the customer’s journey to the internal process landscape that covers processes from marketing to sales and to service/delivery. The relevance for enablement and coaching is to get a clear understanding of the gates between the different phases of the customer’s journey. What is it we need to see fulfilled; when is this phase fulfilled? How do we know that this specific gate has been passed? An example could be that we look at the end of the awareness phase for signals that the customer community (not only an individual) has confirmed organizational pain. Additionally, we want to see a decision to change the current state and to enter the actual buying phase. Additional criteria can be defined. Defining the gates that mark the passage from one phase to the next one simplifies the mapping to the internal processes. Adjustments, if necessary, should be done internally, as customers won’t change how they want to buy.

Having defined these gates opens the way for another level of clarity for enablement services (gate descriptions are definitions of purpose for enablement services) and for coaching guidelines. Questions can be designed to lead coaching conversations towards this clarity – where are we really along the customer’s journey. What has to be adjusted, what needs to be improved and what’s just fine.

Customer journey mapping is often a challenging step. Performed correctly, it is the foundation for connected enablement and coaching services. I t is the foundation for simplicity, clarity and highly valuable services that reinforce each other. Connecting enablement and coaching this way is a steppingstone to World-Class Sales Performance.

Related posts:

Frontline Sales Managers – Key Role, But Poorly developed And Enabled

What Triangles Have To Do With Frontline Sales Managers

Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra: Managing Activities and Coaching Behaviors

 

Frontline Sales Managers – Key Role, But Poorly Developed And Enabled

Look at any world-class sports team. Is there any public debate if the chief financial officer has been replaced? Not so much.

But there are big public discussions if there are any decisions around the team’s coach to be made. In business, it’s different.

Frontline sales managers are a sales team’s coaches and salespeople’s most important ally to leverage their own potential. FSMs are the key role to build world-class sales teams. When do we take time to discuss their role and their impact and – most important – how do we evolve this role to world-class performance?

Frontline sales managers – the key role to develop world-class sales teams

FSMs have a greater impact on sales execution, sales productivity and sales transformation than any other role. What makes the FSM role so demanding is the continuous challenge to balance between three often competing areas – customer, business and people, represented as the FSM triangle. Having been the best salesperson does not qualify an individual to be a stand-up top frontline sales manager. Poorly developed frontline sales managers drive top performers out of the organization and promote mediocre performance from those who remain. This is an untenable situation for any sales leader with ambitious performance goals. World-Class Sales Organizations understand  that  it’s  not  about  adding  costs  to  the  bottom  line, but adding growth and effectiveness to the top line. They understand that the cost of doing nothing is much bigger.

Reality looks different – what we learned

At the MHI Research Institute, we run Executive Forums for sales leaders two times a year in different cities around the world. These forums are focused on the latest research and on one topic that has been prioritized by our customers. “Frontline sales managers” (FSMs) was the most prioritized topic for our forums in October and November.

FSM’s role and scope:
While people agree with the huge relevance and the big leverage effect of FSMs, there is not much clarity on the role itself, its scope and the challenges associated with it. This was clear from our Forum discussions on the FSM’s triangle and the most important FSM activities, ranked by our clients. Mapping the FSM activities our clients had prioritized to the three elements of the FSM triangle (customer, business and people) was an eye-opening experience. This visualization helped people to understand how broad and how complex the FSM’s scope actually is. Imagine “managing customer escalation during buying phase” – this activity will impact all three elements, customer (how to get the customer relationship back on track), business (what does the escalation mean in terms of business impact) and people (how to better coach salespeople).

Rear view mirror versus wind screen perspective:
The FSM mantra “manage activities, coach behaviors” initiated a discussion on what is it really a FSM can control in his/her role. It turned out, that there is still way too much focus on asking for and measuring sales results, instead of coaching the quality of activities and behaviors to make sure that the results will be achieved. Our clients’ feedback showed that this situation is always combined with poor coaching, and too less focus on how to get to these results – managing the right activities and coaching the behaviors. One of the root causes we learned is a focus on the wrong performance indicators to look at, too many lagging indicators, and not enough leading indicators that help to adjust activities and coaching early along the way. This issue is closely connected to the previous issue, the lack of clarity on role and scope.

Current state on FSM development programs:
The discussion created a lot of clarity around the current state of FSM development programs. Those who indicated they have a FSM development in place also indicated that these existing programs were either HR driven general management programs, or specific programs that focus on one element of the FSM triangle only – on business management aspects or on coaching. If those programs are isolated from the sales system (e.g., a general business management program) or from the sales enablement approach (general coaching programs), they are costly investments with little to no outcome. The challenge here is to design integrated FSM development programs that connect the dots across these elements and that are based on the FSM triangle.

We will continue and focus our FSM research on the here addressed challenges.

Related blog posts:

What Triangles Have To Do With Frontline Sales Managers

Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra: Managing Activities and Coaching Behaviors

Performance Accountability – A Behavior of World-Class Sales Performers

If a taxi driver delivers excellent services, then you are a lucky person. In case your taxi driver also helps you out with coins that were part of his tip just to make sure you can pick up a baggage cart and catch your flight – then you have a taxi driver who cared more about your outcome than about his own. That’s one aspect of performance accountability.

Performance Accountability—a behavior of world-class sales performers

The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One of them is performance accountability. World -Class Sales Organizations set themselves apart in many ways. One example for performance accountability is their ability to align their sales performance metrics with their business objectives. It sounds obvious, but our data show – in a consistent way over the last four years – that this is a very significant differentiator between world class and all respondents. Now, how does performance accountability look like for a salesperson? Let’s look at a few criteria:

Accountability for the customers’ success

First and foremost, world-class sales performers hold themselves accountable for their customers’ success. They know that the customers’ success is the foundation of their own success. They own the customer’s expected outcome that was part of the solution they have sold. They do everything they can to make sure the expected value is achieved or overachieved. World-class sales performers hold themselves accountable along the entire customer’s journey. There is no walking away after a deal is closed, just as the taxi driver didn’t walk away.

Accountability for own performance

World-class sales performers are focused on results. They don’t accept excuses. They know that focus and energy create movement, and they use their time wisely. They hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations set by their frontline sales manager (FSM). They recognize that their FSM relies on timely and accurate business updates. They deliver on forecast commitments and maintain current and accurate funnel data. That’s why they are always prepared for opportunity reviews.

Professionalism

World-class sales performers are professionals to the core. They show up every day. They practice hard. They always try to become better. And they demand continuous coaching from their sales manager to leverage their full potential. They are committed to mastering various sales techniques, they are courageous, creative and they take risks – even in the face of fear. They reflect their practice all the time, and they learn even when they lose. Even if they lose the deal, they gain experience. Last but not least, they collaborate: they share best practices, they love to learn from others, and they are well respected by other world-class sales professionals.

Looking for more interesting data on world-class sales performance?