Coaching Strategies to Improve Frontline Manager Effectiveness

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Much of the focus of sales enablement teams can be directed toward sales reps due to their direct interaction with customers. This attention is not unwarranted, but there is another role within the sales organization that must also be supported to ensure the success of the sales enablement team: the sales manager.

Sales manager enablement is crucial in further developing and improving sales rep performance. Particularly, sales managers play a key role in coaching their teams to develop the behaviors that will help drive success. While reps can begin growing their knowledge and skills through enablement programs, they often need ongoing reinforcement in their day-to-day roles in order to turn those skills into behavioral habits. Through coaching and ongoing support, managers can help translate enablement directly into on-the-job sales performance.

“The number one enablement you can give any [rep] is a great manager and that is beyond salespeople,” said Tim Ohai, global director of sales effectiveness at Workday.

Since managers play such a critical role in the success of sales teams, it’s important that they are supported with the resources and tools to effectively coach their teams.

This need for the enablement of sales managers has not gone unnoticed by many organizations. Recent research has found that manager effectiveness has been determined to be a top priority for 54% of enterprise organizations in 2022. Additionally, when manager effectiveness is prioritized by sales enablement professionals, the fulfillment of the rep’s quota increases by six percentage points. As a sales enablement professional, investing in sales manager enablement is a key lever for increasing sales rep performance.

Equipping managers with the sales enablement techniques and tools needed to better lead their teams enables them to increase their effectiveness when working to improve sales performance. Here are three key ways that enablement can improve managers’ coaching skills so that they can better support their teams.

Invest in a Manager Coaching Program

For many managers, coaching might not come as easily as selling. Coaching, especially with new sales reps or those who may be underperforming, takes time, dedication, and a well-equipped manager. While managers may have the dedication necessary to coach their sales reps, they are frequently short on time and not equipped with the best techniques and tools for the job.

This is where sales enablement professionals can be the greatest asset for managers. Through a direct coaching program specifically for managers, sales enablement professionals can provide managers with techniques to become more effective coaches in day-to-day situations.

When coaching managers, sales enablement professionals can utilize frameworks to ensure the techniques are efficiently communicated and readily applied by managers. Using a framework when coaching is useful not only for the communication of ideas and techniques but also for keeping a consistent structure for the entirety of the coaching process.

For example, one coaching framework is known as the 70-20-10 method. The purpose of this method is to encourage managers to learn, discuss, and interact with coaching methodologies consistently over a 12-month period so that they will be able to naturally apply them to day-to-day situations.

When this framework is applied, 10% of the manager’s time is spent learning new coaching methodologies from sales enablement through various formats, such as readable documents or informational videos, and working directly with their enablement coach to practice and sharpen skills. After learning the new techniques, the managers then spend 20% of their time discussing what they are learning with other managers. Implementing time blocks for managers to socialize and discuss the new coaching techniques assists in bringing them new perspectives, ideas for applications, and other important information that they may have missed the first time. Finally, the remaining 70% of their time is focused on their day-to-day work where managers have the capability to apply the new coaching techniques with the sales reps.

“[O]ver time we have embedded a sales coaching methodology that allows [managers] to solve issues outside of what we just talk about,” said John Dougan, senior director of global sales performance at Workday.

Breaking up the learning process into coaching, discussing, and applying allows for sales enablement professionals to convey important techniques while also maximizing the use of manager’s time. This consideration of time while coaching can also increase manager buy-in for the coaching program. Managers who have a time deficit will be more likely to participate in the coaching program if it conveys the necessary information with little excess use of their time.

“What is that ‘aha’ moment,” said Marcela Piñeros, global head of sales enablement at Stripe. “What is that most critical nugget that they’re going to get and be like, ‘Oh okay, this is going to make my life better, this is going to make my team more effective, this is going to be easier.’”

Help Managers Make Time for Coaching Their Teams

While it is important to gain manager buy-in for participating in a coaching program, it is even more essential to ensure they make time on a consistent basis for coaching their own teams. However, this doesn’t mean that coaching should become a singular meeting. Rather, making time for coaching means injecting it into a manager’s daily responsibilities.

“People think of coaching as something I do separately from the day-to-day business,” said Dave Brock, author of “Sales Manager Survival Guide.” “The reason a lot of coaching doesn’t get done is we prioritize the day-to-day business, and then any leftover time we have, we do for coaching. But guess what? We had no leftover time.”

Enablement can help create a culture of coaching among managers to ensure they make time to coach each individual member of their team on a regular basis. This includes equipping managers with the knowledge and skills to recognize coaching opportunities at the moment as well as empowering them with resources that they can use to approach certain coaching scenarios to guide productive conversations. While some structured coaching can take place during regular meetings and one-on-ones, skilled managers are able to take advantage of every small opportunity to reinforce the right behaviors.

“You have to integrate coaching into everything you do when you’re sitting doing pipeline reviews, when you’re sitting doing deal reviews when you’re going out on a customer call, when you’re debriefing on a customer call,” said Brock. “Every single opportunity that you have, there’s a way you can inject a little bit of a coaching conversation into it.”

Implementing Coaching Tools

Especially in today’s increasingly digital sales landscape, one invaluable resource that enablement can lean on to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of sales managers is coaching technology. For example, tools can aid in analyzing call recordings, tracking time spent coaching, streamlining virtual coaching, gathering data on behavioral trends, and more. These types of data-driven insights can assist managers in providing coaching tailored to each individual sales rep.

When managers are well equipped to identify areas of improvement with the tools and coach with enablement techniques, they are better able to drive consistent performance among their teams. Research indicates that organizations that utilize sales coaching tools are 74% more likely to successfully leverage rep performance data, which leads to an improvement in rep consistency.

“[W]e’re putting some software in place to help the team have the span of control so that we can start doing things like call coaching with these folks, even when they’re out in the field, and voice analysis so we know how well they’re doing with their pitch,” said Paul Butterfield, vice president of global revenue enablement at Instructure.

Through tailored coaching for sales managers, resources to help managers make time for daily coaching, and utilization of coaching tools, sales managers are able to more critically engage and work with the reps on improving their skills and techniques. By helping managers be effective coaches, enablement can engage managers as champions of the skills and behaviors that are needed to drive consistent rep performance long-term.

“[I]t’s really about getting involved and helping people grow and develop into the best version of themselves,” said Ohai.

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