Coaching for Sales Performance: Coaching For Revenue Growth
Carry the action forward.
Early in the year, forward-thinking sales organizations frequently participate in goal-setting activities with their teams. At the end of the year, some are successful in meeting those goals, and many are not. The cost of failure in managing sales teams is so high that it warrants a deep dive into what occurs between the start of the year – complete with a new number (quota/budget) and new goals – and the close of the year when we recognize success or failure. We have noted several factors that result in the inability of well-intentioned sales leaders to realize the desired revenue growth from their goal-setting and goal alignment initiatives:
- Inadequate coaching or lack of a coach*
- Lack of alignment of personal goals with strategic company initiatives*
- Failure to identify and plan for obstacles or challenges to goals
- Lack of accountability
- Complex goals that are not SMART
Too sophisticated for SMART goals?
The path to making money is not about complexity. The SMART goal methodology works because it breaks down a significant revenue goal into manageable pieces that make sense for a daily, weekly, and monthly plan. If you are asking your sales representatives to execute on sales calls, you are asking them to translate their quota into a SMART goal. For review:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Reasonable
T = Time-bound
If you also want to ensure your salespeople are motivated, clearly defined SMART goals connected to their personal goals are one of your greatest tools. But if you are seeking a more revolutionary technique and you already have buy-in, try asking your sales professionals how they would like to be held accountable for these goals.
Through this approach, you are working together to create forward momentum that occurs during regularly scheduled 1:1 sessions where the salesperson is expecting you to not only coach around their goal but also to hold them accountable for their progress toward that goal. It makes a powerful statement to show up for coaching sessions with SMART goals in view and confirm buy-in, especially if goals are not met.
If you have buy-in for the overall goal, but the salesperson continues to fall short, your work together may be rerouting the path forward using the SMART process in your coaching sessions. Any one of the five parameters can change, leaving the goal intact while providing a distinct change in the day-to-day execution that everyone can monitor.
Ask your sales professionals how they would like to be held accountable.
One nuance often lost in the SMART process involves what is Achievable and Reasonable. There will be obstacles and challenges to overcome in the pursuit of any significant initiative with any goal. Ignoring this reality in an attempt to “motivate” a sales team will result in being blindsided later in the year.
Several studies have demonstrated that participants who only documented and visualized their goals were far less likely to achieve success than those who also documented and visualized navigating through/around obstacles to achieve their goal. For this reason, a required part of the SMART goal practice is to list all possible obstacles and determine what to do when they arise – not IF, but when. This simple addition to your coaching outline will de-clutter the path between the goal and its attainment. Of course, unforeseen roadblocks are frequently part of the sales process. However, the genius behind a regular coaching cadence is that you will deal with these in real-time as you review the sales process around that specific opportunity.
We find that the simplicity of this process is deceptive, so let us be clear: Coaching technology requires managers to demonstrate curiosity, consistency, and self-restraint. You will not be able to strong-arm your sales team into sticking with their goals, but you will not need to: Modern salespeople are more motivated and able to pursue goals and solutions they help create. Therefore, it is ultimately the salesperson who carries the action forward.
When they create the structure and context for success through their coaching cadence, sales managers are most effective in using SMART goals to anchor the coaching content. Together, this functional sales team is much more likely to meet revenue goals!
This is because the ordinary unpacking of an important annual or quarterly goal into manageable, actionable pieces – combined with a plan to address the inevitable obstacles along the way – creates momentum and provides a context for accountability and motivation.