Remember that phone call that ruined your summer? You know the one I’m talking about: when your No. 1 salesperson let you know they were leaving. Thinking back, you did your best to stay out of their way and give them lots of independence. You couldn’t believe they were leaving because making your sales goals is going to be that much harder now.
If you’ve managed people, then you've probably experienced this or something like it. Losing the best talent is one of the most difficult outcomes of not having an effective front-line management strategy. The average cost of losing a mid-level employee is about 20% of their annual salary, and as roles become more specialized, that percentage increases. However, research has found a direct connection between transformational leadership and an empathetic climate for communication.
Below, inspired by recent findings from EcSell Institute —a research-based leadership coaching organization that I consult for — are five key areas for managers to focus on when coaching their teams. These key areas impact loyalty and productivity.
1. One-To-One Meetings
Holding regularly scheduled one-to-one meetings to discuss business and personal issues are the backbone of any coaching strategy. This seems self-evident, but it’s seldom done with consistency or given priority. These meetings are an important way for a manager to keep in touch and learn ways to assist and challenge their team to attain their goals. Relationships are maintained and strengthened by being willing to discuss personal issues and ask questions about the things that matter to your employees.
2. Joint Call Plans
The best sales managers do not co-travel with their teams without confirming key appointments ahead of time. Do not spend the money on travel and take highly valuable time out of your day as a coach when the salesperson has not booked any appointments. Also, consider your own level of contribution to these joint calls. In most cases, the sales manager will play one of three roles on a joint sales call: lead, support or observation. Your goal should be to help the salesperson learn and grow by working together, which may mean letting them trip and fall first.
3. Sales Call Evaluations
Evaluating each co-travel time with a consistent performance-based scoring tool that is used every time will have a tremendous impact. Tracking these scores will assist each salesperson in understanding their areas of growth, and will give you concrete data when making training investment decisions. This is an area which very few front-line managers have any kind of data on. In addition to the frequency of feedback after a call, it is also important to be consistent in how it’s delivered. One of the biggest complaints during post-call feedback is that it’s not in-depth or specific enough for salespeople to act on. This type of informality can be alleviated with the use of a sales call evaluation form covering key selling skills, the option to numerically rate these skills, and a place to write down specific suggestions.
4. Team Meetings
It’s important to embrace team meetings and to have a solid plan and strategy when executing them. They can create opportunities for the best of the best to shine and stretch their coaching wings. Team meetings can help to build relationships between salespeople who often are miles or states apart most of the time. These collaborative connections are essential when striving for higher growth and performance. Team meetings are a great place to delegate authority and give potential future managers a test drive.
5. Career Development
Front-line managers who take the time to discuss their team members' individual goals create a climate where loyalty and striving for growth becomes natural. It’s hard for recruiters to convince people to leave when they feel like their manager has an interest in their future and will help whenever possible. Development plans require the least amount of time to execute but directly impact retention and openness to coaching.
We've all probably experienced good coaches at some point and they always push us to achieve more than we thought was possible. The five activities above are the greatest payoff areas in which to invest your time. Build your coaching expertise around these activities and you will make a difference in the lives of your team and build your business along the way.