Calibrate Your Managers with the Sales Coaching Olympics
Over the last year, sales coaching has become THE hot topic. There has been an avalanche of articles in sales publications on coaching and new tools focused on making it easier to coach. Every conference I have attended this year has sales coaching front and center on the main stage and in breakout sessions.
It is easy to spend much of our time focused on sales reps while providing a level of blind trust to our managers (as long as their team gets to their number). As the leader of Sales Enablement, one of my major initiatives is to invest in the development of our management team.
It becomes hard to differentiate the level of success (and promotability) of front-line managers when the KPI we focus on is percent to quota. In 2018, we are developing our version of the five core competencies for sales managers. To set a baseline of expectation on an even playing field, we developed an event (with a great prize) to understand what coaching looks like at our company. This event became the COACHING OLYMPICS.
The initial idea came out of an evening at an Italian restaurant in Chicago hosted by my buddies at LearnCore while we were all attending the AA-ISP Leadership Summit. Being around a lot of sales leaders who are focused on developing the next generation of leadership led to great conversations around “what makes a great manager?” and how can we measure their growth in those areas in a meaningful way.
When I presented the idea to my leadership team, they loved it. We had worked with an inside sales consulting firm called The Bridge Group in 2017 and they led a workshop on coaching. They presented a scorecard we could use to measure the growth of each sales rep over time. Call coaching started but without a unified process and expectation for the coaches. When the Coaching Olympics idea was greenlit, there was not only buy-in but full participation from all of the leadership team all the way up to the CRO.
To put the event together there was a series of steps to complete in order to make it a success.
Step 1 – Define ‘Good’ for Your Calls
First off, I met with my good friend, Steve Richard, from ExecVision to discuss the scorecard. Steve hosts a regular webinar series where they break down real sales calls that goes by the name Call Camp. As a champion for coaching and rep development, I knew Steve would be a great source for inspiration and feedback. We jumped on a conference call and within half an hour the first version of the Coaching Olympics scorecard was complete.
Step 2 – Select Judges and Calibrate
The second step was setting up the expert panelists who would be scoring the coaches and calibrate the scoring method to keep the experience of the participants consistent and fair. For the panelists we chose the CRO, the 3 VPs in the revenue org, 3 directors, and 3 members of the learning and development team. We also brought in two alternates judges because scheduling twelve (12) different thirty (30) minute coaching sessions in two offices in different time zones on the same day posed its own challenge. In the calibration sessions we walked through the scorecard and made sure everyone understood each of the five judging criteria and what each rating would mean. The criteria covered both requirements from our sales process as well as aspects of relationship building. We took the rating from a scale of 1-5 down to 1-3. We also added the possibility for one bonus point (as long as an explanation was provided) that could be a tie-breaker. After this session, I build the final scorecard and a detailed instructions doc that went out to all of the panelists.
Step 3 – Select Reps, Calls to be Coached, and Assign Coaching
The VPs of sales chose sales reps to be coached. The rule was that each sales rep would be coached by someone was did not manage them. The calls would be pulled by the sales rep (they were given certain parameters of the type of calls to pull) and brought into the room the day of the Coaching Olympics. The managers were only told to show up to the session and coach. The playing field was even.
Step 4 – Choose a Prize That Matters to Managers
The last piece of the puzzle was the PRIZE. We have a lot of sales contests and come up with great ways to motivate our sales reps. We have not done the same for the sales managers. Our VP of Customer Management, who is known for planning incredible President’s Club trips, stepped in and provided the budget and plan for a weekend experience for the winner including flight and hotel stay for a weekend getaway. The announcement of the prize lit the competitive fuse.
On Friday, June 1st, 2018, we held our first Coaching Olympics. It went off without a hitch. The leadership was exposed to sales calls and coaching styles. The first striking realization was that all of the styles were drastically different. The way the coaches listened to calls, gave feedback, and asked questions could not have been more different from coach to coach.
Key takeaway: Take the best of what we heard and build a process for coaching that is standard across all of the teams and managers.
The Coaching Olympics, made up of 30 minute coaching sessions, ran for five hours. Some panelists went to as many as 5 sessions. The learning and development and sales enablement teams had at least one member present throughout so we could debrief and build out our coaching curriculum based on what we learned from the Coaching Olympics.
Over the next few weeks we will debrief with the entire leadership team on the strength of our coaches. We will build a workshop (heavily incorporating our winner - who received a perfect score) to take all of our managers and team leads through. Listening to coaching sessions will now be a regular event for sales leadership. It kills two birds with one stone for busy sales leaders because we can hear sales calls and watch our managers provide feedback in one 30 minute window.
Make it part of the DNA of your organization
Being the best coach now has bragging rights in our culture. Managers have taken ownership of a specific skill that is measurable outside of quota attainment. Culture and what people want to do is more powerful than mandates. #GoForTheGold
Overall this event was - in the words of our CRO - “a SUPER SUCCESS”!
What are you doing to create a sales coaching culture in your company? How are you aligning managers on what good looks like and how to coach?