One frequently asked question is – Where should sales coaching efforts be spent to optimize the impact on revenue generation? Fortunately, that question has been answered. The answer is – focus on the 60 percent of salespeople who are in the middle of the performance curve.
While the above answer is widely accepted, it does not mean that coaching top sales performers should be totally neglected. Unfortunately, that happens more frequently than it should. So, let’s take a look at some of the issues, starting with the main perceived reasons for not coaching top sales performers.
If you listen carefully to conversations among sales leaders and get the story behind the story, two rationales for not coaching top sales performers pop up more than others. The first is a spinoff on “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Or, “My top performers are doing just fine, so I leave them alone – the main thing is, don’t mess them up.” The second reason is, “they don’t want to be coached.”
We would suggest both of these reasons are more about what’s not true than what is true. Let’s take the second one first. Attrition – one of the main reasons top sales performers leave organizations is the lack of opportunities for personal development. This is particularly true among younger sales professionals in the Millennial generation.
As to the first reason, if it were true, why is it that every Olympian has a coach and companies are spending up to $3,500 per hour providing executive coaches for their senior leadership? It’s safe to say that top performing salespeople both need and want sales coaching.
One of the underlying reasons why these untruths persist is the notion that sales coaching is strictly about fixing something that is wrong or correcting some deficiency. If that were the perception, then fair enough, why would sales leaders need to coach top sales performers, and why would top sales performers want to be coached? In fact, sales coaching can be about leveraging strengths as well as improving deficiencies. In the case of top sales performers, coaching is more about the former.
Assuming the myths have been put to rest, and one is serious about coaching top sales performers, what should be top of mind for getting it right?
- Try innovative assignments. Top sales performers love challenges and enjoy trying new ways to address perplexing problems – plus they are able to make tactical adjustments quickly and effectively.
- Don’t forget blueprinting. It is a good idea to keep track of what and how top sales performers do what they do. Many ideas can be translated into techniques, which can be transplanted to the rest of the sales team.
- Provide actionable feedback. Contrary to some popular opinion, top sales performers do want and appreciate feedback as long as the feedback is thoughtful, concise and actionable. And, the really good news is they can implement it in an imaginative and creative fashion.
- Use multiple approaches and people. Because top sales performers assimilate information quickly and reach a boredom plateau sooner than most, using all the resources available is a good coaching idea.
- Solicit feedback. Due to the fact that top sales performers are good at doing what they do, they expect their ideas to be considered in formulating how the coaching happens.
- Provide recognition. Not unlike the rest of us, top sales performers appreciate awards and recognition. Even though they have received many, it is still a good idea. In this case, the rewards can take on many different forms, such as the aforementioned innovative assignments.
- Don’t confuse confidence and arrogance. There is little doubt that top sales performers are extremely confident. Sometimes if that confidence is viewed through the wrong end of the telescope it can come across as arrogance – most of the time it is not.
When considering whom to coach, the middle 60 percent should be kept the front of mind. However, one neglects top sales performers at their peril. They are extremely intent on developing their skills and talents, so if not with you, then with someone else.