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Time to talk – Coaching Conversations with your team


As a seasoned sales manager you will probably agree that the two best ways to ensure that you achieve quota consistently are; a. to hire the best available talent, b. to get the best out of each member of your team.

Most sales managers that I speak to tell me that their biggest challenge is hiring the best people. This suggests an over-emphasis on the acquisition at the expense of developing top talent.

Because hiring criteria are now so specific the available talent pool for any role is highly restricted and recruitment can be a lengthy chore for the sales manager. For a senior sales position you will want years of relevant experience combined together with an unblemished track record of over achievement with one of your respected competitors. It stands to reason that, having invested a lot of time to make sure we have the right people in the right seats on the bus, we slack off once they are on board but what are we doing to help them get up to speed and stay there?

Anyway here’s the good news - someone has finally met the strict criteria that your company has set out for hiring, after 3 rounds of interviews including a presentation to the management team your new hire starts on Monday.

You have put some thought into the on-boarding process so the first week is fairly well mapped out including introductions to the other members of the team and colleagues in other departments.

Week 2 your valued employee jets off to the states for new hire orientation training and returns full of enthusiasm for the challenge ahead.

Job done right? You can move onto the next new hire and be confident that you have fulfilled your obligation to provide a soft landing and now it’s over to the rep to hit the ground running. Don’t be too sure…

Initial signs are promising as the pipeline begins to build and it seems that your confidence has been rewarded. Although your new hire doesn’t hit quota in the first quarter you weren’t really expecting this anyway. You move on to another round of CV screening and interviewing for the next member of your team who has to be on-board and productive within 3 months.

Half-way through Q2 it becomes fairly evident that the new hire is not going to hit quota and alarm bells are beginning to ring in your metaphorical management early warning centre. You call the rep into to conduct a thorough drill down into the opportunity pipeline and begin to see a pattern emerging -  prospects have technical interest in your solution but there is no senior commercial sponsorship.

You now begin to have regular weekly one on ones with your rep and take time out to make joint visits to some of the larger prospect opportunities. Doubts are now beginning to form in your mind – did you really make the best hire? – or has something else gone wrong? This rep doesn’t seem to resemble the high-powered sales professional that you hired just a few months ago.

At this point you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask a tough question – is it me? Either you hired the right person or you have failed to create the right environment for that individual to succeed.

Are you spending too much time on money on hiring the best possible talent but not investing in coaching to make sure that they perform to the best of their ability?

Most sales managers spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on trying to the get the best possible fit for a very specific job description and then give little or no support to their new hire.  

If any of this is resonating with you ask yourself honestly – are you spending enough time helping your team to be the best that it can be? How often are you sitting down with new and struggling reps to help them to overcome their challenges? Research clearly shows that they will value these conversations more than almost any other formal or informal guidance that your organisation can give. People don’t leave companies they usually leave bad bosses and remember how long it took to make that hire in the first place.

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