Identifying and grooming future sales leaders is a priority of any successful sales organization. Promoting from within is always a good way to go, as it not only develops a leadership team with deep institutional and industry knowledge, it boosts overall morale. Of course, the road from rep, to management, to leadership can be a bumpy one, as it can be difficult to find managers with the coaching skills necessary to develop a high-performing team.
One solution that’s gaining in popularity: tapping promising reps to assume the role of field sales coach. This serves two purposes: filling the coaching void while also helping to identify and groom future sales leaders. After all, mastering the ins and outs of coaching is a good barometer for identifying reps best suited for a successful career in management.
Developing a Feeder System of Up and Coming Managers
There’s an uptick in interest from sales leadership in increasing their field coaching according to a survey from the Sales Management Association (SMA). Respondents stated their ideal distribution of sales development as 42% field based, up from 32% in a previous survey. Creating a team of field coaches compels sales management to evaluate their reps beyond just selling ability. They also seek reps who demonstrate strong relationship management skills, an ability to be an expert resource in areas such as sales messaging, and the ability to acquire a broader industry perspective. All of which are skills critical to the success of a field sales coach.
Of course, these new coaches will require coaching themselves, as they’ll be responsible for more than observing reps on sales calls, sharing updated collateral and offering suggestions on sales techniques. The establishment of development programs such as “coaching the coach” sessions and initiative-based learning sessions in areas like sales methodology are important to long-term success.
The role demands that the coach be in the field at least three days a week and that their continuous 1:1 coaching addresses everyone on the team, from the newest to the most seasoned rep. Ongoing communication with both sales reps and upper management is also important, as field coaches serve as a bridge between the two. Add to all this the responsibility of team quota attainment and market analysis, including competitive updates and market trends, and you have one heck of a job description.
While identifying and preparing field coaches can be challenging, scaling a field coaching program in a meaningful and efficient way can be the biggest roadblock to ultimate success. According to the SMA, firms with up to 200 salespeople allocate at least 37% to in-the-field activities, while larger firms with 200+ salespeople deliver just 25% of development efforts in the field, underscoring the challenges of scaling field coaching efforts.
Solving for Scale
With time a precious commodity, Qstream’s Coaching Hub can be deployed to provide the data-driven insights needed help the coach set proficiency baselines for critical sales competencies – regardless of the team’s size – make the scaling of coaching initiatives possible. Additionally, Qstream’s real-time data can clarify where a rep is falling short, perhaps building pipeline or responding to sales objections. This allows the field coach to easily identify problem areas for each rep on their team and tailor their coaching accordingly, ensuring that they’re delivering the coaching that’s needed, when it’s needed. Just as today’s buyers are seeking consultative sales relationships, data-driven insights can help a field coach provide consultative coaching to a large team of reps.
Another benefit is the level of impartiality the data brings to the development process, so a coach who had, until recently, worked side by side with the reps he or she is now guiding, can sidestep any biases, making for a smoother delivery of coaching actions.
And having a coach who knows their strengths inside and out accelerates a rep’s path to success and gives them the necessary confidence to close even the most difficult deals.
Forging a Career Path
The transitional model of a field sales coach has tremendous potential, as it forms a defined management path for top sales performers, traditionally a difficult road to navigate. From handling new administrative duties and communicating the corporate vision, to developing strong organizational and interpersonal skills, the path to management requires the acquisition of a new set of skills. With this model, there is ample opportunity for mastery and it becomes apparent to all involved which candidates are best suited for a manager role and which candidates would benefit from a longer transition period.
Have you had success in putting your field sales coaches on the leadership path? Or are you a former field sales coach? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Tweet us @Qstream.