A frequent complaint I hear from sales leaders is that you don’t feel as though you have any time in your already overloaded schedule to devote to coaching. You want to coach more, but other priorities continue to get in the way. One executive told me his sales leaders devoted about 10 percent of their working hours to coaching, while he preferred that they allocate at least 50 percent for that purpose. Ideally, he said, it would be closer to 70 percent.
His experience is not unusual. Sales leaders’ roles are multifaceted and time-consuming. Your days are filled with internal processes that devour your time—tools to be used, forms to fill out, financials to complete, numbers to hit, hirings and firings to make, and so on. In fact, research has shown that 75 percent of sales leaders believe their managers spend too much time on administration and logistics that don’t add value to the business. Yet coaching accounts for a 17 percent performance difference in higher goal attainment for those who received coaching compared to those who did not.
Coaching is a powerful method to improving sales performance, and has a major impact on the job satisfaction of sales leaders. As a leader, you naturally feel rewarded helping other people grow and develop. By sharing your expertise and the wisdom of your experience, you see improved performance in your charges. Sales numbers and relationships both grow, and you gain a clearer understanding where both your strengths and weaknesses lie.
If coaching is relegated to the status of afterthought, however, it becomes merely a task that you wish you had enough time to do. It can create a distance between you and your teams. But how can you determine if you’ve you set aside enough time to coach your teams? Simply look at your schedule: Nothing is more telling of your behavior and what you value most.
If you find you’re not making coaching a priority, the first step is to schedule coaching in a way that reflects its true status and value. That means assigning time to it in the same way that you might to a standing internal meeting. One sales executive I know began to reserve one a day week to coaching after becoming so frustrated with how it was constantly kept on the backburner. That rapidly became his most packed and productive day each week, as his sales teams eagerly took advantage of that reliable accessibility.
We all struggle with time management. A concept I’ve found to be particularly helpful is Habit #3 (“Put First Things First”) from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: To live a more balanced existence, you have to realize that it’s all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities. Habit 3 is not just about time management, but also about life management—your purpose, values, roles and priorities. What are your "first things”? What are the things that you personally find of most worth? If you put first things first, then you’re organizing and managing time and events according to your priorities.
Ultimately, any sales leader has to look at the way they manage their time and ask themselves, “Am I best investing my schedule in my team?” Because coaching—teaching and developing your sales teams—cannot be abdicated to someone else. It’s at the core of a sales leader’s purpose.
How do you ensure that coaching doesn’t get buried on your schedule? What strategies do you employ to give coaching the prominent place in your week that it deserves?
Scott Savage is a managing partner in FranklinCovey’s Sales Performance Practice. He is passionate about accelerating sales growth by creating Flashpoint™ with clients—unleashing sales leaders from the daily grind to becoming true leaders of their teams. Scott has more than 30 years of experience working with clients across industries to enable high performance in individuals and organizations worldwide.