Why Front Line Sales Managers Need to Coach Their Reps More

sales managers need to coach moreThe short answer if you are in a hurry to read this is:
as extremely busy adults, we don’t retain a lot of what we hear. All human adults need repetition and reinforcement.

You think that your reps are not remembering things deliberately or with malice. They are not (usually).

How much do adults forget?
As with many things, it depends.

It is NOT true that reps forget “half” of the content of training over “x” number of days, because we have different conditions to factor in, like:

  • How motivated the rep is
  • How quickly they try out what we have talked about
  • How much follow-up conversation has happened (like coaching) to help reinforce it
  • The power of the learning (have you told vivid stories they will remember? Used visuals? Shared interactively?)
  • What the rep already knew before the learning

Will Thalheimer, PhD and a Learning and Performance Consultant / Researcher has extensively studied how we remember and how we forget. Will shares:

More meaningful materials (like stories) tend to be easier to remember than less meaningful material (like nonsense syllables). More relevant concepts tend to be easier to remember than less relevant concepts. Learners who have more prior knowledge in a topic area are likely to be better able to remember new concepts learned in that area. More motivated learners are more likely to remember than less motivated learners. Learners who receive repetitions, retrieval practice, feedback, variety (and other potent learning methods) are more likely to remember than learners who do not receive such learning supports. Learners who are provided with learning and practice in the situations where they will be asked to remember the information will be better able to remember. Learners who are asked to retrieve information shortly after learning it will retrieve more than learners who are asked to retrieve information a long time after learning it.

Instead of giving you a deadline for WHEN your onboarding and learning for your sales reps is expired, I’d rather encourage you to think about the training and teaching to you for your sales team as the lifeblood to building your sales pipeline. How can you turn it into a performance, not a lecture?

Ideas on HOW to ENGAGE

• Stories: The real stories you share, the description and visuals you can create, and the interaction you can get with team members all help retention.

• Sales Playbook: Create a Sales Playbook that reflects your sales processes and how work is done within the sales team. Keep it current.

• Enthusiasm: Be enthusiastic about the future, instead of talking down to your team because of issues in the past. Everyone wants to be forward thinking. Share learning moments but don’t dwell on them.

• Frequency: If you coach each person on your team at least once a week you can help shorten their learning curve and add “just in time” ideas to get to more of the right sales activities sooner.

• Objectivity: Show up with no agenda. As soon as you “lead the witness” with your own ideas and agenda, you change the possible outcome. Be open and be a blank slate when engaging with reps in any type of follow up session / event / coaching / call.

The more time you spend one-on-one with a rep, or small rep team, asking about real situations the sooner they will be able to transfer what they heard in any training or learning session into their actual world.

Help them with this and you’ll see more of the right activities happening on your team, and a bigger pipeline. If not, then you can focus on other possible issues. More on that next.

Talk with LORI


Lori Richardson  helps mid-sized companies grow revenues by solving key issues in their sales department - like recruiting, retention, diversity hiring, process, pipeline and leadership. She speaks at CEO groups on topics of sales growth. Clients include companies in the technology, telecom, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services industries. Subscribe to the award-winning blog, follow her on Twitter
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Topics: B2B, sales leadership

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