Competitive sportspersons realize very early on that they can’t excel without help. Behind every good sportsperson is a coach – creating the right environment for them to build their skills and driving them to reach their potential.
A large part of the coach’s job is to analyze the sportsperson’s current performance and then create a training plan towards mutually decided goals. Your running coach, for example, will help you identify and keep track of your numbers – your time and distance each week, your pace, your cadence, and your heart rate. He will tell you which metrics are important for you and will create a plan to improve each of those numbers steadily. You may need help in different aspects of your performance. Perhaps you struggle most with the discipline required to run 4 times a week, every week; or it could be that you need to tweak your diet; or your core muscles need strengthening; or maybe you’re just not running right. Over time, the coach gets to know you well. He’s able to tell when you’re having a tough time and helps keep you going with words of encouragement and that well-timed pep talk. And sometimes, he tells you things you don’t want to hear.
So, a good coach is a fact finder, a planner, an assessor, an instructor, a mentor, and a friend.
Of course, we’ve been talking about sports here. Let’s apply this idea to an ambitious sales professional. This person is in a fiercely competitive environment, where she is competing with the best in business across the globe. It is as competitive and demanding a situation as sports. For her too, the oversight, timely advice, instruction and mentorship of a good coach can be the difference between success and failure. Sales people are expected to hit the ground running and achieve quotas quarter after quarter while competing constantly with the best in the business. So, a coach who can track how a sales person functions, identify his or her weak spots and help develop efficiencies and improvements on the job is very much the order of the day.
But how many organizations can truly say that they have the processes, mechanisms, and the culture of coaching in their sales teams. A 2015 CSO Insight study on the best practices of supporting sales coaching says “77% of firms surveyed do not provide enough sales coaching”. Aren’t these firms asking their ‘sales athletes’ to perform at their peak in the international arena, without providing the guidance and input of a coach?
As sales organizations start to draw these parallels between sports and sales, they will see the need to coach salespeople just as coaches guide their athletes. It’s time to realize that salespeople, just like sportspeople, can do with some help.