Steven Rosen is a well-known sales leadership coach and author of the book, The Sales Managers Success Guide: 52 Sales Management Tips.
In this episode we’re talking about sales coaching. It’s a topic I talk about a lot on this show. With good reason. Research says that sales coaching is the #1 sales management activity that drives improvement in sales performance. Except as Steven and I get into into in this episode, there’s not a uniform definition for what sales coaching is. That’s a big problem. Is it mentoring? Skills development? Deal coaching? Plus, if sales coaching has the potential to drive performance improvement, why don’t companies invest more in training sales managers how to do it?
Andy Paul: Welcome back to the show.
Steven Rosen: I’m so glad to be back here with you and look forward to talking and sharing some great ideas.
Andy Paul: Yeah, likewise. So, it’s that time. We’re in the midst of the shutdown. Where are you sheltering?
Steven Rosen: I’m North of Toronto, in my home. I’ve been here now not just eight months. Sorry, not just two months. I’ve been here for 17 years. So life was not changed a great deal, except for a few things as a result of the lockdown, but here in Canada we’re harboring down and dealing with the same issues of lockdown and trying to cope. The nice thing is the world is now gone virtual and I’ve been virtual for a little while.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well please assure the people that you have not been inside for the whole 17 years.
Steven Rosen: No, actually, I’m a very social guy and I do love getting you’re meeting customers, flying to different places, but I guess, but although the last day, sorry, I don’t know. I keep saying eight weeks, my biggest excursion was getting my snow tires changed. Other than that, I’ve actually really hunkered down.
I go for walks with the dog every day, maybe more than once a day, but my wife does the shopping and we’ve been stir-crazy, but –
Andy Paul: So it’s may in Canada, are you putting the snow tires on or taking them off?
Steven Rosen: That’s a great question. We got snow. I can send you pictures. There was two days last week. One was actually this week, Saturday and Monday, there was a dusting of snow on the ground that never happens in May. And I said it was probably because I removed my snow tires the week before.
But it is insane. And maybe that’s a message from the gods. I don’t know. But usually around May, like May two, this weekend coming up is Victoria Day weekend, the Queen’s birthday. And usually it’s our weekend for planting stuff. So I don’t know. It’s supposed to get warm like Monday, but it’s been horrible, so-
Andy Paul: Yeah. We had a dusting of snow a weekend ago. About a week, 10 days ago, in in New York. Not it wasn’t this past weekend. I can’t remember. Yeah, it’s actually this
Steven Rosen: way.
It’s like Groundhog day.
Andy Paul: talk. I must have lost all concept of time,
Steven Rosen: We’re living the same day every day.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I barely know what day of the week it is. So welcome back. And we’re going to talk about sales management. We talk about coaching and that and you’ve written about is, quality of sales managers, number one performance factor for your sales reps or that coaching boost performance by what, 19% Great sales coaches. But,
Steven Rosen: Yes, sir.
Andy Paul: But, so we got this way of this issue is that, we don’t invest in training managers, how to be good coaches.
Steven Rosen: Now that is very true. Now I think there’s some major problems. It’s not just like training sales reps. When you’re training leaders, you need to take a very different approach. So I think what’s happened is, and I’ve done probably about four or five years ago. We did a survey study that looked at what percentage of companies were investing in ongoing development for managers? And it was about 50 50. The problem-
Andy Paul: Investing at all. You mean?
Steven Rosen: Investing in sales management development. We have a study out that says was about 50/50. We looked at different skills, but it was split. The problem is if you don’t do it well, you’re probably frustrated as a sales executive that you’re not getting any ROI. And the whole thing is most managers are poor coaches. And I don’t know, I don’t, that’s reality, every study, CSO, CEB, SRA, who’s Stephen RosenAassociates, but, there are results and associates,
Andy Paul: Right there with the giants. Yes.
Steven Rosen: The giants, we all, but the bottom line is everything I read. We all know. And I’ve worked with sales managers for the last, I won’t say it, but at least 10 years, closer to 20. they’re poor coaches. Coaching is a hard skill. so the ones that have invested have not got an ROI. So what’s the likelihood of continuing to invest. I work with a large Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company, that’s invested in coaching around the world and they didn’t want any outside consultants. They wanted us to do it themselves and they rolled it out and that they provided their sales managers with training, which was pretty good. I went through their training stuff. It was good as a good coaching model. They provided them with tons of tools, no shortage of tools. And then they said three years later, why are we not getting any traction on this? We don’t understand. And two years ago, prior to that, I told them you’re missing several components that are critical when you’re training sales leaders. And I’m not going to tell you what those are. Yes, I will.
Andy Paul: but yeah, one of those is, and speaks to a bigger issues, no one’s coaching the sales managers.
Steven Rosen: So we roll out training for sales reps. And even though our managers are, can I use the word shitty, poor coaches? I didn’t use the word shitty our poor coaches. It’s a tough skill and they haven’t been trained or coached on it. but at least we have someone reinforcing sales training or whatever skills we’re doing or whatever we’re doing, who does it for the managers.
And, there’s a wholesale group that says no buddy, and that’s the problem. That’s one of the problems, there’s two essential things that are missing in the mix. And one is the number one, the number one, a way to really amplify any training you do is following up with coaching. there’s a study that shows that, training combined with coaching has four times the impactfulness. So if you train, but don’t coach well, you’re putting money down the toilet from a, from an investment and an ROI perspective, which I was a VP of sales and trust me every dollar I spent, I wanted to get a return on it.
Otherwise I could just hire more sales reps. if you just do training and you just provide tools, you’re 30% of the way there in terms of, the goal of training in my mind is creating a mastery of a Skill mastery, or master sales coaches. If you really want to, get that 19-20% that are promised in studies. you need to have master coaches highly effective following a methodology and actually spending more time, not doing administration, but coaching their sales reps to get better.
Andy Paul: But do sales reps, SDRs, BDRs, AEs doesn’t matter account managers, do they learn, how do they learn how to sell? Do they learn from primarily from their managers, do they learn from their watching their peers? Do they learn from their customers or do they learn from training now? I’d argue that training is fourth on that list.
Steven Rosen: It’s interesting because let’s say you invest a lot of money on a training solution and you have a selling methodology. one, if it’s not followed up and you’re not asked to do it dies. So then you sell as you see fit, from, and I’m not a process guy. I believe I’m a people guy. I coach people. Without a PR anything you do with the process, you get better outcomes.
So I always say what’s the best selling models, the one that people follow, because if you follow a model or a process, you get better results. so that’s one of the problems from a, from an ROI perspective. so where does it, sales reps, some of them are just good sales reps. They read books, they’re constantly, and self analyzing or self managing. and they coach themselves to be better. But that’s not a vast majority of your salespeople. Those are your top salespeople. Who are always trying to get better, the opportunity is if you have a manager, the manager’s jobs should not be administration or, or being in constant meetings, or answering emails, they should be there helping you get better.
Andy Paul: you’d think, Part of the real issue is, and you’ve touched on it is that they don’t know how to make people better.
Steven Rosen: That 100%. Yeah. I’m like,
Andy Paul: So here’s my big thought for you. I may have another one later, but I’ll give you this big thought
Steven Rosen: I’m waiting with anticipation for this one.
Andy Paul: Okay. don’t get too carried away, but I’m sure you’re familiar with the numbers we spend. Yeah, $20 billion a year in the U S on sales training of which maybe a maximum 5% of that amount is spent on training sales managers. So maybe 5 billion or 10 billion to now maybe a billion, excuse me, is spent on sales managers. What if we flipped that on its head? What do you think would the outcome would be.
In terms of performance sales, rep performance, if of that $20 billion. So we spent 19 billion training sales managers with all that entails because yeah, we could afford a lot for 19 billion. We built a lot of reinforcement training and coaches and so on what would happen if we’d just flip that on its head and we spent 19 billion on sales managers in a billion only training sales reps out to sell?
Steven Rosen: I love the question and I’m going to answer it. I’m going to make it difficult, but, here’s the thing, managers, any investment, if you, first of all, you have to do it. Okay. So yes, it takes money to do it So conceivably, if you flip that and did it right. You’re going to get great outcomes. Right.
Andy Paul: $19 billion to spend on, arguably one 10th, the number of people, or if not more, if not less, 60 days than you are spending 19 billion to train now
Steven Rosen: But again, if you just do it as training, you don’t reinforce it.
Andy Paul: I’m saying you do it right.
Steven Rosen: You do it right.
Andy Paul: Be able to afford to do it right.
Steven Rosen: here’s the, here’s how I was trained from business perspective. Always the question is where do you spend your first dollar? And to me, I spent my first dollar on building sales, leadership effectiveness. That is my best dollar I spent. And you said it, but I flip it the other way. Your managers are the X factor and they’re actually the 10X factor because they have 10 sales reps reporting to them. So if you have a great manager, all your investment is it’s a multiplier. So you don’t spend, but that’s really, that’s where the opportunity lies and most sales organizations are missing on opportunity and it drives me nuts.
And they’ll tell me, Steven, our managers are great coaches. I’m thinking, what are you talking about? And then I asked them, what do you guys coach?
We coach the deals.We coach strategically. How about skills?
Andy Paul: Right. let me just, I want to get into that, but let me just get an answer to the question though. Is what do you think would happen to sales? Would sales go up or sales? Go down?
Steven Rosen: 100%. I mean, I thought,
Andy Paul: if we flipped it for the flip, the investment on his head.
Steven Rosen: your best investment is in your sales manager. So if you can create, great sales managers or master sales coaches, you’re going to win. you’re going to crush your sales numbers.
Andy Paul: Okay, all right. Just taking informal polls so far, everybody agrees that if you flip that investment on its head with sell more than we are now. Okay. So let’s continue. I’m sorry. I just wanted to, I wanted to get to that point a point, but to a point you’re making is. You know, what are a managers sort of basic responsibilities? And this sort of gets to the heart of a lot of what the discussion on coaching is. Yeah. They’re distracted by reporting. They’re distracted by this and by that, and this result, they don’t do the coaching, but then also the second order issue is really what are they meant to be coaching?
Steven Rosen: Yeah. Yeah.
Andy Paul: These days its seems like when you talk about coaching, it’s deal coaching it’s opportunity, coaching.
Steven Rosen: Yes. Yup. you’re in most organizations, that long selling processes, they coach the deal skills even, and I think there’s a miss there. because you’re coaching too, to the forecast, you’re trying to understand the forecast as opposed to make your sales rep better. Because watching the deal. Yep.
Andy Paul: I think there’s two dimensions of that or three dimensions of the better one is yeah. The deal coaching, opportunity coaching. One is skills you’ve talked about. The other is the person themselves, right? That’s separate from the skills. it’s aptitude acumen, adaptability, resilience, mindset, all those things are part of developing the person.
Steven Rosen: I’m with you. I’m with you. I take a very concise whatever, not conservative, but I think a very focused approach to coaching where you can’t coach too many things can ask a person to grow or to improve in too many areas. So it’s gotta be really focused and hyper hyperfocused on one, maybe one skill and maybe one behavior until you get mastery. Cause you know, to me, anything you do, if you’re doing it, you’re not moving the needle. Whether it be coaching, whether it be selling, it’s all about moving the needle and having impact. And the belief is if you improve one skill, you’re going to get a positive change in the sales reps, selling skills, and then a second one.
And of course it’s an ongoing process.
Andy Paul: Yeah. if it’s reinforced and they experienced success with it and they say, okay, then I’ll keep doing this.
Steven Rosen: Yep.
Andy Paul: but it really speaks to an issue about how managers should allocate their time. So if oftentimes managers say, I just don’t have time to coach and would see this all the time. How should they divide their time? If you had a hundred percent, how would you divide that? A hundred percent among I’ve got my opinion. I’ll give after.
Steven Rosen: it’s over 50% of their time should be spent coaching. Okay. I would say 60. but the majority of their time should be spent coaching and I take a very simple approach. In fact, I’ll give my Mike Weinberg some credit on this, he speaks about focusing on high impact activities.
I think that’s his term. And if I look at, what are the highest impact activities a manager does? Number one is coaching. when you allocate your first doc allocating my first dollar in training, where we allocate my first hour, we’ll let be coaching. Second is, having some level of cadence.
Meaning regular meetings to keep people accountable. You can actually consider that part of coaching, but I actually look at that as performance management. So coaching and leadership, two cadence and accountability, and three is really about where you focus your time, which is those two areas. Those are the two key drivers of, of performance.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah.
Steven Rosen: So in very simple terms, coach your people hold them accountable to do what they say they’re going to do.
Andy Paul: which I agree with. I, so I have a little formula that they provide to managers. I think they should follow in terms of how they allocate their time during the day. And there’s a little acronym that goes with it. And so the acronym is cope. C O P E.
Steven Rosen: Okay.
Andy Paul: Forst, the first task is building. Capacity within your organization, which to me is basic management tasks, right? I’m going to be hiring people. I’m going to be managing the, on a personal level. I’m going to be a, setting the process, looking at our reports in terms of, sales, efficiency, sales, effectiveness, our KPIs, all that. So I think managers spend no more than 40% of their time doing that. The O is for opportunity. I think they should spend, roughly about 30% of their time coaching opportunities. I think they should spend 20% of their time, we’d call it coaching for performance development, but I call it mentoring really I’d just to distinguish it, but it’s that personal development coaching. Very similar to, for anybody listening to show at all knows that I’m a huge fan of the book, The Coaching Habit by your fellow Canadian, Michael Bungay Stanier. Follow that for your performance coaching and personal development. You can’t beat that methodology for doing it. And then the remaining 10% is, should be devoted to, your own education, your own development. yeah, 40% on building capacity of the organization management, hiring training, basic training, so on and so forth, 30% opportunity coaching, hitting your numbers. 20% of your time spent developing people and 10% spent educating yourself and developing yourself. That’s a hundred percent. And I just think that’s a framework that people should be looking at as sales managers say, yeah. How do I allocate my time to ensure that, and that. To your point totals up to your 50% being spent on coaching the individuals on your team.
Steven Rosen: there you go. that, developing your people and, developing your pipeline are critical.
Andy Paul: Yeah, but it’s yeah, but all the focus is on developing the pipeline, not developing the people. is why people, so why people leave. That’s why people were dissatisfied with their managers, salespeople get fed up, they don’t perceive there’s opportunities for growth. sure. If no, one’s paying attention to them
And giving them a pathway for growth and saying, Hey, let’s lay out your development plan for this year. people are gonna say that I’ve gotten a future.
Steven Rosen: And that’s where the engagement component comes in. if you’re really effective at coaching and there’s two components to that. One is coaching to your present job and proving your skills. And two is preparing you for, whatever that next level may be. If that’s something that, the individual, strives to do,
Andy Paul: Yeah. and so we talk about this, but this is nothing. Excuse me. It’s like Howard times speaking on that this is nothing that sales managers can take on themselves. This gets back to what we talked about before, which this has to start the C level. This has to start at senior sales leadership at the C level, CRO, CSO saying we have to make this investment. We have to set. The standard for what we expect in terms of how people allocate their time. And Weinberg wrote about this, obviously in his second book about sales management is sales managers being overwhelmed with requests, for data and reports and so on. So much of which could be automated. Anyway, these days is they’re not spending the time doing what they need to do, but they feel the pressure not just to hit the number, but also to comply in the bureaucratic sense.
Steven Rosen: Yeah.
Andy Paul: have these demands on their time that coaching just falls by the wayside. and, I’ve had experienced sitting in conferences. I’ve talked about this before, where panelist of CROS are saying, we don’t do one on ones anymore. We found that weren’t very effective.
Steven Rosen: Right.
Andy Paul: of course they weren’t very effective because you suck at it.
Steven Rosen: Yeah, and that’s what happened. You’re right. I, it does that, they saved the head of the fish thing. So does the rest of the fish, and I’m not saying that, anybody thinks, but the bottom line is if you want to build the right culture, of accountability, and people development.
if you constantly focus on sales, which sometimes, companies are quarter to quarter and they’re never really getting ahead because they’re just focused on meeting today’s objective, as opposed to any longterm cause coaching takes some time. Right. And most organizations, some organizations will start a coaching initiative.
And then all of a sudden what happens when sales tech may tail off, for whatever reason, all of a sudden the coaching goes out the window. It’s okay. How do we, how are we going to make this happen? And then they’re in reactive mode. So if you want to build the right culture, you do need.
Leadership to really take, take the, the ball and run with it and say, Hey, this is what the drivers of performance are. And, I was a VP of Sales and, I’m actually a pretty good one cause of my last three years, we tripled sales with no, all organic. 17 years ago, it doesn’t really matter, but the point being it can be done. but you’ve got to build that momentum and then allows you to make those decisions about the right, doing the right things, as opposed to doing what’s going to solve. The quarterly issue. And if you manage quarter to quarter, your people die quarter to quarter as well.
Andy Paul: what res raises a question that’s. Yeah, maybe one of the last things we can get into is do we just fundamentally have the wrong system and, we’re trying to fix things that in a way that most will just provide incremental, marginal, incremental improvement. yeah. Does this book and just this quote from Edwards Deming sort of sticks in my mind about, Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.
Steven Rosen: Yeah, no, it’s-
Andy Paul: and it’s not the cases where we’re not really fundamentally changing anything. And that’s why I brought the big idea about turning training on its head and the way we allocate training dollars is just one step in that direction is. Hey, we’re just sort of nibbling around the edges. It seems and And continually stuck.
Steven Rosen: there’s some theory that says, if you make incremental improvements everywhere, you’re gonna win. if I look at the situation today, okay, we’ve had eight, eight weeks. It feels like eight weeks. That is eight weeks month. It’s like a long time. But anyways, we’ve all been locked up or locked down, whatever word we wanna use. I’m sure 90% of companies, their sales have suffered. So at some point we’re going to start to open up. and maybe, objectives will change. Maybe they won’t. And I look and I say, okay, now’s the time.
If you really need to leverage something, what can you leverage? You? You know what I remember, actually, I was managing a Salesforce in Canada in 2002. And the reason why I tell you this is not because I’m old or whatever, it’s because that’s when SARS hit in Toronto, which is our biggest group. Okay. So I was managing the sales organization. It was February of 2001 and marketing was calling down the sales number. They were ready to call on the sales number and Rosen said, no. I said, no, I’m not calling down the sales number. I’m going to pull all the leavers I could. And guess what? As a sales executive, or VP of sales, you don’t have too many leavers to pull to drive sales. You really tell your sales reps have a lot more leavers than you. So I said, here’s what we’re going to do. And not saying this is right or wrong, but we actually made the numbers that year. but SARS had an impact and, we canceled all training of our sales reps. We sent our trainers into the field to support and coach the reps as well as the managers. And we provided a, we created a program to reward people who are creative at finding ways to access physicians, because we sold the hospitals. We were in the pharmaceutical industry and it was hard to, hospitals that were closed down. Like they are now, it was hard to get in, but the bottom line is we made the numbers.
And it was having more people out coaching and supporting the sales reps, people doing their basic job. if sales reps are not selling, what are they doing? If sales managers are not coaching, what are they doing? so if you’re not doing your most basic task really well, then you’re not going to be as successful as you can be. And, maybe I’m repeating myself, but, I went through that exact same experience and SARS was not a global pandemic. It was isolated, but, every day, we were looking at what we need to do. And it came down to, there’s only so many levers you can pull, right? If you look at COVID, what are the levers you can pull to deliver sales results this year?
things open up, you can add more sales reps. You could add some great technology on, you can do more sales training, which we said is not the best idea. You can improve bonus plans, more money, or you can leverage, your sales leaders effectness by invest investing in their improvement or helping them get better.
as a result, helping your reps upgrade their skills and improving engagement. So I’m not sure if adding more sales reps, supports it. There may be some gains with technology, training. I don’t know. I think companies who have done training they’ve used the last two months to do that. So to me, the biggest leverage point you can have as a sales leader. And I call it the 10X factor, whatever you want to call it is getting your sales managers to do what drives performance. Coach, teach them how mentor them, coach them, but hold them accountable to doing that. So everything, do companies measure days, coaching number of coaching reports, sales rep improvement in skills that they’re focusing on.
no one’s held accountable, no senior executive reads a field visit report or development plan, unless there’s a problem with the rep. So if if you don’t inspect it, it doesn’t happen. so there’s some very simple things that can be done. if you’re looking at least from my perspective and I focus in on sales leadership because that’s the area I love sales leaders. And I think if anything, they are the biggest leverage you can get in terms of investment in terms of burn.
Andy Paul: We talked about earlier is just, yeah. how do we make the right investment in that? And I think, you know, just wrap things up. I just feel people were responsible for this, if you had a company and you’re running your CEO and you’re running a large organization, you got a large sales organizations. Just look at your numbers. things aren’t improving fundamentally the way that you think they are. or if you’re a sales leader is, you may feel frustrated cause it’s like, yeah, we’re just eking out, growth, but it’s so painful and it’s, we have, I think we have to much as we’ve done on the sales side, because we really have to relook, I think pretty fundamentally at how we structure management and how we structure, how we coach and how we invest in it. and it may be, I’m not an incremental investment is I would shift, plus I’ve talked about earlier. I would advocate shifting dollars from training reps to training managers, not add more. I think we overtrain reps with very little return. So let’s dedicate those dollars to places where have more impact, because I think.
Fundamentally reps learn from their coaches. They learn from their peers, they learn from their customers how to sell. And so let’s give those managers more tools to be effective.
Steven Rosen: Yeah, I’m with you. I think, the biggest opportunity, if you want to come out the Gates I’m flying. when things open up and you really need to make things happen and there’s fundamental changes and we didn’t really talk about them and it’s probably not the time, but even in terms of how we’re going to sell, given a post COVID world or even a, through COVID, there’s no face to face there’s really little face to face selling going on.
So even how we sell is going to change. And if you can train your reps on how to sell virtually. you know how to do a zoom meeting, how to read body language, how to work your computer and all that jazz. But unless the manager is getting involved in those calls and coaching them, which you can do on zoom, you can do remote coaching, then we’re still gonna, So there’s a fundamental shift going on leadership. Let me make a change. And if you add a new CRM, if sales leadership is not behind it and supporting it gets killed that initiative. If you’re training your reps on how to sell differently, if your sales managers are not part of it, it doesn’t happen.
So we’re really at a critical juncture right now where selling is going to change. I do a lot of work in the pharmaceutical industry. I know, talking to a to very senior sales executives, but they’re looking at, do they need the reps to be knocking on, 500 doctors specialist stores or, 2000 specialist stores, or can they, have a great rep in a central city and talk to the, a, specialists by phone or by, by zoom.
So there’s going to be some very fun, fundamental changes on the sales side and really to make those happen. without strong leadership, that transformation is going to be very difficult and painful. So if any time, and I agree with your equation and flipping things on their head, but if there’s ever a time for strong, wrong, effective leadership, And sales leadership and the frontline that actually the ones who make the changes, without those people onboard and being very effective and confident companies are going to suffer and they’re going to continue to suffer. So I’m not trying to be negative, but on the flip side, there’s a great opportunity there for companies who get it.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well, no, I-
Steven Rosen: You’re with me.
Andy Paul: That’s all right.
Steven Rosen: I’m preaching to the converted.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I think that what’s going to happen next is unknown. We have no idea. it will be different. It’s, everybody’s done with the new normal. What we’re doing now is not the new normal, it’s just a weighstation to what the next normal will be. And yeah, I agree with you. I was, I think the change really starts in middle management and in many respects and yeah, you have to have the people in place and trained and ready to do it. All right. Steven, we’ve run out of time. tell people they can connect with you and learn more about what you’re doing.
Steven Rosen: Okay. they can reach me three ways. My email is email@example.com. you’re welcome to text me at (647) 893-8300. I’ve been communicating with a lot of people via text these days. And of course, if they were to type in, www.starresults.com/ chat, they can actually book time with me through my calendar. just from a, a perspective what I do is sales leadership development for the last 10 years, everything I’ve been doing is virtual. we train virtually, but training doesn’t help you get there. We coach virtually, and, we work with managers to make sure they can implement anything we do. We work with a smaller group of customers, but we make sure that, they can move the needle.
Andy Paul: You’ve been preparing yourself for 10 years for this moment.
Steven Rosen: Well, you know, it’s not any great planning, but- Well I’m not a trainer I’m a VP of Sales, a sales leader by trade. And I’ve realized that the training in itself is very ineffective. So it’s a small portion of what I do, but the real magic comes in when someone has a human moment because they understand now that this is the way I need to do things or they’ve implemented something and we’ve cracked their toughest nut. Sometimes I call it that. If you have a sales rep who’s just not there and you find a way to have a breakthrough with them that happens through coaching, not through training.
Andy Paul: yep. I agree. All right. great to talk to you. Stay safe and we’ll talk again before too long.