If you ask any organization’s CEO, they would tell you that the effectiveness of the sales department has a huge impact on the success of the business. Even in times of normalcy, many sales organizations invest significant resources for training for their salesforce. And with the massive disruptions of the past year to how organizations sell, helping people adjust to what it takes to be successful in the new normal has been critical. Agility, navigating uncertainty, innovation and creativity, and resilience have become more important for sales teams because the changes to business operations have been profound in response to the global pandemic.
That said, it’s one thing to invest in sales training and enablement and it’s another thing to invest in sales leadership to build the human capabilities necessary to sustain performance through massive change. What value does investing in sales leadership skills have for the bottom line? BetterUp Labs conducted a study to find out.
In March of 2020, a publicly traded global technology company with over 1 billion dollars in annual revenue engaged BetterUp. This company was interested in improving the leadership capabilities in first line sales managers and increasing overall sales performance. What is particularly interesting is that in this case, the investment for coaching coincidentally began in the third week of March, coinciding with World Health Organization’s declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic - the start of a period of time with unprecedented challenge, change, and stress for businesses globally.
As a part of this study, 100 senior and director-level sales managers got unlimited coaching and 58 sales managers did not. On average, sales managers had 5.5 direct reports. Both groups were equal in tenure. After 8 months of coaching, we examined the data.
What the data showed
Result 1. Sales performance for the teams led by coached sales managers skyrocketed compared to those without a coach.
- Teams of coached sales managers improved goal attainment relative to the same quarter from the prior year by 11%. Uncoached leaders who saw a 13% decline in goal attainment.
- Coached sales managers saw a 20% increase relative to the same quarter from the prior year in the value of their opportunities. The non-coached group saw a decline in the value of their opportunities.
- Coached sales managers saw a 60% increase relative to the same quarter from the prior year in the number of their team members that achieved their individual quotas. The non-coached group saw no increase. You can see the holistic shift toward greater salesperson quota achievement for coached teams below.
Result 2. The coached group had a high level of engagement in coaching with over 1200 sessions completed, equating to about 10 hours per manager on average. That is 50% more time spent on coaching compared to other populations we work with.
Result 3. Sales managers attributed their success to coaching. Across the totality of sessions for the coached leaders, 100% were reported by the sales managers as a valuable use of their time.
Why this matters
Compared to those without a coach, those teams with coached sales managers collectively earned an additional $10 million dollars in total bookings. The teams with coached sales managers also saw on average of $4.5 million dollars of additional opportunity per team.
Why such a massive difference to the bottom line? Sales managers improved their personal effectiveness which directly helped their teams thrive through operational and market disruptions. These leaders saw a 24% increase in focus, a 16% increase in strategic planning and 22% increase in coaching culture, meaning they didn’t just improve their own abilities to execute the work, but they improved their abilities to coach others and help others improve their own effectiveness as salespeople.
As one sales manager with a coach put it, “It’s brought a lot of clarity to me in the way that I’m seeing the potential in the team and being more deliberate about not only how I interact with them, but developing them into [...] high engagement, high accountability reps.”