If you are a sales leader – are you coaching or managing your team?
If you are a sales professional – do you want to be coached and held accountable?
On this next 4-part series I have a great conversation with Bill Eckstrom, from the EcSell Institute, about what it means to coach a sales team to success. Check out each episode where Chris shares many tactical ways to coach and on being coached.
In Part 1, Bill and I talk about:
- Coaching vs. Managing/Leading
- The Four Activities of a Coach
- Why your sales metrics matter
- The classic mistake of sales management
William Eckstrom is the President and founder of the EcSell Institute. Bill has spent his entire career in the sales arena; the first 14 years in personal production and then 13 in various sales leadership roles. His management career began in 2000 as a District Manager for a medical equipment company and was promoted to U.S. Director of Sales in 2003. In 2004, Bill was lured away to become Senior Vice President of Business Development for a publicly traded healthcare organization. In 2008, he founded the EcSell Institute to fill a void he witnessed and personally experienced in the sales leadership profession.
Bill presented a TEDx Talk to an audience of over 1,700 at the University of Nevada, Reno where he shared life-altering, personal and professional development ideas through the introduction of the “Growth Rings.” Since the release of the Talk, it received 100,00 views in just one week and now has over 3,000,000 views.
Most recently Bill helped co-author The Coaching Effect: What great leaders do to increase sales, enhance performance, and sustain growth which became an Amazon-Best Selling book in it’s first week of launching.
As a result of his experiences, his company’s findings, and his public speaking skills, Bill’s work as a keynote speaker is highly regarded throughout North America. While his audiences call him “profoundly authentic”, “highly entertaining” and much more, Bill is most proud of the fact his material is based on EcSell’s science and research—he does not present motivational fluff. He has presented to hundreds of groups ranging in size from 25-2,500 on topics found on his personal website, billeckstrom.com.
Lincoln, Nebraska is home for Bill and his wife. Together they have three children, Will Jr, Claire and Maddie. Philanthropically, Bill prefers a very hands-on approach as evidenced by his current involvement and passion–working and training their Yellow Labrador, Aspen, for therapy dog work. Soon he and his four legged companion will be visiting children in hospitals and senior citizens in nursing home settings. Bill also has a strong need to be in the outdoors and finds time each year to spend in field and stream with his children and close friends.
E183 – Transcript
Jason: Welcome to the sales experience podcast. My name is Jason Cutter. On today’s episode I have Bill Eckstrom after a long management career that started in 2000 in medical equipment. He started the Ecsell Institute in 2008 and he is very much a man after my own heart based on research, data, facts providing value, and as he puts it without a lot of motivational fluff and hype. Bill, welcome to the sales experience podcast.
Bill: Jason. Thank you. It’s fun to be with you.
Jason: Yeah, so I’m really excited to talk again. You know, I’m not a big fluff person. Anyone who listens to me knows me like I probably should use more stories and put in more fluff. But you wrote a book called the coaching effect and I kind of wanted to start there because the subtitle is what great leaders do to increase sales, enhance performance, and sustain growth. And since this is a sales-related show, I wanted to start there and talk about what great coaching looks like when leading sales people getting great results. Kind of in that framework.
Bill: Okay, well you know we could start and go on this topic forever. Great coaching, there’s really two components to it. It’s how much and how well and when you kind of move everything aside. That’s what it comes down to and I say how much meaning that we’ve seen in our research and our research consists of thousands and thousands and thousands of surveying salespeople about the coaching, that dynamic between themselves and their manager and we’ve measured, Oh now over 130,000 coaching interactions in the workplace, primarily between sales leaders and salespeople and what we’ve been able to discern, Jason, is that while there’s a million things, sales managers, leaders, coaches, whatever you want to call them, are supposed to be doing. By the way, we prefer the term coach over manager or leader. While there’s all kinds of things they should be doing. We have found four activities that have the highest correlation to what we referred to as discretionary effort and we can tease this part here in a minute, but those activities are one-to-one meetings with between coach and salesperson.
Bill: They are career development discussions. The third is team meetings and the fourth is called post-call feedback. So objective feedback, giving objective feedback, for sales call. So those are the four activities. And while those are probably not very cutting edge on a thing, Jason, you’re sitting there going, ah, g-mail, that’s rocket science. What’s interesting in our research is nobody knows if those are occurring. Nobody knows, you know, gee, do I want my sales managers to be with my salespeople once a quarter? Yes. Do I want them, giving feedback to my salespeople? Yes. Well, they don’t know if that’s occurring. They don’t know what they’re spending 70% of the time with the bottom 30% of their producers or vice versa. If you ask executive sales leaders if they want their sales managers to be going on joint calls, when they call on key accounts, their response is always, Oh, of course I do. But they don’t know if that’s happening. And then all that aside, nobody knows how the quality of the coaching that does occur. So it’s the quantity measurement and a quality measurement. By the way, quality has a bigger impact on team discretionary effort than anything else. So there’s a long answer to a short question, I apologize.
Jason: No, I think that’s great. And it’s interesting because you’ve said, you know, you listed the four items and then you said it’s a no brainer, right? Obviously everyone knows that. And it’s interesting how many people don’t know that. Like it’s a no brainer to me because of where, you know what I’ve developed and you know, we’re similar to that way, but with a lot of organizations, with a lot of leaders, it’s interesting how many, you know, like the post-call feedback, let’s say, how many organizations don’t record calls or meetings or don’t do ride alongs or don’t have any analysis after the fact. And then there’s the, is it actually happening and then the quantity is it happening and then the quality of what’s occurring. I mean, all of that is…
Bill: Let me ask you this, Jason. When you’re working with an inside sales team, are you recommending that they quantify the work? Meaning what metrics are you making sure that they are reviewing?
Jason: Yeah, I mean if we’re talking about reps and managers/coaches, you know, it’s going to be about.. From a sales perspective, it’s, you know, if I’m a salesperson, then it’s, you know, it’s the number of contacts, conversations, how much talk time, and then the different stages that conversion through whatever that process is, you know, and what those conversion percentage should be from let’s say, you know, a lead to a quote to you know, a contract center, you know, whatever it is for that sales.
Bill: Exactly. So what you just said is what every organization, every sales department should be tracking, especially inside sales or outside sales. But here’s what’s interesting. When you ask sales executives, is the performance of your sales team a reflection of how well they’re coached and led every executive sales leader, not true. 99 out of 100 will say, Oh, absolutely it is. And then you say, okay, so you track all this data about your sales people. What are your sales managers doing and how well do they do it? And the answer is always a blank stare. They have all kinds of data and information on the producer and no information on what they have just said is the biggest determinant on whether or not they’re productive or not productive.
Jason: Yeah. And then the conversations always are, okay, so what is the manager doing all day? What did the manager do this week? Well, they met with some reps and they went through some things and they pushed the reps and they spent time coaching them. Okay, well how much? How often? What did they do? You know, when is it gonna happen again? Yeah.
Bill: Yeah. It’s the hardest role I’ve, I’ve walked in those shoes and looking at your background, sounds like you’d have to, it’s the most challenging role, what we call SM1, sales management one. It’s the most challenging role there is, in the sales department because they’re expected to be a customer service expert. They’re supposed to be a motivator. They’re supposed to be a strategist, supposed to be a pioneer. They’re supposed to be a recruiter. They’re supposed to be a sales expert. They have every hat they’re supposed to be experts on and in the, in what we’re seeing in our, in our research is in what do we typically do, to who do we promote into management.
Jason: Top salespeople.
Bill: Right? And what we see in our research is that only 4 to 5% of salespeople have the ability to be a great coach. That means 95 96 should stay.
Jason: Well. And what I’ve always seen, because this is why I’ve advised against moving top salespeople into management, is that kind of like athletes where a top salesperson in my experience is really good at sales. It mostly will come natural, but it’s also something they’ve been working on for a very long time and they don’t really understand enough of how they are successful and what they do to be successful. And then they can’t necessarily coach other people because they just get it, right. Like uh Michael Jordan just gets it. He put in a lot of effort, but he just gets it, right. That’s why you don’t see a lot of great players in sports become great coaches because they don’t understand why everyone else just doesn’t get it. And then we put them in a, you know, top salespeople in the sales management positions and they don’t understand and they don’t coach and they don’t lead. And then there’s all those other things you’re talking about that a manager is supposed to do. That’s just not within the scope of probably their strengths.
Bill: Yeah. And if you liken it to a runner, if you ask a spritz or how do you run so fast? and they just kind of shake their heads. I didn’t know. I just move my legs.
Jason: Well, I just do it.
BIll: Yeah. Ask Barry Sanders now that’s dating me. Right? How did it make so many moves on the football? I don’t know. I just run, I’ll never forget the best salesperson I’d ever been around in my life. Her name is Sherry and she was in a medical equipment business and I used to dig and probe into her as to how she did what she did. I would watch her and witness everything. And I asked her to speak to the balance of our sales people one time and she couldn’t explain what she did. She didn’t, she just did it. So it’s a rare person that has the ability to play the game and coach the game.
Jason: Yup. And I think that’s very true. It’s, you know, some people just see it, right? It’s just seeing the matrix, uh, versus being able to explain it.
Bill: Exactly. Yup.
Jason: Okay. So we have this, let’s say, I don’t want to say blind spot, but we have this natural tendency in organizations to have this sales manager who’s not necessarily being held to specific numbers metrics. So what do you do about that? Like what’s the solution? Obviously other, you know, don’t hire, don’t move your top salesperson into sales management roles. That’ll be the first one. You know, what is the solution? What are you guys seeing as kind of the, the best approach to take with that sales manager that should be a coach?
Bill: You know, that’s such a powerful and profound question. And by the way, I’m not saying don’t take your top sales person and move them into a management role. Don’t take the top person and move them into a coaching role if they don’t have the ability to coach.
Jason: Right? Yeah. There’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of top salespeople who have management tendencies, leadership tendencies, they can do both and they can break down what they do and help others. And you can see that on the floor and you know when it’s the good fit, right and when they couldn’t help. Yeah.
Bill: Yes, exactly. And those are about 1 out of 20 so you know the challenge, which is really interesting, we run into this with organizations all the time. It is a paradigm shift. Now organizations are looking at what managers are doing or again, we’re going to call them coaches. What coaches are doing in not working as opposed to only what salespeople are doing or not doing and coaches don’t like it. They have been able to run under the radar and without having any accountability or responsibility to behavior or activity.
Bill: Now. So what we try and get leadership teams to understand is that knowing this is not an evaluation process, it’s an improvement process and so it’s the communication of how organizations go about. This is everything Jason.
Jason: Alright, that’s it for part one of my conversation with Bill Ecktrom. As you can tell, we think a lot of like we’re focused on coaching and leadership in a sales organization and how that relates within the org to managers and how they deal with sales reps. and then also if you’re in sales, how that applies to you from the top down. So how if your manager and coach and leader could be working with you, but then also how you can translate that into your conversations and how you coach your prospects into becoming clients, which I really cover more in part four and kind of talk about that. But for now, make sure to go to cutterconsultinggroup.com you can find the transcript for this. You can also find Bill’s links for his website, his information, his Ted talk, all of that. And as always, keep in mind that everything in life is sales and people remember the experience you gave them.