It’s easy, rewarding, and exciting to coach high performers. Their performance creates visibility, accounts for a majority of an organization’s performance, and warrants recognition.
As Selling Power points out, “In sales, A players typically attract a disproportionate percentage of management attention, incentives, resources, and pats on the back.”
And yet, the success of your organization doesn’t depend on how you coach your top tier talent…
Instead, your organization’s success rests on the quality of the strategies you use to coach your mid and low-level performers.
Successful organizations create a “rising of the tide” by boosting performance consistently across all levels of the organization.
By stepping up the performance of your mid and low-level performing employees, you will inspire and enable all levels of players to perform at an even higher level.
There is one powerful way to transform your mid and low-level performers, and therefore, boost performance across your entire team.
The solution? Coaching. We’ve experienced this first hand and wanted to share an example to emphasize the effectiveness of coaching.
In this article, we will look at how sales managers can – instead of firing or neglecting mid and low-level performers – diagnose the factors behind poor or middle performance, and then provide game-changing coaching that enables mid and low-level performer to reach their highest potential, and thus, boost results for your entire organization.
Harvard Business Review points out, “Our understandable fascination with star performers can lure us into the dangerous trap of underestimating the vital importance of the supporting actors.”
Your mid and low-level performers present a challenge. And yet, if you approach that challenge with effective coaching skills, you have the power to unlock a huge amount of potential.
Let’s take a look at the challenge of low-level performers
80% of respondents in one study said working for a low performer prevented them from learning, kept them from making greater contributions to the organization, and made them want to leave the company.
There are several reasons a low-level performer may be stuck performing at a low level – and it’s important for your sales managers – like Tanya – to diagnose these factors. Low performers may have been promoted into a position that they weren’t ready for, they may not have been in the position long enough to acquire the necessary skills to thrive, or they may be affected by factors outside the workplace.
In unaddressed, your low-level performers can actually have a huge, negative impact on your organization as a whole.
Even with this knowledge in hand, sales managers frequently don’t take action to address the issues facing low-level performers. Why?
Low-level performers are often neglected or not provided the support they need to transform. This is because sales managers don’t know how to diagnose the factors that are affecting poor performance and don’t know how to provide coaching that transforms that poor performance into real, measurable improvement.
Because of their lack of coaching knowledge, sales managers either ignore the problems facing low-level performers, or provide a “sink or swim” mentality that doesn’t provide the real tools low performers need to grow.
And yet, by diagnosing their challenges and then providing real coaching for these poor performers, sales managers – like Tanya in the example above – have the ability to bring their low-level performers to a whole new level. Subsequently, this can create a ripple effect that transforms the entire organization.
Let’s take a look at the challenge of Mid-level performers
An article in Selling Power points out, “They [B players] are steady performers who… often place a premium on work/life balance, and keep the sales machine running through turmoil in the market and changes in the company.”
Mid-level performers aren’t necessarily less intelligent than high-level performers. Frequently, mid-level players are former high performers who have decided to prioritize work/life balance. Other mid-level performers are highly skilled individuals who simply have no desire to draw attention to themselves. Still others are go-to people whose functional ability to manage tasks at the middle level of the organization keeps them from rising through the ranks.
Whatever is keeping these mid-level performers in the middle quadrant of your organization, it is imperative that mid-level performers still benefit of your sales manager’s time, attention, and expertise.
“Without recognition, most B players eventually begin to feel they’re being taken for granted,” say leadership experts Thomas J. DeLong & Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, “They disconnect from the soul of the organization and start to look for jobs elsewhere.”
Sales managers need to understand the factors that make mid-level performers so valuable, and provide customized coaching that unlocks their strongest skills, helps them to feel challenged, and enables them to reach their peak performance – even if that peak performance is still at a mid-level.
Mid-level performers hold huge potential for your organization. By providing coaching for these individuals, your sales managers have the power to unlock valuable assets for your company.
A Look at the Numbers
Here are some statistics that demonstrate the current state of mid and low-level talent in US companies, and how sales managers are dealing with that talent.
- Only 16% of managers strongly agreed that their companies knew who the high and low performers were in the senior ranks.
- 80% of respondents in one study said working for a low performer prevented them from learning, kept them from making greater contributions to the organization, and made them want to leave the company.
- Organizations confident in their talent had higher percentages of salespeople making or exceeding goal (63.5% vs. 41.2%) and had higher win rates of forecasted deals (54.0% vs. 42.1%).
- B players make up the middle 80% of your team, and these skilled individuals bring depth and stability to your company; slowly improving corporate performance and resilience.
- C players make up the bottom 10% of your team, and in one survey, researchers found that high-performing companies are 33% more likely to take deliberate action on C performers than average-performing companies.
- Sales organizations are over-reliant on their top talent with the top fifth bringing in almost 60% of revenues. Yet, very few organizations know why those top performers are so successful.
- Good coaching has the power to unlock your organization’s potential and boost your bottom line. In fact, sales coaching has been shown to increase sales by a whopping 24%.
The amount of energy you invest in identifying and diagnosing B and C level performers, and the resources you allocate in coaching those performers will significantly impact the success of your organization.
How Can Sales Managers Coach Mid and Low-Level Performers?
We know now that mid and low-level performers have a major impact on your company’s performance.
So, how can your sales managers coach your mid and low-level performers so your company can grow and prosper?
How can your sales managers ensure these mid and low-level performers feel acknowledged for their skills, receive the support they need to thrive, and feel rewarded for their achievements – even when those achievements are different than high-level performers’ achievements?
What can your sales managers do to maximize mid and low-level performers, creating a rising tide that positively impacts your entire organization?
How Should Sales Managers Coach Low-level Performers?
“Companies need to establish a rigorous, disciplined process for dealing with low-performing employees and they need to treat these people with great respect,” says the Harvard Business Review.
The first step is to make sure your sales managers have the skills to coach their low-level employees. Provide your sales managers with the tools and education that ensure they are outstanding, result-driven coaches.
When coaching low-level performers, your sales managers need to follow these key steps:
- Diagnose what might be affecting performance: ask questions and spend time with the low-level performers. Where are the knowledge or skill gaps? What is holding the low-level performer back?
- Ask value-rich questions: instead of lecturing, sales managers should ask questions that will reveal – to the low-level performer – what they can do differently to improve their performance.
- Be clear about expectations and standards: make sure sales managers are communicating exactly what they expect from your low-level performers, so these players fully-understand their roles.
- Lay out specific timelines for achievements: be communicative about what the individual must do in a specific period of time, with clearly defined milestones to help the low-level performer stay on track.
- Ensure the sales manager makes time for the low-level performer: is the sales manager providing hands-on, in-person coaching that will empower the poor performer? Are they setting aside measurable time with the low-level performer?
- Be respectful, supportive, and empathetic: Low-level performers may be suffering from shame because of their poor performance. Provide the respect and support needed to help them transform their performance.
- Acknowledge relevant performance: find opportunities to recognize low-level players’ achievements. This goes a long way in empowering individuals to make progress toward the acceptable levels.
How Should Sales Managers Coach Mid-Level Performers?
Harvard Business Review points out that “… companies’ long-term performance – even survival – depends far more on the unsung commitment and contributions of their B players. These capable, steady performers are the best supporting actors of the business world.”
These mid-level performers deserve dedicated, strategic coaching to enhance their performance. Make sure your sales managers have the coaching tools and strategies needed to get their B’s performing at peak potential.
When coaching mid-level performers:
- Keep the “why” in mind: many mid-level performers were high performers in the past, who have traded in stardom for a more livable work/life balance. Make sure your sales managers know that mid-level performers may not be less skilled than high performers, they may just have different values.
- Accept the differences between mid-level performers and high performers: acknowledge that mid-level performers may never be high performers, and that they are valuable as mid-level performers. Trying to get a mid-level performer to perform at high performers’ level means passing up the incredible value of the mid-level performers themselves.
- Consistently give them the benefit of time: the most dangerous thing sales managers can do to mid-level performers is ignore them. Make sure sales managers spend as much time with mid-level performers as with high-level performers. They are equally as important to your organization.
- Look for opportunities: discover and seize valuable chances to promote mid-level performers horizontally within the company. Create valuable roles to keep mid-level performers’ growth and career choices open, challenging, and rewarding.
- Give them the support they need to thrive: Provide incentives, resources, benefits, and the encouragement that any hard-working individual needs to grow their potential, discover opportunities, and continue providing value for your business.
- Provide proven coaching strategies: ensure your sales managers are coaching your mid-level performers in order to improve weaknesses and maximize strengths. Coaching can unlock serious potential in mid-level performers.
- Reward mid-level performers for their solid, long-term performance: this can be one of the most effective ways in keeping mid-level performers motivated, especially if these performers are not benefitting from the same promotions as high-performers.
Your mid-level performers are highly valuable to your organization. By investing time and energy into your mid-level performers’ coaching strategy, you are more likely to retain this important talent pool, boost morale, and see consistent long-term performance across your organization.
Taking Action to Elevate Your Organization’s Talent
All companies must – at some time – deal with both mid and low-level performers. It’s the quality of the coaching strategies you choose that either negatively or positively impact their development and your performance.
At Michigan & Manchester, we create and implement customized sales enablement strategies that help you effectively coach both your mid and low-level performers. This way, your whole team works together effectively, maximizes their skill sets, and achieves peak performance in their roles.
Through a flexible tool, onsite coaching, and valuable resources; we provide solutions that help your sales managers coach mid and low-level performers to the next level. So, you will have powerful strategies that skyrocket your team to success.