What sales coaching really is and how to do it well

Posted in Sales team management.

Coaching is vitally important to the health of your sales team. It helps your salespeople to empower themselves and ultimately helps you as a sales manager. Despite these facts, many sales departments neglect coaching because of the belief that their sales team already know all they need to know or that coaching will not bring anything new to the sales process.

Of course, these notions are false and coaching can become essential to helping your sales team discover what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, along with learning new ways of doing “old” things. It also serves as a refresher every now and then that may point out flaws based on not following the correct process from the start.

So what can you do to be a better sales coach to your team?

Understand what coaching actually is

This seems like a no-brainer but many people do not truly know what coaching is. When you know better, you ultimately do better. Here is a standard definition:

“An interactive process to help individuals and organisations develop more rapidly and produce more satisfying results; improving other’s ability to set goals, take action, make better decisions and make full use of their natural strengths” – The International Coach Federation

Coaching is not to be confused with mentoring and training. Training is putting your best into someone and mentoring is sharing the meaning of experience with someone. Coaching, on the other hand, is bringing out the best in someone. It helps to take a sales professional’s existing ability and applying certain techniques in order to develop what is already there even further.

You also need to understand the “why” and the “how” of coaching. The “why” is to enhance staff engagement and performance, and the “how” is a collaborative model of engagement and discussion.

Don’t be a boss, be a leader

Many people fall into the trap of bringing management into coaching. In other words, they believe that coaching is about telling people what to do when it is the opposite. It is about collaboration and thus involving the person that is being coached in the entire process.

You need to be able to show your salespeople that the goal of all of it is to see them succeed and this thought cannot be brought across if they have no input. Coaching provides the tools that enable salespeople to go forth and manage their own success but telling people what to do in a boss-like manner removes the power that coaching should provide.

Show, don’t tell

Demonstrate the skills you want people to adopt instead of telling them how to do something. Be the best example of what you are teaching and those you are coaching will follow that example. If you are in any kind of leadership position, you should by now be aware that subordinates and colleagues are watching your every move even if you don’t always realise it.

Coaching by example can also help create a positive environment that is conducive to personal and professional growth. Your good example serves as a motivator to those following you.

Practice constant feedback

Even when you are not in full-on coaching mode, feedback is essential. This is not only valuable for ensuring your salespeople’s success but also helps you discover what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.

Sales managers in the midst of coaching need to get feedback from their team members on a weekly, if not daily, basis to ensure that they are still on the right path towards achieving clearly set-out goals.

Focus on the steps, not the end result

In some cases the big picture is very important and it needs to be a part of the process but when it comes to effective coaching the best approach is to coach individual steps.

Identify the actions that are essential to achieving the desired end result. These actions can include cold calling, meetings, sales presentations, lead generation and so on. Once you get each step down pat, it becomes easier to achieve the big overall goals.

Personality matters

Every salesperson in your team has a unique personality type, skill set and talent. Some people may thrive when a certain motivational technique is used while another stagnates when the same technique is applied to them.

This is why you need to up your people skills when coaching a sales team. Don’t simply look at past performance to determine what you believe a person is capable of achieving in the future. Also, each person achieves goals at a different pace. Focus on each person’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and don’t compare people’s progress to one another.

Talk to your customers

You would think that coaching focus the majority of its energy on the sales team members but clients and leads are just as important. Give a variety of established and new clients a call and ask why they bought a product or service from you instead of your competitors. Base how and what you coach on what these clients’ answers are. This helps to place the focus on what is most important to your clients since, after all, they are the reason behind coaching your sales team to do better in the first place.

In closing

Remember this old adage: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember but involve me and I learn.