Most sales leaders would agree that effective sales coaching has a positive impact on a sales rep performance and sales.
Last month, at a round table discussion at the Sales Excellence Canada Conference, I found that the sales leaders sitting at the table struggled to define the role of the front line sales manager. In my experience, the same holds true when it comes to clearly defining effective coaching.
To that end, let’s ask the question what is sales coaching?
The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) has developed the following definition:
Sales’ coaching is an ongoing and dynamic series of job-embedded interactions between a sales manager and sales rep, designed to diagnose and correct/reinforce behaviors, specific to that individual.
CEB further states that “effective coaching will tend to be formal, highly structured, deliberate, and regularly scheduled. The unique advantages of coaching stem from how it is tailored to the individual and delivered at the point of need.”
I would add that coaching is not only based on the belief that the individual holds the answers but also by asking effective questions the coach can guide the sales rep to develop their own solutions and to participate in their own development.
The goal of coaching is to help the individual improve their performance and reach their true potential. In our business, this means being the best sales rep they can be. It also segues into opportunities to achieve stronger sales targets and improve their performance in the process.
Practice 1: Building Trust
In order for sales coaching to work, the sales manager needs to earn trust. Sales managers have to learn to remove their management helmets and put on their coaching hats. The coaching hat is about being non-judgemental and allowing the individual to be open in the discussion of behaviors and/or performance challenges. Trust is the foundation for coaching.
Practice 2: Ask Effective Questions
Most people don’t like to be told what to do. Sales reps are no different. Successful sales coaches achieve agreement on the “what” and use effective questions on the “how.” Successful sales organizations allow their sales people to own the solution. This leads to better execution and better people development.
Effective sales coaching has the coach using effective questions that stimulate thinking and illuminate solutions.
Practice 3: Self Evaluation
When doing post call debrief or skill assessments, it is critical to have the sales person guide the process and self evaluate. As a sales manager you may only be in the field with the rep one or two days a month. The goal is to encourage the sales rep to evaluate how they did on each call even when you are not in the field with them.
Many managers are quick to offer feedback. Relax, let the sales rep self-evaluate. Being able to assess what they did well and what they can improve upon leads to greater self awareness. Self awareness is the gateway to self confidence. Give your sales people the gift of self confidence by withholding your feedback and allowing them to self assess.
Successful sales coaching is a process that has many nuances, and by following best practices such as effective questioning, self-directed commitments from sales reps and targeting improved performance on one particular area over time, this series of coaching interactions will help accelerate the development of your sales reps.
Remember that the focus of effective coaching is centered on the dedicated application of knowledge and skills. As Nike says “Just do it!”
What area if you were to focus on would have the biggest impact on your coaching effectiveness?
What is your biggest coaching challenge?
Stirring it up!