What do the best sales coaches do?
In this article we want to further explore what effective sales coaching looks like. As I previously discussed in Part 1 of
Effective Sales Coaching Practices, the goal of coaching is to help the individual improve their performance and reach their true potential. In our business, that means being the best sales rep they can be. It also segues into opportunities to achieve stronger sales targets and improve your sales reps performance in the process.
Practice 4: Focus
Effective coaching is about working with a rep on one area of improvement at a time not multiple areas. Change is difficult for many of us. The sales manager who has a rep work on multiple areas usually sees no change. My focused coaching methodology is based on the premise that as a coach, if you can help each of your reps improve in one area in the course of a year, you have been effective.
Practice 5: The Rep Guides the Discussion
How does the effective coach determine the area of focus? I say, as long as there is benefit to the area that the rep decides to focus on, then go with their suggestion. This creates a stronger desire to improve as the rep is making the commitment. Less effective managers will pick the area and then wonder why they don’t get buy-in from their rep to change.
Practice 6: Plan of Action
To create momentum for change, effective coaches use the power of questioning. Open questioning creates an environment where the sales rep thinks through areas of focus and change, offering proactive methods to achieve targets. This takes time, but if the coach tells the sales rep what they should do, the buy-in is lost. Best practice is having the sales rep physically write out a plan of action and send it to the manager.
The power of putting pen to paper is twofold. Firstly the sales rep needs to think through what they are committed to doing and secondly by putting their commitment to paper it crystallizes their thinking.
Practice 7: Holding Your Rep Accountable
“People respect what you inspect.” The effective coach understands that once the plan of action is in place, their role as coach is to hold the sales rep accountable for following through on their commitment. To accelerate the development process and/or completion of the sales rep plan of action, the coach asks the sales rep open-ended follow up questions such as:
What success have you had with your plan? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome those challenges?
By taking a few minutes on every interaction (via phone calls or on the next field visit) effective coaches are stressing the importance of their coaching. Sales reps begin to understand that they are going to be routinely asked how the focused plan of action is proceeding and they know that the manager is holding them accountable for progress and improvement.
Successful sales coaching is a process that has many nuances, and by following best practices such as effective questioning, focus and holding your sales people accountable you stand the best chance as a coach to improve your sales reps performance. The power of effective coaching is based on the belief that the sales rep has the answers and the coach’s role is one of facilitation and holding the rep accountable.
Remember that the focus of effective coaching is centered on the dedicated application of knowledge and skills. As Nike says “Just do it!”
How do you keep your sales reps accountable?
When you coach who puts together the list of actionable items?
Just stirring it up to ensure you can be the best possible coach!