4 Questions About Coaching
1. Why do sales organizations need to coach?
Simply speaking, because everyone can improve whether they are hitting their sales goals or not. Coaching is about helping people to see in themselves “what else is possible” in regard to improvement. Reps not hitting their numbers sometimes give up, or even worse, they come up with an, “It’s not me; it’s the economy” excuse. Sales coaching helps build performance, which leads to better selling success for those who are not achieving levels they would like. For those who are achieving their goals, it’s a way to insulate them from complacency and protect the success they have achieved.
2. What are the fundamental challenges facing sales organizations and their sales leaders when starting a coaching program?
Most managers know how to tell people what to do, but coaching is about asking questions and facilitating choices. Managers are prone to lead meetings and set expectations; whereas, coaches are about asking questions and moving sales people to make a true commitment to their pursuit of improvement. Without this commitment, training and coaching can never be successful. Coaching sessions should be filled with questions that make reps look in the mirror and help them define actions that will improve their performance. Here are some effective coaching questions that can be asked:
- “What are you going to do to overcome that challenge successfully, and how would you like me to help you?
- What will you do to win that deal, and what actions do you feel are needed to create such success?
- How will you overcome this challenge professionally and successfully?
The underlined words are there because they help employees transition into a “successful” frame of mind.
3. How can sales managers and leaders coach when their time is tight?
The time perception is the biggest hurdle when organizations initially roll out a sales coaching program. Most managers view coaching as simply sitting with each employee for an hour a week. In reality, managers have many more choices when it comes to coaching sessions. The following are coaching methods that sales leaders can deploy to ensure performance improvement. For some, a manager’s presence is not even required:
- One on One – A manager will sit down weekly with reps to discuss, role-play and simulate performance improvement in one or two key areas of development. The key is to focus on one or two areas to ensure they can apply what is being coached.
- Peer Coaching – Pair up sales people and create activities where they can discuss, role-play and challenge one another. The key is to create a well-defined activity that asks them to then report back how it went. This ensures accountability. You can even use score sheets that provide management with feedback. The feedback from the reports will let the manager know what areas and skills need developing.
- Group Coaching – Gather your team together to work on one area of focus, such as cold calling or product knowledge. Have staff break into smaller groups to complete an activity and report back what they did. For example, one group could come up with three new creative selling questions and another group could come up with what they feel are the top three benefits of the product. This leads to high engagement and sharing of best practices within a coaching delivery model.
- Self-Directed Coaching –Sales leaders prescribe an activity, such as reading an article or book, and the sales staff reports back what they learned. For example, distribute an article on the affects of great customer service; then have each sales person email their manager one thing they learned that will help them be successful. Once again, this ensures accountability.
4. How can sales organizations keep employees learning and facilitate coaching opportunities for managers when employees are pressed for time?
This is an oxymoron at times. If we do not spend time getting better, we will not get better. We need to perfect our craft as sales people, but improving does not just happen because it is demanded. The key is to schedule sessions and stick with that schedule so the employee knows it is a strong commitment from management. Ultimately after coaching starts to become routine, reps will begin to apply their improved skills to the real world. This way coaching goes from something employees have to do, to something that helps them with their bottom-line.
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