Coaches, wherever they operate, be it sports coaching, business coaching or for us, sales coaching, all have a similar goal – guiding, supporting and challenging people to achieve higher levels of performance. In sales, this results in individuals and teams delivering better revenue results by building on and developing existing skills. The main difference between old style sales management and the new world of sales coaching is that the focus is on the individual’s strengths rather than how to “fix” weaknesses.
Why It Is Important To Sales Leaders:
Whenever I have run an executive sales coaching workshop, I always ask attendees if they have experienced the situation where they have asked their sales members several times to complete a task and still it doesn’t get done. There is always a sea of nodding heads, looking at each other and agreeing that it has happened to them. The consensus is usually that salespeople just don’t listen or don’t like to do what they’re told.
However, by the end of the workshop, every attendee accepts 100% that they need to take responsibility and that they cannot blame the individuals.
Why is this? As their manager, if you have told them to do something that they agree to and they have not done it, then surely you would be right to discipline them. Correct? No, this is not the answer.
The sales team are saying yes for the following reasons:
- Sales people tend to agree with their bosses.
- They think they know what you want them to do but became confused when trying to complete the task – they just didn’t get it.
- They had every intention of doing what is asked of them but just didn’t find the time. However, really this is because they didn’t prioritise as they haven’t really understood the importance of the task.
- Nobody knows their job better than he or she does, but he or she don’t want to discuss his or her position or explain themselves
The result is that the sales person very likely didn’t see the task the same way as the sales leader did. They had not taken it on board as a priority. Why? Because they were simply told what to do. This is not enough for today’s busy sales people.
Tips On Being An Effective Sales Coach:
1. Not everyone learns in the same way so it is important to understand and follow Adult Learning Principles.
- People value coming to their own conclusions more than they value what someone else tells them.
- People value what they ask for something more than they value what is freely offered.
Now the Adult Learning Principle is quite obvious when you think about it. We have all built up lots of knowledge over the years and for somebody to come along and tell us something different one day is hardly going to break down the wall of experience you have built.
When we consider the Adult Learning Principle for the average adult, we need to times it by 10 when it comes to a sales person. We must remember that a sales person’s role is quite a lonely one. Very few sales people get any feedback when they are with their clients and maybe not much more when it comes to planning etc. So, they know their role better than anyone else, it will be very difficult for somebody to come a long one day and tell them how to do their job.
We must ensure that the sales member is encouraged to come up with suggestions and ideas on direction and improvement to really put them into action. If they don’t, there is little chance anything will change.
2. Coaching Is Most Effective When It Has Structure And Is Focused
This type of sales coaching cannot be completed every time you interact with an individual. Sales managers often say that they are coaching all the time but unless you have a structured format it is never going to produce significant results
A simple 15-minute, high impact sales coaching training session around a single topic will ensure that the team you coach will become much more productive for the next 40 working hours until you sit down again. The reason why you only choose one subject is that it is so easy to overwhelm the sales person with too many things to look at and when this happens, nothing gets done.
Also, don’t feel bad that if from one session to the next you don’t reach all your goals. As long as things are happening and you can see effort from the sales person things will begin to happen.
3. Document What You Have Agreed
You must document what has been agreed to ensure that you are both clear on what goal you are heading towards and that progress is being made. Keep this simple; I have seen so many complicated coaching planners and people spend more time managing the planner than the sales team! And remember, the objectives should be mutually developed and build on strengths.
To sum up, you will have had a good coaching session, if the objectives that have been agreed and documented have been suggested by your sales person AND are the same outcomes that you had in your mind when the meeting first began. For example, if you feel that the sales person needs to do 2 extra visits per week, and you ask him questions in the session to make him realize this is important and he turns around and says ‘do you know what, I should be doing 2 extra visits per week’; you know you have to succeed.
Make sure you don’t only get them to realise what they need to do but also HOW they are going to do it. That’s your job as a sales consultant. Often sales people commit to tasks and they haven’t really thought through how they are going to achieve them. Therefore, once you have agreed on their objectives, spend some quality time ensuring they will work out how to execute.
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