Although everyone recognizes the importance and value of coaching salespeople, it is often not done. We found that sales managers only “coach” their salespeople one-quarter of the time in a survey of over 100 sales managers. This means that a salesperson is lucky to get four coaching sessions per year.
This is clearly a problem. Everyday coaching is needed, but we are all busy and have limited time. How can busy salespeople and managers find time to coach and develop their employees?
Many people mistake coaching for performance review. This is one of the biggest problems with coaching. Although coaching should have an impact on the performance review and be beneficial, coaching is not a performance evaluation. Managers often think of coaching as a “coaching session.”
Incorporating coaching into everyday business:
Coaching is an integral part of the daily work of sales managers. Coaching is an essential part of their daily conversations and discussions with their employees. Coaching is part of everyday business conversations, not something unique. Strong managers understand the business situation and coach their salespeople to improve their strategies when discussing opportunities or deals. The sales manager will coach the salesperson by asking questions such as “What are your goals for this call?” “What are the worst things that could happen during the call, and how will you handle them?” “What value will the customer get from this call?” They might also ask after the call: “Did all your objectives get accomplished?” “Is it possible to do more?”
Sales managers spend their days discussing with salespeople about the sales calls, sales pipelines, forecasts, and territory plans. Managers who are able to use each conversation to both understand and coach their employees are what they best do.
Coaching is no longer an “unnatural” act when it becomes part of everyday business discussions managers have with their employees. Coaching is no longer a meeting that we postpone, postpone, and then wait. Salespeople perform better when coaching is part of their everyday business. They get advice when they need it and can apply it immediately, instead of months later after everything has been forgotten.
What is the best way to coach?
Effective coaching involves “the conversation”. Coaching is a delicate blend of asking questions and telling. This may surprise some, as coaching is a careful blend of asking and telling.
Coaching is all about asking the right questions. These questions should not be used to interrogate but rather to get the salesperson to reflect on their current strategies and what they’re doing. These questions should encourage the salesperson to consider alternative methods, expand their perspective, and analyze the results.
However, asking questions is not enough. The manager can make suggestions (or tell) based upon the conversation with the salesperson. This is very beneficial for the person’s growth. Coaching is a conversation. It is a mixture of active listening, questioning, and advising. Coaching is less effective if any of these elements are missing.
A sales manager’s most excellent leverage activity is coaching. Coaching improves salespeople’s performance. Coaching is a conversation that is focused and integrated into the day-to-day activities of salespeople and managers.