And, if these sales reps aren’t making their numbers, it’s up to the sales leader to help them figure out why and identify ways to improve performance.
There are two major pieces of information needed to make this happen:
- What does it take to achieve the target? This involves the organization’s sales process and the skills and behaviors that salespeople need to use on the job.
- How can you, as the sales leader, help your team use this process and these skills and behaviors in the most effective way? The answer: coaching.
The secret of the sales coaching process at Richardson is that it shouldn’t be a secret. As a leader, you should tell your sales reps that you’re using a coaching process so that it’s not a secret. This shows there is no hidden agenda. And, even share what the process is with them so that you can use it together.
Sales coaching is not about you looking like the world’s most successful manager and leader; it’s about you sharing and transferring your knowledge and experience to people who don’t have it, collaborating with them in a nonjudgmental way –– in a safe space –– about what they want to work on.
The first step is to give them a chance to share with you what they know. What do they do well? What do you think they do well? It’s as important to remember those factors and continue doing it as it is to improve.
The Richardson process is like a seesaw between questioning and dialogue, between you and your sales rep. You might say, “Let’s talk about (fill in the blank –– like creating customer dialogues and questioning skills) and the first thing I’m going to ask you is: What do you think about your skills in that area? What are your strengths?” Then, you listen. It’s the sales rep’s side of the seesaw now, his/her chance to express his/her views. You drill down a little bit, giving the sales rep an opportunity to really talk about his/her strengths in more detail. You might probe further and ask a few additional questions, now that you know fully what the sales rep’s view is. Then, as sales leader, you share your perceptions of this area –– in this case, questioning skills and strengths.
Now, it’s the sales rep’s side of the seesaw again. You ask the sales rep what it is that he/she thinks he/she needs to develop in the area you are discussing (in our example, customer dialogues and questioning skills). You continue to drill down, encouraging him/her to share views about areas that he/she might need to develop.
Now, it’s your turn again, as you share your perceptions about what the sales rep might need to develop; then, together, you agree on what the sales rep needs to work on to correct these weaknesses.
Now, ask the sales rep his/her view of obstacles that stand in the way of being successful in this area. Share your views.
Then, ask the sales rep his/her view of ideas to improve, and share your views.
Finally, ask the sales rep what his/her action plan is or what his/her commitments are to improve. Share your ideas.
It’s an easy process, especially if you lay out what you’re doing up front. Making the process transparent shows that there’s no hidden agenda, no secret. At Richardson, we even encourage leaders to take a copy of this framework when they meet with their sales reps. Tell them: “We’re going to start doing this, and we’re all going to work together at getting better, because we all need to get better –– and that means me, too.”
The framework makes coaching easy because it lets everyone know what’s involved. It allows everyone to better prepare and perform.