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Train Sales Reps to Coach Themselves

sales coaching importance

richardsonsalestraining20 March 2012Blog

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Effective sales coaching has been shown to significantly improve sales performance, but there are limitations to even the world’s greatest coaching practises.

You can’t be with every rep all the time, so what happens when something goes either unexpectedly wrong or remarkably right when you’re not there?  Is that coaching moment lost forever?

The answer is YES; you have missed the opportunity to provide the most powerful form of coaching — in the moment or in context.  This lost opportunity to coach in-the-action happens every day with every salesperson on your team.  Do the math yourself:  if you have 15 salespeople reporting to you, and each of them engages in a customer dialogue ten times per day, there are ultimately 39,000 customer interactions that you haven’t had the chance to observe or coach.  Do I need to say more about the importance of teaching your salespeople to self-coach?

Begin teaching your salespeople to self-coach by letting your reps see your coaching skills in action.  Through your own behaviour and actions, demonstrate what you want them to do in your daily conversations, in role play scenarios, and during live sales calls.  When you are with your reps, allow them to see you go through the self-coaching process.  As humans, we rise to the level of the company that we keep.

Perhaps the most critical component of effective sales coaching is that it happens every time you engage with your sales reps — coaching should be woven into the fabric of your dialogue.  Getting face-to-face with each team member will always be a challenge, so find the opportunities to engage in a structured coaching conversation around strengths and weaknesses at least once a month.  Leverage your previous coaching sessions and build out the roadmap for improvement together.

Each 1:1 meeting should involve these six tools and techniques:

1) Use “high-impact” questions.  Get your reps to begin asking themselves the very same questions you will ask about each deal to determine the level of customer engagement that varies by the sales stage in which their opportunity currently resides.  Examples include:

  • What are the business issues and compelling needs/pain points the customer is trying to address? 
  • Is the need compelling enough to make this opportunity worth pursuing?
  • What is our unique value proposition, and does the customer agree with it?
  • What outstanding objections do we know or anticipate?
  • What is the approval process to get the needed closure?
2) Use a scoreboard.  Be consistent on the use of a few metrics.  Provide visibility, preferably in one dashboard.  When reps see where they stand, it will help them identify where they want to go.  Use “Verifiable Outcomes” in your sales process as the milestones to gauge customer feedback. Richardson Sales Performance offers some good suggestions on what to include here.

3) Do one thing at a time.  Almost nobody is good at multitasking.  You can’t correct everything at once, so focus on one issue or metric at a time.  As they say, “quota wasn’t reached in a day.”

4) Teach the art of effective self-assessment.  Start by asking the right questions.  This is a fundamental component of effective self-coaching.  Help your reps know what to ask themselves after a call.  Richardson Sales Performance’s CEO, Linda Richardson Sales Performance, says the three basic questions are:

  • What did I do well?
  • What could I do differently?
  • Where do I go to learn more?
5) Compare to best practises.  Most of us struggle to conduct honest self-assessments. Sidestep the problem by instructing your reps to benchmark their progress and performance against industry standards.  Benchmarking against best practises depersonalises criticism, which removes some of the roadblocks to performance improvement.

6) Assess your progress.  What’s changed in the last month?  Was there success and where?  What areas require the most improvement?  How can your reps coach themselves more effectively moving forward?

Zip it:  A note of caution

The number one complaint I hear about sales managers is that they talk too much during coaching sessions.  The rep should do most of the talking — and most of the work.

Your job is to ask effective questions that will lead your reps to analyse themselves.  Reflection is a powerful coaching tool, especially when it involves active learning such as reading an article, watching a YouTube clip, or attending a sales call with one of your top performers.

Need one more reason to make teaching self-coaching a priority?  Consider the quote from Michael Crichton:  “We think we know what we are doing.  We have always thought so.”

It is human nature to want to avoid responsibility.  When you tell your reps to do something and it doesn’t work, they can say, “It’s not my fault.”  When they tell themselves, they own the results.

How’s that for effective sales coaching? 

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