- Even a small improvement in sales effectiveness impacts results, effective coaching is a low-tech, low cost way to do just that.
- Coaching involves observation, communication, practice and reinforcement.
- Sales productivity is driven by efficiency AND effectiveness. Coaching is critical to pushing the effectiveness needle.
In my first blog post on coaching sales reps, I discussed the importance of coaching and reviewed the first of four essential components of coaching methodologies. Here are the final two steps, along with some additional tips for coaching:
- Practice. Role-play any situations that require improvement to help the rep understand the issue, and demonstrate your desire and willingness to help him or her improve. After the rep masters one scenario, modify your responses to provide additional opportunities to practice. Don’t overdo it – 15 minutes should be sufficient in most cases.
- Reinforce. Make a note of the coaching topic, and continue to observe the activity on a regular basis to provide reinforcement until the rep has mastered his or her skills in this area. The rep also should self-assess and communicate occasions when he or she has successfully executed on the technique.
Example conversation: “Remember when we talked about how to hold back on responding to customer needs with solutions so you could learn more? Today I noticed that you asked a question of the customer when he was discussing his needs. That was great. Did you see that the question caused him to tell you all about the new project they were doing? Keep it up – those questions are key.”
Direct the game strategy
The second part of “directing the game strategy” requires coaches to work with reps to determine on which sales techniques or skills are needed before the rep interacts with the customer. This conversation should also cover what content or tools would be most effective for that particular interaction. These types of coaching opportunities are based on known skills gaps and focus on preparing before the customer meeting. Say, for example, that the rep needs to improve his or her negotiation skills and is going to a customer meeting. Consider mentioning the following:
“I see on your calendar that you are scheduled to present the client with the solution you have created. Let’s walk through how you plan to do that.” As you go through the plan, ask “What will you do if he disagrees with this point?” and then help with appropriate strategies on dealing with this issue.
Helping sales reps maximize effectiveness is one of the most influential roles that sales managers play. As reps get coached, they develop skills and confidence. By consistently using defined coaching techniques, sales managers train reps on how to prepare for and reflect on the activities they execute, which enables them to coach themselves. Coaching also enables sales managers to develop a deeper, trust-based relationship with their reps, which has been shown to reduce undesirable turnover. Best-in-class organizations have a defined coaching methodology, a defined management system – which includes and reinforces training – and a culture that rewards effective coaching.