New Year, New You! I’m sure we’ve all heard this phrase before, and perhaps have been asking ourselves the question of what new resolution we will take up as we begin 2019. Some people aim to go to the gym more, some cut out alcohol, or perhaps you're considering restricting your social media usage?!
All of these are very much changes we make in our personal lives, but how about a fresh start in our business roles as Sales Leaders? I am declaring 2019, as being the year we turn over a new leaf and embrace the most important function of our roles; taking our sales people to the next level through effective coaching.
But perhaps you’re new to the Sales Management gig and don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’ve been in the role for some time, but know that you have been committing the cardinal sin of pushing your coaching to the side.I asked leading Sales Performance Experts on some help in providing actionable tips, on how you can make 2019 the year you turned over the coaching leaf.
Switch things round, and work backwards
Often times, it can be easier to look at how something finished, and work backwards in finding out how you ended up there. After all, it’s easier to trace our steps rather than remember the route as you walk it.
The same can be said when evaluating how a sales call went with a sales rep. Carole Mahoney from Coaching consultancy Unbound Growth summarised it this way:
"If your rep doesn’t know what they need help with, start with the outcome of the call and working backwards from there. How do they think they got there? Why do they think it went that way? What would they do differently? What are they planning to do next? What will that look like or sound like? Rehearse it with them so they can confidently execute it.”
Focus on observation
Coaching is immensely challenging, when you lack the visibility of what happened. You’re left to often second guess by what our reps do or do not decide to share with us, which is a dangerous game in itself. Further, similar to a Doctor, it can be insanely hard to provide a diagnosis, without conducting the X-Ray. Steve Potiphar from UK conversation coaching company Impact on Performance, gave these instructions:
“Always make time to observe and / or attend sales calls with your sales people, specifically with a view to observe and feedback on those observations, NOT to participate in the conversation or take over it."
Further, Potiphar made the point that the observation exercise needs to include what the rep wants feedback on in particular, to ensure this is a personalised experience:
“Before the call ask the sales person what they would particularly like to receive feedback on, so that this is about them and for them.”
Ask DON’T tell!
All too often, Sales Managers fall into the trap of dictating what reps should do, and giving them all of the answers. This is the easy route to take. When we do this, reps are less likely to learn as they don’t figure out solutions for themselves.
Patricia Seabright of Archimedes Consulting re-enforced the rationale of asking great questions over giving all the answers:
“Coaching, in essence, is about helping people access knowledge they already have and helping them translate it into skill and action. Coaching is not telling, not training, instruction or direction. Good coaching therefore is about asking people great questions that stimulates their thinking and helps them come up with their own solutions.”
Provide simple suggestions to earn respect
When in a new sales management role, it can often feel daunting to earn the right of respect from the people on your team. Particularly if you have been promoted from within, you are now in a position of giving feedback to peers/colleagues who were on the same level as you not so long ago. Often starting with ‘baby-steps’ of feedback can be a gentle way of getting past this initial anxiety.
Author Dave Kurlan from Kurlan Associates, gives a viewpoint here:
“You’ll be coaching salespeople with more experience selling than you have managing so it’s important to gain their trust and respect. Early on, ask if you can make a suggestion and try to find something simple to help them with like, ‘If you slow down, you’ll sound more authoritative.’ Or, ‘if you insert some pauses between phrases, prospects will be able to remember more of what you say.’ ”
Create a coaching schedule and stick to it
Often times, the reason coaching doesn’t take place, is because we aren’t making a commitment to scheduling dedicated coaching time on poor schedules. It simply gets put on a list of ‘things to do. But ultimately as it doesn’t get the dedicated time it deserves, it naturally doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Bill Talerico from Sales Management Consultancy Talerico Group, laid on the importance of getting stricter with scheduling coaching time:
“Coaching sessions should be scheduled on the calendar as a recurring weekly meeting and should be moved only in the rarest circumstances. If a salesperson continually needs to reschedule the meeting time every week because of prospects wanting to meet at this time, change the meeting time. This weekly session must be respected and considered extremely important.“
Moreover, Talerico emphasised that a coaching session needs to have at the very least, an outcome which results in making the sales-person better:
“It will be important only if you are adding value as a sales leader by helping your team identify what is needed to win the opportunities they are pursuing.”
Turn coaching into bite-sized chunks
All too frequently, I see Sales Managers trying to go ‘all-in’ on trying to improve all parts of the sales process for each rep, and thus attempting to solve every problem in one go. What results, is a slap-dash approach which ends up being confusing and overwhelming for the sales person, and thus the end goal isn’t met.
Salesforce Development Consultant Mike Carroll from Intelligent Conversations, explained how Sales Leaders can take a more bite-sized approach to coaching:
“Pick one thing for each sales person on your team and get started. List everyone on your team and spend 10 minutes brainstorming the one-thing each person could focus on to get better. Keep it simple. Some people on your team may need to be more proactive. Some may need to get organized – especially when it comes to keeping their CRM up to date. Others may need to focus on generating more appointments or qualifying opportunities before quoting.
Whatever it is, pick one thing for each team member, define what success will look like, then spot check it and redirect as needed during your weekly 1:1 coaching session.”
The same approach to coaching in bite-sized chunks is also supported by Discovery Call coach Charles Muhlbauer of SalesShare:
“Start with what you can uncover. Ask your Account Executive where they feel most incomplete during their discovery call or other sales conversations. This first creates an open coachable environment, establishing trust between you and your Account Executive, and allows you to work on their biggest weakness immediately. You will soon see them become more confident and self aware in your subsequent discussions.”