Ever wonder what your salespeople think about your coaching style?
Recently, I asked a group of experienced salespeople “What are the most ineffective aspects of sales coaching that you have encountered?” Here are four of their answers, along with some practical solutions:
“My sales manager doesn’t follow-up.”
There is perhaps no more important step in the coaching process than follow-up. If you don’t follow-up, you are sending the message “I don’t really care about whether this gets fixed.” Salespeople will perceive you as uncommitted to the coaching process. When you follow up you demonstrate your commitment to the growth of the sales rep, which is crucial for their motivation and morale. At the end of every coaching conversation, make it a habit to schedule the next conversation with the rep and be clear about what you expect to see by then.
“Point out the problem but don’t work through the solution.”
It’s important as a sales coach to not just help the salesperson define the problem — or skill gap — but help them work through what the solution should be. If you just focus on pointing out the weaknesses in the salesperson’s approach without discussing and demonstrating the solution, you demotivate the salesperson and leave them confused about what they should do differently the next time. Also, the same problems will keep coming up if you don’t guide them to a solution. Don’t spoon feed solutions to reps, however—they won’t learn anything. But if you’re planning a discussion with a rep about a problem you’ve seen, think through how you can help them decide on a course of action to fix it.
“My sales manager doesn’t listen.”
The goal of coaching isn’t just to solve an immediate problem but to build skills that will prevent future problems. Your coaching advice needs to be tailored to each individual’s needs, which means you have to listen to what that person has to say. When a salesperson comes to you with a problem, make sure to give them time to get their thoughts out. Don’t rush the conversation with comments like “here’s what you need to do” or “let me just summarize here.” Sometimes you just need to remind yourself to “slow down,” and tune in. Attentiveness and good listening shows you respect this person and value their contributions.
“My sales manager jumps in and takes over the call.”
Sales managers who came up through the ranks often have a hard time letting go of their “player” instincts. But your job now is that of coach, not player. When you observe a salesperson in action, bite your tongue if you have to but stay silent. Instead, take note of what the salesperson is doing and compare it to your company’s “best practice” sales process or your company’s sales playbook. After the call, resist the temptation to pass judgment. Instead think like a consultant. Begin your debrief by first asking the rep to self-assess—what was their thought process? What do they think they did well? What do they think they could get better at? Then, just like a consultant, advise the salesperson “Here’s what I think you did really well…. Here are one or two things I think you could improve upon.…” Talk over the options with the rep until you have agreed on a path forward for them to improve.
Becoming a better sales coach
To become a better sales coach, make sure you schedule follow-up conversations for each coaching session. Help the salesperson develop a solution; don’t just point out the problem. Take time to listen to the salesperson’s perspective. Don’t go around like a white knight trying to save salespeople in distress. Remember, your job now is to help other people build their skills.