Sales coaching has been a significant topic of interest with my clients over the last couple years. For good reason, too - studies have shown that on average, teams that report receiving more than three hours of coaching per person, per month exceed their team goals by 7%. What I have found, personally, is an average sales manager spends less than 30-minutes per person per week coaching - and a significant number of them aren't hitting their team sales goal.
First things first - what is Coaching?
I define it as the practice of supporting an individual through the process of achieving specific personal or professional results.
The process is facilitative and involves asking questions to challenge the individual to develop their skills.
What makes someone a good sales coach?
When asked about the characteristics that make someone a great coach, here are the things salespeople identified:
- Listening, relating, caring, assisting, and authenticity
- Asking versus telling
- Prioritizing coaching as a continual process
- Taking advantage of customer ride-alongs, with coaching moments before and after meetings
- Establishing uniform expectations, but personalizing ways to achieve them
- Encouraging and rewarding success/progress, but also being forthright with any corrective action needed
So, what action can be taken today to become a better coach by Friday?
I just finished reading Sales EQ by Jeb Blount. In the book, he shared research that said 90% of the time sales people fail to identify meeting objectives or ask for next steps.
Let's start there.
Help your sales associate prepare for an upcoming call, or while the two of you drive to the next appointment together, by asking a few questions:
- "What is our objective for this meeting?"
- "Where are we in the sales process (what pipeline stage)?"
- "Where are we in their buying process?"
- "What are our targeted next steps?"
If the sales associate struggles to answer, consider helping them establish meeting objectives and identify the appropriate next steps. Keep in mind the following:
- Every meeting should have simple, easy-to-explain objectives, so the prospect or decision maker knows why you are there and what you hope to accomplish
- Meeting objectives should align to where you are in the sales process
- You should already have targeted next steps in mind
Sales leaders often feel they need to have all the answers to be effective in their role. Instead of trying to have all the right answers, focus on asking all the right questions.
I've found sharing good questions with your team and coaching them to use these questions effectively is a strong approach. Here are a few deal questions sales people seldom ask that can help identify where an opportunity is in the pipeline:
Questions to determine the prospect's buying urgency:
- "What is your timing?"
- "When do the services/solutions you are using today come up for renewal?"
- "Given your plans for the business, how and when do you see your needs changing?"
- "How satisfied are you with your current relationship? Why do you feel that way?"
- "Where does this issue rank on your list of priorities? Why?"
Questions to assess the prospect's buying process and where you are within it:
- "What are the steps in your buying process?"
- "What will the decision-making process be?"
- "Are you targeting a specific timeframe?"
- "What will your role be?"
- "Which part of the buying process do you think will be most important?"
- "Who is involved in evaluating our proposal?"
- "Who will make the final recommendation?"
- "In addition to the owners/your president, who else gets involved in making important decisions? What role(s) do they play?"
Questions to uncover the prospect's decision making criteria:
- "What are the decision criteria?"
- "What are the most important aspects of the decision criteria?"
- "Describe a successful implementation?"
- "How will solutions be evaluated?"
These are a few things you can begin doing today to become a better coach by Friday.
What about improving my coaching skills long-term?
For longer term coaching success, three things are especially important:
- Use a simple process
- Commit to a weekly Coaching cadence
- Establish SMART goals
Below is a sample Coaching Process and Smart Goal worksheet to help keep things on track.
And, as always...keep things simple and focused.
I hope these tips are helpful in your development as a coach. Best wishes for strong sales performance in 2019!