Most always wear “the administrator” and “the strategist,” but only the best of the best wear “the coach” as well.
While the sales manager can never take off the first two hats, they get to choose if and when they wear their coaching hat. It’s when they wear their coaching hat, however, that they see the kind of ongoing improvement only coaching can deliver.
Coaching is a collection of guided skills and strategies that enable a leader to change other people’s behavior in a way needed to achieve better results.
Note: Have you ever wondered how much training should you be doing? This video explains:
Encouraging this change requires a unique agreement between the coach and the other person. It requires a special kind of tailored communication and tactics.
Here are 5 strategies to help you get the most out of your team through effective coaching:
#1. Use Motivation Other Than Money.
While it’s tempting to think that all salespeople are infinitely motivated by money and will always do whatever it takes to make more, data suggests the opposite. Many salespeople miss goals and usually make the same amount of money year over year.
When asked how they will improve they say they’ll work harder, smarter, or be more productive. Really?
How would that work? By working one more hour each day?
If those changes were so easy to adopt, why didn’t the salesperson already get smarter, work harder, etc.
So as you’re considering how to encourage your reps and kick-start the month or quarter, try these ideas:
Run a competition around a specific goal.
For instance, if you’re making a push to promote a new product or service you’re now offering, then consider building a competition around that initiative and reward the winning individual or team a prize of your choice. Maybe a new pair of headphones or gift card for the winners? Or perhaps another fun gadget of your choice.
Reward your reps with extra vacation time.
A lot of hard working professionals feel like they will fall behind or are missing out if they take a day or two off from work. It’s a natural feeling in today’s society, however, everyone knows that working non-stop, without a break is a sure-fire way to end up burned out and unmotivated. Entice your reps by rewarding them with a bonus vacation or sick day for their progress.
#2. Set Expectations Upfront
Coaching is an ongoing process, not a standalone event.
Getting other people to change requires an agreement between the coach and the other person. When managers don’t have that relationship agreement in place with each member of their sales teams, they may struggle with enforcing change.
For ongoing coaching sessions to really move the performance needle, managers and salespeople must begin with a common goal. This is why it’s essential to set expectations upfront.
Both seller and manager need to agree on a few things before getting started:
You must hold each other accountable.
Make an agreement with each other that you will stick to a schedule, whether that’s daily, weekly, or monthly. Make the commitment and ensure it’s on both of your calendars. In fact, make it a recurring meeting invite so that all sessions are scheduled in advance. Inevitably, unforeseen things pop up, and that’s ok; Just make sure you get that session rescheduled as soon as possible. Staying accountable and being consistent is the key to making progress.
Have clearly defined goals and an understanding of your roles.
To narrow down the list of possible things to improve, both seller and manager have to look at that salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses and negotiate the short list of things to focus on.
Both manager and salesperson have to agree on how the pipeline and other sales KPIs (key performance indicators) will be used as the barometer for measuring progress.
As the manager, your role is to help your seller strategize accounts, brainstorm new ideas, discuss challenges, and provide solutions, and as the sales rep, they must be open to new ideas and strategies, have a willingness to change and adapt, and stay accountable but realistic with their goals.
Focus on building and nurturing your relationship.
Perhaps you already have a well-established relationship with each member of your sales team, but if you don’t, coaching is a great opportunity to spend time getting to know each of your reps on a more intimate level.
Consider starting each coaching session by asking your rep to share both a personal and professional best. A personal or professional best can be anything that relates to making progress towards a goal.
For example, a professional best might be winning a difficult deal just in time to exceed your end of the month quota, or a personal best could be the fact that you finally got around to going to that new yoga class you signed up for last month.
Whatever it is, the idea behind this exercise is that by sharing good news, you establish a deeper connection with the people around you. Ultimately, leading to more effective coaching sessions because you can personalize the session even better than before.
#3. Document Your Vision
If you want to be a great leader and coach, then you have to present a meaningful mission and vision statement to your team.
To do that, spend quality time crafting a vision statement in which you describe where you see the team in one year. An advantage to creating your vision statement in this way is that people tend to be more confident about setting bigger and bolder goals when the deadline is a long term future date.
As you write your vision statement for the team, keep in mind that you want to paint a challenging, yet encouraging picture for your team to work towards.
That means asking and answering questions that will prompt you to reflect upon:
Where do I see myself in one year?
Where do I see the team in one year?
How will we get there?
What can I do to support the team?
What challenges should we anticipate?
Why is achieving the vision important?
These are just a few questions to get you started, but as you start to think about and write down your vision, remember to keep it action oriented. Break down each month or quarter into short term goals that is more tangible for the team to understand and tactical to achieving results.
Finally, call a meeting to announce your vision to the team. At that meeting, speak with passion and confidence about the goal that you’ve tailored for your team and make sure part of this meeting is asking your team for feedback.
Change isn’t always easy for people, so the more involved you can make the team, the better your vision will be and the more agreeable the team will be to moving towards the goal together.
#4. Share a Common Way of Tracking Progress
As a manager, you will have more success sharing a common inspection and tracking process than letting your sales reps fend for themselves.
In theory, the path to your goal should be clearly outlined in your CRM, but, all too often the real information is buried inside and outside of the system due to inconsistency of tracking among the team.
Most salespeople use their own subjective criteria when reporting on their pipeline to managers and themselves, which leads to inaccurate forecasts and missed goals.
How to Measure the Effect of Sales Coaching
A great sales manager needs to have a view that is objective and measurable rather than subjective to benchmark progress toward sales goals.
All salespeople have to learn to use the same standards in the same way, and the reason for this is simple.
All sales come from prospects and this base of prospects accurately forecasts sales and reveals coaching opportunities. The only opportunities in that path are the ones most likely to close within their normal sales cycle, at these four stages of the sales process:
Upcoming first appointments.
Appointments from the last few weeks that have advanced to a next step
Decisions expected soon
Contracts expected soon
Now, add the total number of prospects from b, c, and d. The sweet spot is a prospect base (m) worth 1.5x to 3.5x of your goal. So, if the goal were 100 closings, the path would be between 150 and 350 prospects.
(B+C+D/goal) = m
Ironically, beyond 3.5x, there are too many prospects to properly inspect; they artificially inflate our view of what we really can count on.
By filtering your view of the prospects that exactly fit these admittedly rigid standards, you get to see the path to the goal.
#5. Conduct More Effective Team Meetings
Once you have a visible path to the goal embraced by the whole team, you also have the foundation of every sales meeting.
Take Turns Leading the Meeting
Ideally, sellers come into the meeting room and each person takes a turn explaining their prospect’s contribution and changes from last week’s picture.
The key is the inspection questions applied to each prospect.
Inspection questions are similar to qualifying questions, but are used to help you analyze your pipeline and opportunities in a different way. Inspection questions provide a way to look at each stage of your sales process and understand the potential of each prospect in the pipeline.
For example, if you’re looking at the first stage (First Appointments) of your pipeline, then consider these questions:
When are we scheduled to speak next? Did they reschedule?
What is the right number of prospects to have in this stage at all times?
Does this represent the right blend of target prospects? (Big deals, medium sized, and small)
Are you ready to meet next? What preparation have you done?
What have you learned from your research and preparation?
What type of clients have we worked with who are similar to this prospect?
Do you have any success stories or testimonials to share?
For this part to go right, salespeople should take turns leading those inspection questions.
Teaching accelerates learning and when a new salesperson leads the meeting each week, they learn how to lead a group discussion and apply those inspection questions to their own path-projection while also helping their team.
This approach is in contrast to the way most conventional weekly sales meetings are run. Typically, the manager brings the talking points to every meeting and the meeting is cancelled if the manager is busy.
However, following this team meeting format, the gathering happens regardless of the manager’s schedule. It’s the sellers who are taking the way and bringing the talking points to their sales meetings.
Your job as the manager and coach is simply to make sure your salespeople are equipped with the skills to do so.
This meeting also allows you to troubleshoot situations as a team. Everyone benefits when you work together to strategize sales that are getting stuck and discover ways to replicate winning strategies.
By comparing ideal individual and team path “pictures” to their actual path, everyone can look at exactly how “off-course” they are and specifically what they need to do to get the prospect picture right.
When the manager follows these five steps to coaching, they will not only see sales habits change and results improve, they will change the sales culture on their team.
Teams with the right culture hold on to their best performers and more easily assimilate new team members than other teams. That is the real payoff to sales coaching.
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