Five Ways to Become a Better Sales Coach
As a sales manager, one of the most important roles you play is that of a sales coach.You’re responsible for the ongoing development and success of your team. You coach your sales reps to success not just by reinforcing their quarterly numbers, but rather by helping to coach them in executing the processes to achieve the numbers.
Even if you have had your own successful sales career, you may still find it difficult to coach others and mentor effectively. Here are five ways to become a better sales coach:
1. Know Your Team
The most important step to becoming a great sales coach is understanding your team. Knowing the different personalities and learning styles in your office will allow you to more effectively communicate with your team. Identify the outspoken and the quietly competent, the individuals who thrive under pressure in front of their peers and those who would shy away from it. This information will help you to realize how to best assist your team without alienating individuals.
At Force Management, we use a tool called the skill/will model to assess individuals and create a targeted coaching strategy that helps to meet them where they are.
Individuals tend to fall into one of the following four categories.
IV. High Skill, High Will
III. Low Skill, High Will
II. High Skill, Low Will
I. Low Skill, Low Will
Our clients find this model effective because it gives them a tool to (1) rate sales people based on their skills and motivation and (2) use that information to coach them to success. It makes for a better informed coaching process.
2. Make Coaching Part of Your Operating Rhythm
Maintain regular opportunities for communication with your sellers to help you stay on top of those individuals who may need help. While this is a simple enough concept, it can often be overlooked due to the ever-rising demands for your time. However, it is essential to your role as a coach. One sales leader recently used a smoking analogy to articulate this point in a Command of the Message® Refresher Workshop.
“If you only spend time with someone once a week, they might be able to convince you that they’ve quit smoking. But, if you’re engaging with the individual at multiple opportunities throughout the week, one of two things will happen – you’ll either see the person struggle without their daily dose of nicotine or you’ll be able to smell smoke on them from where they managed to sneak away for a quick smoke.”
Don’t limit your rep check-ins to specific opportunity reviews. Create a discipline around your coaching rhythm. Brainstorm as many opportunities as possible to continually assess your team and identify any gaps in knowledge and/or execution. Sales transformations do not succeed without continued adoption and reinforcement, so take every opportunity to reinforce your team and lay the groundwork for success.
3. Leverage Your Strengths
Find opportunities to consistently celebrate the successes of your team. Public acknowledgement not only builds the self-esteem of those who’ve excelled, but provides encouragement to others who may be struggling.
This is a great opportunity to leverage high achievers. Just because you’re the coach, doesn’t mean you have to be the smartest person in the room. Don’t be afraid to use your resources to help improve the rest of the team. Allowing individuals the opportunity to share their successes with others will reinforce their own understanding and boost morale. Some personalities respond better to being put on the spot than others, so make sure to choose the appropriate venues to celebrate your team.
4. Structure Your Feedback
An effective sales coach provides quality feedback frequently and consistently. Structure your feedback with the following principles:
- Start with the positive. Begin with two things the salesperson did well and then finish with two things that could be improved. Feedback should be a positive experience. When it is, your team members will seek out constructive criticism.
- Make the receiver of the feedback go first. Ask your employee to give his/her two things that went well and then the two things that didn’t. Traditionally we’re very critical of our own behavior. If the person starts with a positive, it sets the stage for a beneficial conversation.
- Deliver valuable and actionable feedback. Remember, your team members need to be able to improve based on your feedback. Give them tangible ways to improve.
5. Model Desired Behaviors
Finally, be a good example. Model the same behaviors that you’re coaching on. Don’t just instruct your team on the right process; show them what good looks like. Take the opportunity to observe your team in action.
Ask for feedback on your own performance. While this may make team members uncomfortable, at first, it will help them to know that you value their insight. By seeking the opportunity for improvement yourself, you’ll show your team that you can take constructive criticism as well as provide it.
Remember, your sales team members look to you for professional development, and expect you to prepare them for achieving success. Its up to you to provide the necessary resources, guidance and knowledge. Don’t sell them short. The way you coach your team can make the difference between developing a high-performing sales team and leading one that flounders.