Key Skills for Effective Sales Coaching

In this age of both online and offline competitive market places, sales teams are struggling with missed sales goals, shrinking margins, and lost opportunities. Companies and sales leaders are working overtime to find ways and means to energize their sales force to beat the competition. Increasingly, companies and sales leaders are turning to coaching as a solution.

Convincing a salesperson to change their behavior or try a new approach is the primary obstacle that sales mangers face when they try to coach their teams. The salesperson cannot be blamed entirely for his/her lackadaisical approach and his/her initial hostility because change is always difficult. To make them adjust to the changes, sales manager’s approach needs to be more supportive and motivating.   It has been observed that instead of enlisting the support of salespersons, sales managers are engaged in preaching/telling what to do and what not.

You may be thinking how to resolve a situation where a sales person is not performing the way he or she is supposed to do. You need to find ways to present it in such a manner that they get motivated to achieve their targets next time.  As the saying goes “Old habits die hard”, so it takes constant efforts, motivation and time to possess new skills that can make a change for better.  So while preaching/telling a salesperson what to do may seem to be useful in the short-run, it is not so effective in the long-run. This is simply due to the fact that unless the salesperson is involved in the change process, he is least likely to heed the advice of sales manager and change his behavior.

Therefore, the collaboration between the sales manager and the salesperson is the core of effective sales coaching where both create and implement a plan to improve skills.

For a collaborative sale coaching environment, first of all, a sales manager need to change him and develop a habit based on the three “A”s:

  1. Ask before preaching
  2. Actively listen
  3. Assume you are there for their betterment

1: Ask before preaching

When you know that a particular salesperson is making a number of mistakes on sales calls, you need to sit down with him/her and examine the call. Even though you already understood that their approach was wrong, it is necessary to start the examination process by asking questions.

The purpose behind asking questions is to let the salesperson know and realize his mistake because self-realization is a proven motivator of behavior change. Of course, you eventually have to tell him that his suggestions will be taken seriously if you help him realize his errors. The strategy of asking questions makes the process more collaborative. Moreover, self-realization plays an important role in behavioral change and salespersons are more likely to change their behavior if they discover the lacunas themselves.

Some of the sales coaching questions to ask include:

  • What else did the customer say?
  • What was the most striking feature of the customer’s reaction?
  • What did you notice when you started asking more questions?
  • So what…?
  • So what went well?
  • So what could have been better?
  • Now, what…?
  • Now, what steps would you take?
  • So what differently you are planning to do?
  • Now, what questions do you have?

2: Actively Listen

Be a good listener: Asking questions, but not listening to the answers is worse than not asking questions. Listening is a must for the success of the collaborative relationship with a salesperson. It not only enables you better understand salesperson viewpoint but might also give you an idea for more questions.

Unfortunately, many sales managers do all of the talking cutting short others viewpoints. Just listening is not enough; the salesperson must also feel that you are listening to them. Some techniques to give an impression that you listen to them are:

  1. Asking questions
  2. Paraphrasing
  3. Summarizing

3: Assume you are there for their betterment

According to Seattle Sales Training  sessions, Sales coaching should not be like an appraisal session meant to pull up or punish salesperson for their poor performance. If sales coach trains the team members by just giving lecturers and belittling the participants, it won’t fetch any good results.  Great sales coaches always create a positive environment and assume that their salespeople want to improve their skills. Such assumptions foster an atmosphere of ‘give and take’ where the salesperson freely discusses their problems and willingly inculcates the behavioral changes suggested to them.