For those of you who regularly read my articles, you already know that I spend a considerable percentage of my time training sales leaders how to coach. When managers and leaders are first introduced to coaching, they usually believe they are already doing it. They are coaching in some manner all day, blocking and tackling, giving advice, and keeping deals moving along. Including those components isn't wrong but gives the definition wide latitude and limits the great potential of excellent coaching.
To violently twist the words of the James Bond character Vesper Lynd, speaking to Bond in Casino Royale, "There is coaching and coaching, this is the latter. And if you want your people to make constant incremental improvements to their skills, I'll need you performing at your best." I told you it was twisted. It turns out coaching is a term that describes a wide variety of activities and it's important to make the distinction up front to help leaders bring about the changes they envision for their team much faster and in a way that makes improvements stick.
Coaching can be all those things mentioned above, and it can be on-demand, in the moment, or solving an immediate problem. But there's a certain kind of coaching that, when adopted as defined, dramatically changes the outcomes. First, ask the following questions about coaching.
7 Questions to Evaluate Your Coaching Process
- Will it help my rep improve?
- Does it identify a competency or selling DNA for their specific situation?
- Is there a lesson learned or takeaway that could be written down?
- Does anyone review and critique my coaching?
- Am I following a coaching process?
- Is my coaching tied to a sales process?
- Are my reps getting demonstrably better?
What about before you hire them? Is there anything you can look for in the candidate, the existence of which promotes the kind of coaching environment you are building? After all, there are coaches and coachees. You're hiring the latter. When selecting new salespeople, there are important characteristics possessed by some candidates that will contribute to your environment of constant learning and incremental improvements.
5 Critical Candidate Attributes Required for Coaching
- Is the candidate coachable?
- Do they make excuses or do they take responsibility for their outcomes?
- Do they come to work every day ready to perform at their best?
- How much discomfort will they endure to become better?
- Do they have the minimum required selling skills, DNA, and will-to-sell to be recommended for consideration for the position?
The first four candidate attributes above are also components of the sales DNA for that individual. While sales DNA is different than sales skills, many believe it's more difficult to modify DNA than to learn a specific skill. That used to be the case, but now you can simply use the Sales DNA Modifier, which is available as an online subscription for just $119/year and comes with a money-back guarantee. Check it out here. Companies invest tens and hundreds of thousands to teach their people selling skills. But even after they learn the skills, it's their DNA that prevents them from using them. At $119 for a one-year subscription, there isn't a more cost-effective method for improving your team than this.
And finally, while there are many types of coaching, we want to know the components of good sales coaching that contribute most to the primary outcome of creating an environment of constant improvement? For this, we need something more formal.
7 Key Components of Effective Sales Coaching
- Regular scheduled time, on the calendar
- One-on-one (usually) but sometimes in groups
- Appropriate length of time for the type of business, usually 30 minutes
- Answers key questions that allow anyone to understand the outcome of the coaching session
- Always one opportunity is discussed. It's not a sales meeting, nor a pipeline review.
- Effective use of role playing
- Written lessons learned
Sales management best practices now require managers to spend close to 50% of their time coaching. If they "can't," reassess your priorities. There are few things more important for a manager than ensuring that their team produces the outputs for which the manager is held responsible. My dad used to spray Gumout into the carburetor of small engines that wouldn't start. It's a combustion accelerant and it always worked. Coaching, in turn, is the accelerant to fire up your sales team to reach heights you once only imagined.
If you want to improve your sales leadership skills and learn how elite sales managers coach, motivate, and hold their people accountable, come to our highly-acclaimed two-day Sales Leadership Intensive coming up June 4th and 5th. Group size is limited to ensure optimal participation and learning. There are still some seats available. Click here to learn more about the event.
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Photo Credit: Le Moal Olivier (123RF.com)