Coaching a High Performance Sales Team
It wasn’t the first time. I was speaking at the World Coaching Congress in Mumbai about the best ways to lead a high performance sales team. When quoting Socrates who said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think”, there were some skeptical looks in the audience. “My team needs to be taught how to sell!”, I imagined them thinking. Maybe you’re thinking the same thing.
I elaborated, “Training is important initially, but leading a sales team that knows what it should do and one that does what it knows, are two very different things. What are you doing to help your team reach its potential and consistently adopt desired selling behaviours?” Then, I had the audience working together in pairs for a brief exercise and they experienced the benefits of coaching.
Coaching is defined by The International Coach Federation (www.icfsingapore.org) as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’. In my work with sales leaders and sales professionals, I’ve noticed that coaching results in more autonomous, proactive and high performing sales teams.
Your sales team can experience these benefits too. According to Wikipedia, solution focused brief therapy (and coaching) focuses on what clients want to achieve rather than on the problems that made them seek help. As a result, coaching helps your team members focus on what they want to achieve in sales rather than on the problems they’re having in sales. Would you like to help your sales team overcome day-to-day challenges and find their own solutions? Here’s some powerful questions you could ask that will evoke discovery, insight and commitment to action:
The Miracle Question
You can use these questions to help your sales team see how the future will be different when the problem is no longer there. For example, you could ask: “If you woke up tomorrow, and a miracle happened so that you no longer felt nervous during sales presentations, what would you see differently? What would the first signs be that the miracle occurred?”
Scaling questions can help identify useful differences for your sales team and help establish goals too. The ends of a scale range from the “worst the problem has ever been” (zero) to “the best things could ever possibly be” (ten). For example, you could ask: On a scale of 0 to 10, if 10 is the ‘miracle’ and 0 is the complete opposite, where would you put yourself now?”
These questions help your sales team identify their strengths and resources. For example, you could ask: “What tells you that you are a at ‘n’ on the scale rather than a 0? What is the highest you’ve ever been on that scale? When was that? What were you doing? How did you do that? What would other people say you are already doing well?”
Even the most challenging situations with your sales team have positive examples of coping that can be drawn out and affirmed. For example, you could say: “I can see that you get really nervous making sales presentations, yet I’m impressed with how you manage to do everything necessary to get through your presentations. How do you do that?”
The goal is for your sales team to repeat what has worked in the past and to help them gain confidence in making improvements in the future. For example, you could ask: “Suppose you were one point higher on the scale. What would you be doing more of, less of, or differently? What’s the next small step for you to take?”
Asking your sales team to summarise their action plan will result in greater accountability and ownership. For example, you could ask: “What actions will you take as a result of our conversation? How will you hold yourself accountable? How can you track your progress?”
As a result of coaching, your sales team will experience fresh perspectives on challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in their day-to-day selling activities.
Coaching a High Performance Sales Team article originally appeared in the April 17, 2013 edition of The Straits Times.