Quoting Socrates who said, “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think”, that’s where sales coaching comes in. 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.
Companies often invest time and money developing the initial skills necessary for new hires to hit the ground running but neglect to invest in ongoing training due to the cost, the time requirements, or poor past results. This approach, although common, can harm job performance.
Overall, the best sales leaders know that even well-performing salespeople need regular training and feedback to become better, and that doesn’t involve only training workshops. Instead, they use a modern methodology that helps transform competent salespeople into selling superstars: Sales Coaching.
- Building a High-Performance Sales Team
- Solution Focused Sales Coaching Techniques
- 7 Popular Sales Coaching Models All Managers Need To Know & Use
What is sales coaching?
Sales coaching is a method of improving sales performance; however, unlike Sales Training, which seeks to improve the team’s sales skills by telling them what they need to do, sales coaching focuses on helping the individual discover they have the answers and skills they need to tackle their problems. Sales Coaching revolves around asking the coachee questions to allow them to find the answers, instead of being told the answers.
What are the benefits of sales coaching?
When sales coaching is done effectively, team members become more autonomous and self-sufficient. Sales coaching empowers the individual to take ownership of the actions necessary, which makes them more likely to do it and to be happy with the result. As we all know, no one likes to be told what to do.
When coaching is done one-on-one or as a team, group discussion and self-reflection are harnessed to maximise results.
Sales coaching tips & techniques to bring out your team’s best
Do you want to get the best from your sales force? Try adding these coaching strategies to your management style. In my work with Directors and sales managers, I’ve noticed that coaching results in more autonomous, proactive and high performing sales teams. Here’s how you can apply the following coaching skills in the context of working with sales professionals:
1. Know your role as a coach
You don’t want your boss to tell you how to do your job, why do you think your team does? It is time for you to stop assuming your employees appreciate you telling them what to do. A better approach to dictating their behaviour is to suggest different ways they can perform their jobs more productively to accomplish their sales goals.
Forget about using a one-size-fits-all training mentality — it doesn’t work. The heart of sales coaching is helping a staff member find ways to use his or her abilities to the fullest. Your goal is to assist each member of your team to create and define goals; provide guidance on how to reach these personalized goals; and finally, offer support and motivation when the person falls short of these goals.
2. Help the create their own solution
Instead of confronting an underperforming sales professional and offering advice on how to improve, let him discover the answers himself. Using this approach encourages the seller to strive harder to make the necessary changes everyone wants. An excellent way to initiate self-correcting is by linking his current behaviours with the lacklustre results.
Try sitting down with the salesperson privately and play therapist. Ask probing questions such as:
- Are you happy with what you achieved?
- Which of your actions do you think helped to determine the outcome?
- How can you modify your actions to create more positive results?
- How will you feel when you reach your goal?
Use the staff member’s answers to formulate a plan he can use to improve.
3. Focus on the beginning of the sales cycle
While most sales managers focus on finding ways to close deals, a smarter play is helping sellers improve their early cycle sales actions. The truth is once a sale reaches the later stages, it’s already out of your hands for the most part. When you help your salespeople develop effective early cycle sales actions, you give them more opportunities to influence the outcome of the deal.
4. Establishing the Coaching Agreement
Help your team feel comfortable about coaching, explore their initial concerns and come to a common understanding of the agenda for each coaching session. Reach an agreement about what they want to work on, what issues need to be addressed and measures of success.
Create a safe, supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect and trust. Let your team know it’s a safe place for them to share and that they’re free to be themselves. Collaborate with them as equals to design a change agenda that is focused on them.
5. Coaching Presence
Be fully conscious and create a spontaneous relationship with your team, and employ a style that is open, flexible and confident. You’ll need to possess the skills, behaviours, non-verbal communication, and body language needed to create a strong coaching presence.
6. Active Listening
Are you distracted by incoming emails and SMS messages or are you focused completely on what the team is saying and is not saying? You need to hear their concerns, goals, values and beliefs about what is and is not possible. Are you attending to your team’s agenda or your own?
7. Powerful Questioning
There are different types of questions in a coaching conversation that evoke discovery, insight, or a commitment to action. Use questions to create thinking space for them to generate new perspectives such as, ‘How do you feel about using these presentation materials versus not using them?
Solution Focused Sales Coaching Questions
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 sales coaching, your 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.
Grow Model Coaching Questions
The GROW coaching model is a powerful coaching framework used in everyday sales conversations and leadership to promote the idea of “unlocking” potential opportunities. It was created by Sir John Whitmore and colleagues in the late 1980s and still helps teams today focus on problem-solving, goal setting and performance improvement. Check out some popular GROW model coaching questions below:
GOAL: “What do you want?”
- “What do you want to achieve from this conversation?”
- “What problems are you trying to solve?”
- “Is there anything we could work on that would improve your work experience?”
- “What are the benefits of achieving this goal?”
- “Will anyone else benefit? In what way?”
- “How would it feel to achieve this goal?”
REALITY: “Where are you now?”
- “What action have you taken so far to achieve your goal?”
- “What is motivating you toward your goal?”
- “What is stopping you from achieving your goal?”
- “If things don’t change, how will it impact you and others?”
- “What are the main obstacles stopping you from achieving your goal?”
- “How do you feel trying to overcome this challenge?”
OPTIONS: “What could you do?”
- “What’s the ideal solution?”
- “What are your other options for achieving this goal?”
- “Is there anyone you could get a different perspective from?”
- “How have you navigated similar problems before?”
- “What else could you do?”
- “What are the pros and cons of each option?”
WILL: “What will you do?”
- “What’s the first step you could take to realise this goal?”
- “When are you going to do it?”
- “Do you anticipate any obstacles that may stop you from achieving this first step?”
- “What subsequent actions could you take?”
- “How committed are you, on a scale of 1–10, to fulfilling each of these actions?”
- “Will you need any support to fulfill this?”
- “Who could help?”
- “How would you like to follow up on this conversation?”
8. Direct Communication
Useful skills would include reframing, the use of metaphors, constructively challenging your team and managing the conversation at crucial moments. Try to avoid the trap of giving advice, but if unavoidable, keep your perspective to one succinct sentence and use language like ‘What worked for me may not work for you, so just take what makes sense and leave the rest.’
9. Creating Awareness
Using tools to integrate different sources of information can help your team gain awareness. In my work with sales managers, I use tools including 360* feedforward to enable clients to create a new awareness and focus on problem-solving so that they move forward towards their goals.
10. Designing Actions
The coaching conversation needs to move your team towards taking action that will move them towards their goals. Use brainstorming techniques to help them develop options and then use filtering mechanisms so that they define actions they will be committed to. You could ask them, ‘What actions will you take as a result of our conversation?’
11. Planning and Goal Setting
Designed actions must be crafted in goals that your team feels confident in attaining, so understanding the principles of planning, goal setting and time management techniques is important. You may also suggest tools and resources for learning to assist your team so long as they aren’t forced on them.
12. Managing Progress and Accountability
Now that your sales team has designed actions and set goals, they now have the responsibility of sticking to the plan. They may stumble on the journey so you’ll need to support their self-discipline and maintain their accountability. You could ask them questions like, ‘What accountability structure would work for you?’ or ‘How will you hold yourself accountable?’ Reassure them that by sticking to the plan, you’re positive they’re going to succeed.
Final Word: Address Real-World Scenarios with Personalised Support
Every salesperson is unique, as is every deal they work on. That’s why by implementing a consistent coaching program, sales teams and individual reps can get the support they need to close the deals in front of them.
SOCO’s Peak Performance Coaching program is designed to coach teams one-on-one or as a group to address real-world scenarios and unique challenges individual sales reps face.