Taking the Sales Management Profession to a New Level1 Nov, 2015 By: Kim D Ward
Sales Coaching: The Value of a Consistent Coaching Approach
Recently, while conducting a client Sales Management Training implementation discussion, one of the sales leaders in attendance asked an interesting question. He said he was frustrated with an employee who tells ‘very long stories’ when explaining his selling situations. His question was, ‘How do I get him to stop?’ He went on to say, “I want to become a better strategist regarding his sales funnel, but it takes me three times as long to coach him as it does anyone else! What should I do?”
In actuality, this is only one of several very prevalent sales coaching challenges which have frequent and negative impact on the time-use and productivity of sales managers today.
According to thousands of sales leaders who have graduated from our sales management university programs, there are 6 predominant coaching challenges:
- Long stories of explanation
- Low or incomplete plan implementation
- Recurring problems and issues
- Slow employee development and improvement
- Convincing employees to think for themselves, make decisions & accept responsibility for them
Sales coaching and sales employee development is certainly at the core of sales manager responsibilities. Unfortunately, many sales managers struggle to produce their desired coaching outcomes in what they consider to be a reasonable time frame. Yet in reality, with one important coaching behavior change, most sales managers could completely eliminate most, if not all, of these coaching challenges. What is this important sales coaching behavior?
Always use a consistent coaching process - ask questions!
A consistent coaching process, and asking questions, creates very productive and predictable outcomes. By creating a consistent coaching communication environment, managers produce a much more reliable developmental outcome. The benefits of using a consistent coaching process and questions are numerous but certainly include:
- Shorter Stories and Sessions
Employees who believe that their manager can help them, but do not know how much information the manager will need, tend to tell longer stories of explanation. By using a consistent coaching process and questions, employees quickly learn exactly what information their manager needs to help them, and they can more proactively prepare to provide it. This dramatically speeds up the coaching session.
- Improved Communication
Repetitive sales coaching behavior encourages proactive preparation by the employee. Sellers learn to anticipate what their coach will ask and proactively prepare to answer those questions. This will result in more quality time devoted to seller strategy and execution.
- More Frequent Plan Implementation and Success
Better communication promotes employee confidence in the developed plan, and the employee is more likely to successfully implement the entire strategy. This will definitely lead to more productive and winning outcomes. The resulting wins will drive more confidence in the seller’s ability to perform at consistently higher levels.
- Fewer Repeated Issues or Problems
As employees improve, fewer issues and challenges occur. As sellers become more developmentally mature, they solve more of their own problems and proactively eliminate some issues from ever occurring. Consistent coaching questions used by managers become a self-diagnostic tool for sellers who are proactively preparing to communicate with their sales leader.
- Faster Employee Development
As employees gain confidence in their sales manager’s coaching ability, they also become more likely to successfully implement their manager’s advice. This willingness to implement their coach’s suggestions helps to create developmental improvement momentum and employees can begin to improve on an exponential scale.
- Employees Accept More Responsibility for Their Job and Performance
The best way to get employees to accept more responsibility for their job is by teaching them to make decisions, and giving them the autonomy to do so. Using a consistent coaching approach that requires sellers to participate in developing solutions and plans is a great way to teach them to think for themselves. This results in sellers becoming much more productive with their time and selling outcomes, and achieving far greater job satisfaction.
At Learning Outsource Group we recommend a simple and easy to repeat four step sales coaching process which will optimize the coaching environment and session.
The 4 coaching steps are: Evaluate, Discover, Plan & Implement
Evaluate - Identify Situation & Need: What is the situation & what needs should be addressed, improved and/or repaired?
Discover – Uncover Causes & Objectives: What has caused the situation to exist & what specific objectives should be served in this coaching session?
Plan – Determine Alternatives & Actions: What specific tasks should be performed & when should those things occur?
Implement – Employ Resources & Tasks: Implement the developed solution & then close the loop by debriefing situation outcomes with the employee.
If properly used, a great coaching procedure also becomes a problem resolution process for the employee and an influence process for securing employee buy-in. By repetitively using these coaching steps and developing consistent coaching questions, managers will:
- Shorten average coaching session time.
- Create greater levels of employee buy-in & implementation
- Teach employees to start solving many of their own issues
- Develop employees faster
- Decrease the number of work & selling issues for sellers
- Increase productivity speed & significance.
We know that you’ll find the benefits of using consistent coaching procedures and questions far outweigh any reservations that you may have about changing. Great sellers need great sales coaches! Choose to be one.
Kim D. Ward is the Director of Training for Learning Outsource Group, based in FL. A nationally recognized speaker, facilitator, consultant & coach, Kim’s worked with multiple industry OEM’s; IKON, Global Imaging Systems, Xerox & over 800 independent office imaging dealers during the past 20 years. At http://www.learningoutsourcegroup.com