Sales coaching itself is an industry. There are often coaches for coaches, and just because a sales rep who has been promoted into a management position, doesn’t mean they will know how to coach and inspire those in their team.
It would be advisable therefore to take a three-step approach to sales coaching:
- Ask before advocating: If you have been on a call with a rep, as a coach, you have to stop yourself launching into what the rep should do (even if it is clear). Get them to self-diagnose what went well and where the development areas are because it needs to come from the rep to get ultimate buy-in.
- Actively listen: Ask questions that start like ‘How did you think that went?’, ‘What happened there?’, ‘Then what happened?’ or ‘What happens next?’. These types of questions outline a position of active listening and not just telling the rep what they should do. Making this part collaborative again will encourage quicker take up of any advice
- Assume best intentions: It is a fair assumption that, as a coach, the reps on your team want to get better. If there are ways you can help them, from the strategic to the tactical, assume they want to hear them.
If you keep these three areas in mind, in terms of skills for a sales coach, the following eight will stand you in very good stead:
- Take time to teach: Make time for your reps, work with them and have coaching as a permanent fixture during the week – either as scheduled sessions or off-the-cuff advice.
- Individualise the coaching: All reps are different and so, therefore, coaching with different reps on different aspects of the sales process is always going to be something to consider.
- Be clear with the goals: Great coaches can clearly articulate the direction of travel, what the destination is, and the success criteria of hitting that goal (as well as any potential rewards).
- Feedback: Positive or negative, coaches offer both and are not afraid of either. Reinforce positive behaviour and understand how best each rep receives feedback. Some need it more than others.
- Keep your reps focussed on the right things: Some reps get distracted and their day can run away with them doing activities that are not revenue-generating. Ensure that what they are doing is what they are employed to do.
- Care: Great coaches genuinely care about their reps, team performance, and the welfare of their team members. They can demonstrate genuine empathy and the team can feel this.
- Purpose-driven: Great coaches can communicate how what their reps are doing is contributing to the wider company goals. Instilling this sense of purpose empowers reps to work on something bigger than just hitting their numbers!
- Be collaborative: Gone are the days of the autocratic sales organisation. Now reps are asked for feedback on certain strategic objectives and the best ways to do things. Whilst not always appropriate to involve the team in all decisions, having a part in deciding the direction of the company empowers reps to think bigger and ultimately retain the best talent.