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8 Tips to Improve Your Sales Coaching

As a sales leader, you are in the perfect position to coach your sales team towards success. Although there are sales trainers, nothing takes the place of actual experience being shared by a person that walked the walk and talked the talk of a salesperson. If you’ve ever wondered how to improve your sales coaching skills, these eight tips may provide some inspiration:

  1. At the onset of a new Sales Coaching Program, it is human nature to choose the worst salesperson to train first. Avoid this trap. When looking for the best candidate to coach first, select someone who has a positive attitude but may be performing at an average level. They will become your champion and an example of how your coaching creates greater success. Usually, these people are also connected internally and likely to share their positive experience with the whole team.
  2. Recognize the differences between Coaching and Supervising. Be cognizant of the implications of each and remove your supervisory hat when coaching. Salespeople often think: ‘My coach cares about me. My supervisor cares about the bottom line; or “My coach looks for things that I do right. My supervisor tries to ‘catch’ me doing something wrong.” The key here is to really shift gears from ‘Managing’ behaviors to ‘support’ behaviors; from ‘telling’ to ‘asking questions’.
  3. Acknowledge the Need for Positive Feedback. Much research that has been done clearly showing that salespeople want more positive feedback. However, sales management still finds this hard to believe. We often think leads, commissions, job security and working conditions are the number one issues. Salespeople may not willingly say that they need more positive feedback because it might be viewed as too ‘needy’ or ‘touchy/feely’. Nevertheless, when asked in confidence, salespeople in all industries say their number one need is to be appreciated.
  4. Recognize the differences between ‘Coaching’ and ‘Training.’ It is difficult to support someone’s performance when they do not know what they are supposed to be doing or how to do it properly. The ‘what’ are clear standards set by your supervision and the ‘how’ is appropriate training. If the standards are not clear, then the coach can find himself/herself in an ‘opinion’ battle in the coaching session. If training has not taken place, the coaching session can turn into one-on-one training, which may or may not be the intent.
  5. Stick to a Schedule. Naturally, the life of sales professional is customer need driven. Unexpected fire drills, a prospect’s request to “hurry up to no where,” that difficult-to-get appointment just came through and many other demands create need to change schedules. Sadly, too often coaching and/or training is the first activity to be cancelled. The coach and the salesperson must show their respect for each other by rescheduling the coaching session immediately rather than just canceling it.
  6. Let the ‘Coach’ have Control. The usual nature of many sales professionals is to control meeting, calls, and schedules. Therefore, it’s natural for a salesperson to want to control almost everything. When it comes to coaching, get the salesperson to learn to ‘let it go!’ Try asking the sales professional to write a sales call debriefing on the situations they wish to use in the coaching session. Let them work on what they want to improve on first – you can always get to the bigger issues later.
  7. Keep It Simple. Resist the temptation to try to fix everything at once. Your salesperson might become overwhelmed. People learn best in small chunks. So, rather than trying to improve on say, listening skills; take one element at a time. Injecting additional listening responses or asking clarifying questions might be a more realistic short-term goal.
  8. Graciously Accept Feedback. How good are you at receiving feedback? Do you encourage people to offer it? Do you thank them? Some people are really good at giving advice, but will not take it from anyone. Sound familiar? If you really want the people you coach to accept the feedback you offer, modeling the behavior is key. Ask the sales professional, “How am I doing as a Coach?” “What could I do differently?” Thank them. Moreover, listen to their response.

Be a total manager to your salespeople; wear your supervisor hat and set expectations, standards and process; put on your trainer’s hat and teach what needs to be done to meet the expectations; and put on your coach’s cap to help them with the “how to do it.” A good sales leader does not just need the skills of supervision, training and coaching, they must master when to use each of these skills. This is the sign of a true sales leader.

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