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BW Businessworld

What Is Sales Coaching?

Coaching is one of the four hats a successful manager must be prepared to wear during the course of a working day

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Getting your team to operate on their own and to be self-sufficient is always a critical goal. That's why, if you are a sales manager, you should spend 20-30 per cent of your time coaching.

Coaching is one of the four hats a successful manager must be prepared to wear during the course of a working day. The others are training, supervising, and mentoring. It is safe to say coaching is the least understood of the four roles.

Coaching is all about helping salespeople identify and overcome obstacles to better application of strategies and tactics. It is a series of one-on-one discussions focused on empowering people to apply what they know. To do that, the manager must be able to focus on the needs of the individual and blend them with the needs of the company.

If the relationship between the manager and the individual is strong, respectful, and focused on the salesperson's growth as a person, the chance exists for a successful coaching outcome. If the relationship is stressed, marked by unresolved conflict, or lacking in trust, a successful coaching outcome is impossible.

Typically, managers confuse coaching with training, but these are very different activities. When a team member comes to the manager's office with a problem, the manager's instant responses may be to try to teach that person something-perhaps by sharing an illuminating personal anecdote, with instructions to go forth and do likewise. As the person leaves, the manager thinks, "I am a great coach." Unfortunately, that is not coaching.

Coaching is empowering people to better execute the skills they already have. It is based almost entirely on asking good questions, not on imparting one's own knowledge, opinions, or instructions.

When you are coaching, the big question is not, "What can I tell this person to do?," but, "How do I make a breakthrough based on self-discovery more likely for this person?"

Coaching requires uninterrupted one-on-one time, making sure the person feels safe and comfortable, creating an appropriate Up-Front Contract for the session, and then saying something like, "Okay, you remember what we talked about last time: the Sandler concept of pain. I know you understand that. One of the things I'm seeing is that some of the prospects you're working with don't have enough pain to motivate them forward in the sales process. So tell me, how did you go about uncovering pain in your first meeting with ABC Company?" (Salesperson responds.) "And how do you think that went, overall?" (Salesperson responds.) "Looking back on that meeting, do you think there's anything you'd do differently?"

This is opposed to: "Let me walk you through the sheet with the eight pain questions you were supposed to ask during that meeting-because obviously it didn't stick the last time I gave it to you."

Coaching effectively means leading the person through a process of guided self-discovery. Here is a list of areas to focus on:

1. Lead generation: Prospecting, the #1 behavior that drives all the others.
2. Building relationships: Establishing a strong, open relationship based on trust.
3. Qualifying the opportunity: Determining a reason to do business.
4. Making presentations: Presenting solutions to the prospect's problems.
5. Servicing customers: Delivering superior customer satisfaction.
6. Account management: Maximizing business in each account.
7. Territory development: Building a strategy to grow the territory.
8. Building a cookbook: Establishing productive sales activity.
9. Continuous education: Developing ongoing product, market, and sales knowledge.
10. Execution of the Sandler system: Mastering the sales process.

When discussing any of these areas, you can use the three questions below, in this order, to get a better understanding of where he or she needs to focus.

1. "What did you do well in this area?" Or: "What are the things that you're doing right now that are going well?" (The answer might be: "Well, I think I'm pretty good at qualifying prospects.")

2. "What do you think you should be doing more?" Or: "What could you do a little more?" ("I could be asking for more introductions on LinkedIn.")

3. "What do you think you should be doing differently?" ("I think I could be targeting more CEOs in my prospecting outreach.")

Effective sales coaching creates wisdom. It empowers your people to succeed - without you! It is an important and sadly under-discussed topic. To learn more about it, visit us online.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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David Mattson

David Mattson is the CEO and President of Sandler Training, a global training and consulting organization with over 250 offices in 27 countries. His new book, The Sandler Rules For Sales Leaders: 49 Timeless Management Principles… And How To Apply Them, has just been published

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