Sales Coaching – a Guide for Sales Managers

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Learn how sales coaching improves sales performance. A simple guide for sales managers on how to coach without taking a lot of extra time.

Is coaching an under-utilised tool in your sales management toolbox?

If it is, you are not alone as many sales managers don’t have the time, expertise, or confidence to coach their sales team.

Why is sales coaching important?

According to a study by Gartner effective sales coaching can increase sales performance by 8%. If 8% doesn’t feel like a lot to you, it could be the difference between hitting your sales target or not and could save you, and your team, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It is also an investment for the future as your team will improve year on year.

Apart from the benefit of hitting target, coaching will help you to retain your salespeople because they feel that you are investing in them.

And, ultimately by coaching your people, you will save time and your life will be easier. Instead of them relying on you to tell them what to do, coach them to come up with the answers for themselves.

As the saying goes, give someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

What is sales coaching?

In essence, sales coaching by sales managers is about ongoing 1:1 conversations with their salespeople to increase their performance. It is about helping them to develop behaviours and habits to improve their success. It is also about exploring solutions to challenges that they are facing and helping them to come up with the answer.

If they come up with their own answer, they are more likely to learn how to do it again in future.

Even if you employ a sales coach to work with your team, adopting a coaching style of sales leadership will have huge benefits.

When can I achieve this with my busy schedule?

You are busy – of course, so how can you fit coaching in and when can you do it?

The places to start would be in the conversations that you are already having, such as:

  • When one of your salespeople asks for your help or advice with a specific client or situation.
  • When you are reviewing the pipeline and want to know what is going on with a prospect, or perhaps their pipeline in general.
  • During your regular sales meetings
  • During your 1:1s

When I was a manager in financial services, I had some fantastic training in sales coaching and what has stayed with me is the value of some key opportunities to coach:

  • Before a key sales meeting – the prebrief. This could be a short 5 – 10 minute interaction in which you ask some pertinent questions around their preparation. Examples of these could be, “What are your objectives for this meeting?”, “What questions are you going to ask?” and “What do you know about the people you are meeting?”.

The questions would depend on where the prospect is in the pipeline and the strengths and development areas of your salesperson. This really helps to focus the salesperson – and ensures they have done sufficient preparation!

  • After a key sales meeting – the debrief. Again, this only needs to be a short interaction and you can ask some questions about the meeting, including “What did you find out? “How did you get on against your objectives for the meeting? Also, some questions to encourage reflection and ongoing development such as, “What went well?” and “What would you do better or differently next time?”
  • After you have attended a sales meeting with them. If you carry out joint meetings with your salespeople, this gives you a fantastic opportunity to give them some feedback and coaching after the meeting.

My key tip here, is to schedule 15 minutes with them immediately after the meeting.

  • Observing them in action – this takes a bigger investment of time but can reap huge benefits. When you are purely observing a meeting rather than participating you can focus completely on what your salesperson is doing.

This may be easier than you think especially if you carry out virtual calls, as you may be able to record a meeting and review it afterwards. This is also something that you might prefer to outsource to a sales coach.

With all these opportunities, do remember to give positive feedback as well as developmental! Commenting on what they are doing well, reinforces the behaviour and they will do more of it.

How do I coach?

Adopting a coaching style as a manager is similar to selling. Just as selling is about asking questions and listening, so is coaching. It is about asking your salesperson questions so that they discover the answer for themselves rather than telling them what to do.

At times, it is also involves adopting more of a mentoring style of offering advice or suggestions although this is only when they can’t find the answer for themselves.

Next time one of your salespeople comes to you with a problem or a question, such as “I am having a problem closing this opportunity”, or “This customer is saying that we are too expensive, what should I do?” ask them a question.

In true coaching fashion, what question could you ask?

Here are a few ideas that might help:

  • What have you already done?
  • What have you considered?
  • What else could you try?

If you find it hard to ask a question and you are so tempted to offer a solution or advice, have a look at Michael Bungay Stanier’s Ted Talk, How to Tame Your Advice Monster.

Remember that sales coaching is a great investment of your time

  • You will increase sales performance this year
  • That increase will improve year on year
  • Your people will feel that you are investing in them and will want to stay – improving employee engagement and retention
  • Your life will be easier because you have taught them how to fish

I hope that this blog has given you the motivation and confidence to have a go at sales coaching.

If you would like to know more or would like some support in implementing this, please get in touch.

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