How to Spend Less Time and Get More Results for Your Sales Coaching

Kathy has just been promoted as Sales Manager of her team, and she just found that being a Sales Manager is quite different from being a Sales Person. More importantly, there seems to be tons of people issues that she would have to help resolve through coaching.

For instance, there’s Sam, who’s a new sales person and showed a lot of promise during his initial training with the company. When he went on his work, he also put in lots of effort. Still, after 3 months, there wasn’t any results generated.

Then there’s Susan, who’s one of the better sales persons in the team. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been producing much results lately. When asked about her performance, she replied that the customers just need a little longer time to make the decision this year..

And there’s Simon, whom had been in touch with a prospect for quite some time. He had seen their decision makers, technical buyers and even end-users. While responses were positive, there was no further progress in the customer’s buying process.

To make things worse, Kathy hadn’t even received much coaching from her former manager when she was a Sales Person, and hence don’t even have a role model to emulate when she needed to coach her team. The good news for Kathy is that coaching for Sales People is not as difficult or as daunting for newly on-boarded Sales Managers. The concepts are simple and easy to master, although it will require some practice to get the best results!

Where You Are, and Where You Want Your Team to Be

The approach that most Sales Managers take when coaching team members is that they tend to look at low-performance incidents sporadically and just give advice on how their team member needs to do to correct that behaviour. This action is what is known as “Corrective Feedback”, which could be part of coaching, but is inadequate to equate it with coaching.

To make coaching really deliver desired results, we can borrow concepts from the Six Thinking Hats to formulate an effective coaching strategy. Here are the first steps:

1. Blue Hat – What do you want your team member to become, and how you want to go about achieving this.

2. White Hat – What current information (e.g. sales results, prospecting effectiveness, selling prices etc.) do you have about your team member? What other information do you need so as to really understand where he/ she stands right now?

Conveying Your Coaching Message

Although coaching your sales team is really about what you want your team member to become, you will need that team member to agree to your goals and objectives for him or her. Coaching is a 2-way street, and hence if your “coachee” does not agree or buy-in to your goals, the coaching will fail.

As such you will need to communicate your Blue Hat with your team member clearly, and be open to feedback if there are any disagreements or modifications to your original plan.

During your coaching session, you will need to communicate the following:

1. Yellow Hat – Give affirmation on the strengths and positive contributions of the team member. Coaching is as much about helping team members to correct mistakes, as it is about helping them to strengthen or improve on their existing strengths. In any case, team members ALWAYS feel good when their bosses tell them something nice about them.

2. Black Hat – Let your team members understand which are the areas that need correction or improvement. One thing to be clear in such communication is to make sure the team member understand that you are not picking on their mistakes. Instead, they have to be clear that you are helping them achieve better results.

3. Green Hat – Instead of telling them what they need to do to get better results, invite and engage them to suggest creative suggestions to help improve their own performances. You will be surprised by the ingenuity of the suggested solutions, and best of all, since your team member suggested the solution, you will get the full commitment of that team member to implement the solution that he or she suggested!

4. Red Hat – At suitable intervals, find out how your team member feels whether he or she is OK to continue with the coaching, or if he or she is comfortable with the conversation between the two of you. If at any point of time your team member feels uncomfortable, that could be a sign that the coaching is moving in the wrong direction. You may then want to stop, and re-strategise for a different coaching session the next time.

Despite your best efforts, not all coaching will turn out in the way you envision it to be. But that’s OK. What is more important is that you adapt different coaching strategies to different team members based on their:

* Desired behaviours and performance;
* Current behaviours, traits and performance metrics; and
* Temperaments and communication styles of each individual.

Achieving Sustainable Results

While MOST sales managers agree and believe that training and coaching team members is very important for boosting the team’s performances, FEW actually took systematic steps to train or coach their team members.

The key word here is “systematic”. Coaching your team members, while very important, is usually NOT urgent. That is, if you don’t coach your team members today, nothing catastrophic is going to happen tomorrow. Hence, with the heavy workload and the number of more urgent matters to attend to, most sales managers keep on postponing the required coaching for their team members until it’s way too late.

Hence, to achieve sustainable results with your coaching, you will have to:

* Schedule the appointment with your team members and everybody will have to treat it as important and urgent as a key customer meeting;

* Put on your White Hat prior to the coaching session to gather as much information of your “coachee”, and also make a list of questions for the information that you would like to know;

* Put on your Blue Hat at the end of each coaching session to set mutually-agreed action plans on what behavioural changes that your “coachee” needs to make; and

* Listen to the feedback given by your “coachee” and determine what changes that you need to make too!

The steps to being an effective sales coach are simple. The difference between a good sales coach and a mediocre one boils down to: practice. Just like any new skill, the initial practice is going to be awkward. However, with more practice, you can be an expert sales coach real soon.

C.J. is the world-class sales force effectiveness (SFE) expert who have helped international companies achieve quantum improvements in sales profits in China and beyond. So far, c.j. Is the 1st and ONLY Asian sales force effectiveness expert to have been invited to speak at the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) International Convention. c.j. has helped:
• International hospitality chains such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Sofitel and the Ascott Group to onboard their newly promoted Directors of Sales to make the transition from sales people to high-performing sales team leaders
• Leading pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and Merck to improve their senior managers’ leadership skills so as to excite their people to exceptional performance
• World-wide leaders in the construction market such as Philips Lighting, Saint-Gobain, Ingersoll Rand to develop competencies in their sales force so as to achieve quantum leaps in their sales results.

Prior to this, c.j. was Asia Marketing Manager for a Fortune 500 logistics company, as well as Corporate Training Manager for Ringier AG, Switzerland’s largest media group, in China, where he was responsible for sales team development, and helped increase the percentage of new hires to close their first sales within 2 months by 30%, as well as increase overall sales targets by more than 50%. Visit for more details.

c.j. is also a certified facilitator of Six Thinking Hats® and Why Should Anyone be Led by YOU TM training programmes

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