Top Five Ways of Becoming a Better Sales Coach

Sales Managers execute several roles and wear many hats: manager, trainer and coach. These multiple roles can create challenges for some sales managers. Where should they invest their time? Should it be in attending internal meetings? Analyzing reports? Training and coaching the sales team? If you are serious about hitting and exceeding your revenue goals for 2012, invest your time in training and coaching your sales team. (It makes analyzing reports a whole lot more fun when the numbers are in the black.)

Sales managers may have attended sales training courses on their journey to mastering the art and science of sales. How many sales managers have attended training and coaching courses to learn how to transfer the skills that made them a top producer? In the words of Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

We have found the best sales managers make the leap from producer to teacher. If you can’t teach and grow others, you are doomed to be the major rainmaker versus a sales leader.

Here are five tips to help you grow your sales team.

#1: Know when to train and know when to coach. Training is telling and imparting knowledge. Coaching is asking questions to make sure that the knowledge landed in the salesperson’s gray matter. When a sales manager identifies a performance issue, they usually go into training mode, telling and teaching the salesperson a sales technique or concept one more time. The problem may not be about selling skills. In working with sales teams for over a decade, we have found that salespeople know what to do, however, don’t execute selling skills because they don’t believe it works or it make them uncomfortable.

It’s time to take off the training hat and put on the coaching hat. Ask questions that help change the salesperson’s paradigms and beliefs. Presumptive questions are a great coaching tool for shifting perspective.

For example, “When you asked the prospect how much the problem was costing, what did she say? When you shared with the prospect that you couldn’t put together a recommendation until you met with the CFO, what did he say?” The answers from the salesperson range from, “I can’t ask that question” or “I forgot.” A couple of good follow-up coaching questions are:

· “What makes you believe that? Is that perception or real data?

· What is the reason is that you keep forgetting? Is it knowledge or comfort zone?

· What will you do differently the next time?

If you want better answers, ask better questions.

#2: Document your sales process. If you don’t have a defined sales process, you don’t have anything to train, coach or inspect.

Many companies state that have a defined sales process, however, there is no written documentation such as key questions to ask during the sales process, value propositions, gaps in the competitors offering or common objections.

Some sales managers respond with the excuse, “I hire people with ten years experience….they should know how to sell.” Have you heard of something called the NFL? They hire players with years of experience and pay them millions of dollars to play. The NFL wouldn’t dream of a team showing up to a game without working from a common playbook. They know a playbook allows a football team to sit down, review the films and see where they executed well and where they fell short. The players can debrief the game because they have a process to compare, analyze and improve against. Without a defined sales process, a sales manager is forced to debrief 10 different playbooks with very average results.

#3: Eliminate fire hose training. Training is often delivered through an impact training model: two days or two weeks of training with NO reinforcement. Effective sales managers know that reinforcement coaching and training allows the sales manager to take her team from:

· Unconscious incompetent (don’t know what they don’t know) to

· Conscious incompetent (they know they don’t know) to

· Conscious competent (they know how) to

· Unconscious competent (the salesperson is masterful)

Reinforcement is the key to mastery. Think about how you learned in grade school. Remember multiplication tables? Flash cards were held up and you repeated the formula’s over and over until they landed in long term memory. (Okay, I am dating myself.) Sales managers need to hold flash card sessions with their sales team to develop their selling skills on:

· Dealing with objections

· Developing and delivering customized value propositions for various buyers

· Quantifying the cost of the problem or opportunity

· Ask impact questions

These are fundamental skills that eliminate chase mode, price shopping and looking and sounding like your competition.

#4: Prioritize your time. There are the corporate meetings to attend, reports to analyze and of course, investing time with the team. If you want to grow revenues in 2012, make training and coaching your number one priority.

A successful sales manager in Denver, Colorado, invests one hour each week with 16 direct reports. Is it difficult for him to find the time to meet with his team and balance all the other responsibilities on his plate? Yes. Did his sales team grow revenues 20% in a flat market and competitive market? Yes. Time is a limited asset. Choose to invest it wisely.

#5: Stretch your team. You signed up for leadership and part of that responsibility is stretching your sales team. Push salespeople out of comfort zones by following Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Call on that prospect you’ve been avoiding. Ask the tough questions during a sales call. Insist on excellence and don’t allow your sales team to settle for being average. Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach said, “If you settle for nothing less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your life.”

Colleen Stanley is the founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc., a sales development firm. She is a monthly columnist for national Business Journals, author of ‘Growing Great Sales Teams’ and co-author of ‘Motivational Selling.’ Prior to starting SalesLeadership, Colleen was vice president of sales and marketing for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, sales increased from 8M to 90M.

She is the creator of the EI Selling™, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative sales skills. Training and consulting services offered are:

• Benchmarking, Selection and Hiring of Top Sales Talent
• Consultative Sales Training
• Leadership Training for Sales Managers
• Major Account Sales
• Prospecting and Referral Training
• Sales Compensation
• Territory Management
• Customer Relationship Management

Reach Colleen at 303.708.1128,, visit, or become a fan at

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