Effective Sales Management: Coaching

The manager whose first priority is developing his people knows that frequent coaching delivers consistent financial results. Regular scheduling of coaching and review must be an agenda item that’s written in ink, not penciled in.

Coaching is a system that “grows” people by enabling them to learn through guided discovery, not by showing or telling people what to do. Telling is not coaching! Coaching assumes that team members learn by doing. Effective coaches have three major responsibilities: (1) guiding people to discover the tools they need to get the job done; (2) building confidence; and (3) motivating team members to be the best they can be.

An effective sales manager juggles many balls in fulfilling his responsibility to the company, but none is more important than getting out in the field with their sales team. Too many sales managers are too busy shuffling papers, filling out reports, and sitting behind their desks. They should be out making sales calls with their salespeople, helping to train them in more productive sales techniques.

There are three parts to coaching. They are field coaching, pre, and post-call debriefing, and coaching for improved performance.

Field coaching has three parts: joint sales calls with the manager, training calls in which the salesperson observes the manager sell, and coaching calls in which the manager observes.

  1. Joint Sales Calls – working as a team the salesperson and the manager participate in the call equally. These double-up calls not only increase sales but also are great learning experiences for the salesperson.
  2. Training Call – the sales manager runs the call while the salesperson silently observes. It is important that the manager models the proper selling skills for the salesperson.
  3. Coaching Call – the salesperson runs the call and the sales manager silently observes. At the end of the call, the sales manager debriefs the salesperson and discusses lessons learned.

Coaching The Poor Performer

To help a poor performer the coaching process would include these five steps:

  1. Define the Situation Clearly – gather facts and identify performance results.
  2. Counsel – meet with the rep and make it clear that your goal is to help them improve their performance. Avoid blaming, reprimanding, or delivering ultimatums. Let the rep know that you believe that with coaching the performance issues can be improved.
  3. Ask the Salesperson – what do they think the solution to the problem is. Solicit input from them on what they think they need to change. Avoid giving advice or telling the salesperson what they need to do.
  4. Design a Mutually Agreed-on Plan – this plan should be a comprehensive, clearly defined, results-oriented plan. The plan should include activity goals and results or production goals that both parties can agree to.
  5. Set a Follow-Up – following agreement on the plan, the rep must understand that the sales manager will closely scrutinize sales activity and results. The follow-up plan includes weekly meetings with the manager to go over results and progress.

When salespeople don’t hit the targets, the manager needs to hold their feet to the fire. In some cases, it may be necessary to renegotiate the expectations. But if the expectations were fair, to begin with, it is better for the manager to send the salesperson on to another career opportunity.