By Michael Lang
This question provided many interesting inputs and I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.
1. When you coach someone, you should be focused not on what they want, but on what they need. Coaching and training programs should be based on the immediate and present time strategic and tactical errors they are making in their sales calls.
I believe in coaching people on what their customers need from them. I typically start with client problems, needs and issues first. Then evaluate where the salesperson is at in delivering solutions, and then coach the gap to make them more effective.
2. In sales there is only one item of importance that trumps all others: the revenue target. This goal should be equally important to the coach and the salesperson.
If one of my sales reps has another goal that distracts or detracts from revenue targets they should pursue it...elsewhere.
Great coaches allow their people to self-discover their own solutions by asking the right questions.
Effective coaching requires that I be a problem-solving facilitator not the problem solver.
Ron Willingham's suggests the follows approach. Ask, Listen, Coach, Praise, Challenge. (See his book the People Principle). By getting the employee to solve the problem or at least propose solutions, you encourage ownership and accountability.
From a leadership standpoint, I try to frame coaching the same way I do a needs assessment with a client.
Great salespeople and great coaches listen far more than they talk.
I ask questions such as:
What is the challenge / problem?
How long has the issue/s been happening?
What have you tried to address the issue/s?
What has been the cost to your organisation?
What do you feel might work?
What would a successful outcome look like?
What’s your recommendation/s?
From this, I paraphrase what I heard the employee say and clarify that with more questions if needed.
If the employee doesn’t get to where I think they need to go (with a solution), I ask another set of questions including:
How would X work as a possible solution to this challenge?
Can I count on you to deliver to clients?
My goal is to get them to provide their own solutions, so they own it and are accountable. The end goal is to determine whether they can close the deal and thrive in your organisation.
If salespeople achieve goals that are important to them, they are happy and productive.
The challenge is to align goals with what is important to your organisation.
“Coaching is inherently focused on the individual, so it's his or her awareness, motivation, and behaviour that matters most. Having said that, the organisational need (aka "the number") provides context and a reality that must be considered throughout the coaching process. “
Sales leaders, are you really coaching your salespeople? Coaching should be about assisting someone to put the pieces together from what they already know AND to assist them to reframe their self-limiting beliefs.