Achieving success in sales has never been easy. Rejection, disappointment, and frustration are constant companions on the road to sales success. That said, there are ways to get more sales reps.
The Problem Most New Sales Managers Face
Many newly promoted sales managers and leaders face a significant challenge. They are often promoted based on their achievements in selling. They’ve won awards, been part of the President’s club, and taken home countless prizes. Indeed, a sales manager with a stellar record is more likely to be seen as credible by sales reps.
Yet, newer sales representatives sometimes struggle to learn how to inspire and guide their sales teams. A new sales manager needs to learn a wide variety of new skills to lead their team. One of the most essential skills for sales managers to develop is sales coaching.
What Is Sales Coaching?
Before getting into the specific strategies, let’s pause to define sales coaching. It is a one-on-one process where a manager and their peer work together to improve performance. Coaching emphasizes asking questions and helping a person to identify ways to improve. Rather than handing down advice, sales coaching is more like the Socratic method. By helping the individual sales rep identify solutions, they are more likely to be motivated to take control of their next actions.
For additional guidance on coaching, we recommend the following resources:
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
- The Coaching Effect: What Great Leaders Do to Increase Sales, Enhance Performance, and Sustain Growth by Bill Eckstrom and Sarah Wirth
Sales Coaching Strategy 1: Start With Activity
Inadequate sales activity is the root cause of many sales problems. For example, a salesperson might have become consumed with addressing a complex issue for a current customer for a week. As a result, the sales rep’s good prospecting habits may become inconsistent. Alternatively, salespeople might get discouraged if they receive a particularly harsh response to a cold call or proposal.
Use the following question to coach sales representatives to improve their activity levels:
- How many sales calls (emails, messages, etc) did you send last month? How does that compare to the month before?
- How many sales appointments did you have with prospects last week?
- What is your process for completing follow-up?
- What strategies do you use to recover from disappointments?
As the sales coaching conversation evolves, the sales rep may realize that insufficient sales activity hurts their results. If this is the case, ask the sales rep to set an achievable short-term goal (e.g., “I will contact ten prospects in the next two days”) and report back.
By the way, low sales activity levels may also indicate other difficulties with the individual’s well being or a lack of knowledge in sales technique. Thoughtful coaching can play a role in those areas as well.
Sales Coaching Strategy 2: Coaching For Sales Technique
In other situations, the raw volume of sales activity is not the problem. You might see reports from Salesforce or your CRM that show high levels of sales activity. If that activity level is not paying off in appointments, proposals, demos, or closed deals, sales technique may be the challenge.
Reference these sales coaching questions in your next 1-on-1 to help your sales reps improve their technique.
- What are some of the most common questions or objections you hear from prospects? Do you have notes or a script to help you?
- How do you prepare for a sales meeting? If the person values structure, they might benefit from using a simple checklist to focus their preparation.
- What aspect of the sales process do you find most challenging or frustrating?
As you work through these questions, it is vital to listen with empathy. Asking a salesperson to speak about areas where they are struggling may be stressful.
Sales Coaching Strategy 3: Coaching for Well-being
Even with the best technique and numbers in the world, health difficulties make it tough to win in sales. That’s why sales coaching with well-being in mind is worthwhile. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of all adults experience mental illness each year.
Coaching for well-being is a newer strategy. Not all managers are confident in having discussions about mental health and not all sales reps want to talk about it. Given these realities, an indirect approach to focusing on wellbeing and healthy habits may help.
Put these tips into action to encourage your sales team to improve their well-being.
- Self-reflect on the example you are setting as a sales leader.
Your sales reps are watching how you work and talk to guide their work. If they see you talking about and rewarding excessive work hours, they may be inclined to push themselves hard as well. Remember, research suggests that excessive work hours means tend to lead to focusing on less important tasks and increase the risk of burnout.
- Share personal stories and strategies when appropriate.
In a 1-on-1 setting, consider opening up about how you manage stress. For example, you might share how you’ve developed healthy routines like limiting caffeine intake and running to keep yourself in good health.
- Take the time to listen during 1-on-1 meetings
Effective sales coaching requires a fairly high degree of emotional intelligence. If you see your direct report looks unusually tired, they might have been up late dealing with a family crisis or another difficulty. In that case, it’s not the right time to dive into a detailed discussion of sales metrics. Instead, taking the time to listen and offer encouragement can be extremely helpful.
Sales Coaching Isn’t The Answer To Every Problem
There’s no question that sales coaching is powerful. When sales professionals and managers receive constructive feedback, there is every chance that you can improve. While sales managers should do everything to support their staff, coaching is not a magic bullet. In some cases, a person might not be a good fit for the sales profession.
If you have to terminate an employee, that may be unavoidable in some cases. Before you replace that person, take some time to reflect on the situation. For example, ask yourself if the situation might have gone differently if you had asked better questions in the recruiting process or provided better feedback.
Recruiting With “Coachability” In Mind
Sales coaching is most powerful when both participants are fully engaged in the process. That’s where sales recruiting has a crucial role to play. Contact Peak Executive Sales Recruiting today to discuss how we can help you find sales leaders who know how to coach and be coached.
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