As a sales manager your number one goal should be to develop a great sales team and that requires consistent and effective coaching. Effective coaching has been shown to create a positive work environment and has been proven to generate a six times return on investment.
Unfortunately the typical sales manager does not take full advantage of these coaching opportunities. Let's review how a normal sales coaching opportunity plays out.
After a ride along with a sales person where the manager most likely swept in to "save the deal" the sales manager proceeds to tell the sales person everything they did right, everything they did wrong and then the manager tells the rep specific ways they can improve. After the "coaching" is done, the manager will have spent better than 80% of the time talking.
While I completely believe that this manager honestly wants to help his sales people improve, talking and telling is not the most effective way to do so. The fact is that few companies are spending the time or money to effectively train their managers how to effectively coach. If a sales manager wasn't exposed to effective coaching techniques as a sales person, it is highly unlikely they will display proper coaching techniques without training.
Instead of talking and telling, effective coaching should take the form of asking questions and listening. There are three types of questions you should ask when coaching a sales person.
1. Observational Questions
The first step is to ensure you have a shared understanding of what just happened. Observational questions are designed to help you get an understanding of how the sales person observed the meeting and to ensure they are seeing the same things that you are. Are they paying attention to the key concepts during the call with the customer?
Questions you could ask include:
- What were you trying to accomplish?
- How do think it went?
- What do you think went well?
- What did you hear them say?
2. Reflection Type Questions
Once you have a shared understanding of what happened, the second step in effective coaching is helping your sales person reflect on what happened and start to draw conclusions about what they need to do differently in the future.
Good reflective questions include:
- What What might you do differently?
- What were you thinking when the client asked that question?
- What were you thinking when the client brought up that objection?
- What did you like about the sales call?
3. Application Questions
The final step in coach revolves around helping the rep think about how they are going to apply the concepts in the future.
At this phase you may ask questions like:
- What might you want to do to prepare differently in the future?
- How might you improve that skill before the next sales call?
- How can you overcome the objection before it is brought up?
- What kind of research might you do before your next sales call?
The end result is that the rep has put a plan in place that helps them improve and follow up on skill or knowledge gaps they identified during the coaching session. During the coaching the manager should be actively listening and then asking clarifying questions or questions that require the sales rep to further explore their though process, or lead them to the right conclusion. When sales people discover the strategies on their own, they are much more likely to try a different tactic in the future or make proactive changes to their sales process.
We teach our sales people to ask open ended questions during the discovery phase in order to be sure that they are proposing the right solution that solves the clients actual needs. That same tactic can be effectively used to coach your sales people and help them to think, consider and come to their own conclusions about how they can develop rather than directing activity that may be resented or misunderstood.