Kathy was recently promoted to Sales Manager for her team and has discovered that being a sales manager is very different than being a salesperson. Moreover, she has to coach people to resolve their problems.
Sam is a young salesperson who showed great promise during his training. He also worked hard when he was doing his work. Yet, he didn’t see any tangible results after three months.
Susan is another great salesperson on the team. She hadn’t been able to produce much lately, unfortunately. She said that customers need to take a bit longer to decide this year about her performance.
Simon was in contact with a prospect for a while. Simon had met with their decision-makers, technical buyers, and even end-users. Although the responses were positive, no further progress was made in the customer’s purchasing process.
Even worse, Kathy didn’t receive much coaching from her previous manager as a Sales Person. She, therefore, didn’t have anyone to model her behavior when she had to coach her team. Kathy’s good news is that coaching Sales People isn’t as complex or daunting for new Sales Managers. Although the concepts are easy to grasp, it may take some practice to achieve the best results.
You are where you want your team to be
Most Sales Managers tend to coach their team members by focusing on low-performance situations and giving advice about how to improve that behavior. This is called “Corrective Feedback,” and it could be part of coaching but not as a substitute for coaching.
Coaching can be made to deliver the desired results by using concepts from the Six Thinking Hats. These are the first steps.
1. Blue Hat – How do you want your team member to be?
2. White Hat – What is the most current information (e.g., sales results, prospecting effectiveness, selling prices, etc.) What information do you know about your team member? What additional information do you need to understand your team member’s current position?
Communicating Your Coaching Message
Coaching your sales team is about the individual you want to coach. However, it’s also about what your team member will become. You will need to get that person to agree with your goals and objectives. Coaching is a two-way process. If your coach doesn’t agree with your goals or does not buy into them, coaching will be a failure.
You will need to clearly communicate your Blue Hat to your team member and be open for feedback if you have any questions or want to modify your original plan.
You will need to communicate these points during your coaching session:
1. Yellow Hat
Reaffirm the positive contributions and strengths of the team member. Coaching is not only about correcting mistakes but also about strengthening or improving existing strengths. Team members always feel great when their bosses say something positive about them.
2. Black Hat
Make sure your team members know which areas need to be improved or corrected. It is essential to communicate clearly with your team members. They should instead be clear that they are supporting them to achieve better results.
3. Green Hat
Instead of telling your team members what to do to improve their performance, you can invite them to offer creative suggestions. The creativity of your team members will amaze you. And, best of all, because they suggested it, you’ll get their full support to implement it.
4. Red Hat
Ask your team member at regular intervals if he/she feels comfortable talking with you or not. Your team member may feel uncomfortable at any time. This could indicate that your coaching is not moving in the right direction. The coach may want to stop and re-strategize in order to have a different session next time.
Even with your best efforts, coaching may not turn out the way you want it to. It’s okay. But it is even more important to adapt different coaching strategies for other team members depending on their:
* Desired behaviors and performance
* Current behaviors, traits, and performance metrics
* Communication styles and temperaments of each person.
Attaining Sustainable Results
Although most sales managers agree that coaching and training team members are essential for improving team performance, very few actually take systematic steps to coach or train their team members.
Systematic is the keyword. While coaching your team members is essential, it’s not always urgent. It is necessary to coach your team members now, as nothing will happen tomorrow. Sales managers are often too busy with other pressing matters and a heavy workload to coach their team members.
To achieve lasting results with your coaching, it is essential to:
* Make an appointment with your team members. Everyone will need to treat the appointment as urgent and vital as a meeting with a critical customer.
* Wear your white hat before the coaching session. This will allow you to get as much information from your “coachee” as possible. Also, make a list of questions to help you find the answers to your questions.
* At the end of each coaching session, put on your Blue Hat to discuss and agree on what behavioral changes your “coachees” need to make.
* Take the time to listen to your “coachee” and make any necessary changes.
It is easy to become a successful sales coach. It all boils down to practice. As with any new skill, it will be challenging to get the hang of things at first. You can become a great sales coach with a lot of practice.