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Six Sales Coaching Activities That Will Set You Apart As a Coach

By Ray Makela

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Sales coaching is one of the most important activities a manager can do to improve the performance of their sales team, as evidenced by the 2017 Sales Management Research Report.  Yet managers often confuse sales coaching with just having one-on-one meetings and telling their reps how to improve. At the heart of good sales coaching is a mindset that encourages the rep to take responsibility for their development and engage in a collaborative, positive process of improvement. This involves key sales coaching activities that are different than other things you may be doing to direct, manage or motivate your team.

Good coaching is hard to execute—it requires the manager to be patient, listen and not be so quick to “fix” the problem. Coaching requires you to take a longer-term perspective and engage your rep in the coaching process.  That way, your rep will be more inclined to own the outcome and commit to making a change. By contrasting good and bad coaching activities, we can highlight those activities to keep in mind that will make you a better coach.

The foundation of good coaching starts with adopting a positive Coaching Mindset. By implementing the three A’s of the coaching mindset: asking questions, actively listening and assuming best intentions, you begin to gain an appreciation for the Rep's perspective and engage them in the coaching process. 

Poor Coaching Activities

Good Coaching Activities

Manager tells Reps where to improve

Manager seeks Rep's input, let’s them go first

Manager does most of the talking

Rep does most of the talking, while manager uses active listening skills

Manager sets the tone, “I know what’s best for you”

Manager makes coaching collaborative, engages Rep in the conversation

Manager “rides to the rescue” on sales calls

Manager lets Rep struggle a bit and then uses mistakes as a learning opportunity

Manager “owns” skill development plan for Rep

Manager encourages rep to take responsibility for their personal development

Manager positions feedback as remedial; uses coaching only to "fix" problems

Manager makes feedback a positive experience; reps seek out feedback to improve performance

Often when asked to self-assess their performance, Reps will be much more critical of their behavior and it'll be important to identify and reinforce a few positive behaviors that you want them to continue to execute. You may also discover that they have blind-spots in their performance and will need to ask additional questions to see if they perceive the gaps.

Asking questions to encourage the reps to “observe” and “reflect” on what happened during a sales call, and then “apply” the lessons-learned to future calls will help create a culture of continuous reflection and improvement.

We’ve all undoubtedly encountered bad managers who tend to “yell and tell” instead of making coaching a positive experience. Identifying the behaviors to avoid and reminding yourself of the good coaching activities will help you become a better coach.

Learn how to transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers

About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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