Use Collaboration to Become a Great Sales Coach
According to industry research, sales managers that devote more than three hours of coaching per month to each of their team members achieved 107% of their team quota. On the other hand, teams that received no coaching met only 82% of their quota.
Coaching works because it helps you create leverage, and leverage is the key to be a successful sales manager.
Leverage means that your salespeople do the work, not you. You spend less time “putting out fires” and more time working on important issues.
You create leverage by developing and coaching your team so that their skills improve. With better skills, your salespeople are better able to solve their problems without your constant involvement.
Yet many sales managers struggle with coaching. Why?
One reason is that these managers don’t understand the distinctive quality that makes coaching different from other management actions you can use to develop skills: collaboration.
Improving skills is hard, and it takes time.
Collaboration, however, is the secret to transferring the “heavy lifting” of changing behaviors from the manager to the salesperson. When the salesperson thinks that he or she is contributing to the coaching process, the salesperson has increased buy-in.
That means that your salesperson will be more receptive to coaching if you base it on things that he or she feels are important.
True collaboration can be a difficult concept to internalize for many sales managers. These managers struggle with the idea of sharing control of the coaching process with the salesperson.
Consider the first step of sales successful sales coaching: assessing your salesperson’s skills.
A detailed assessment will provide you with a roadmap for your coaching conversations with your salesperson.
But your assessment is only half the story. You also need the salesperson’s assessment of their skills before you can discuss performance.
So, why bother to have the salesperson assess their abilities?
The answer is simple. Co-assessment creates buy-in. Salespeople will take more ownership of changing their behavior if they feel they are discovering problems and solutions on their own.
Inviting the salesperson’s input may also give you new insights into what’s going on with their performance. For example, you may rate a salesperson low in a skill, but after speaking with them, you find that legitimate outside factors are the cause of the problem.
Maybe the salesperson isn’t getting enough leads, or perhaps there is some new competitive threat. You may also uncover other development needs because sometimes salespeople rate themselves more harshly than their managers do.
Another concern managers often have about co-assessment is how to discuss the results with the salesperson when the salesperson fails to diagnose their skill gaps accurately.
Here is a simple co-assessment process:
- Assess each salesperson using a comprehensive skills assessment.
- Have the salesperson then self-assess using the same assessment.
- Finally, meet with your salesperson and compare both assessments to identify differences and similarities. The output of this meeting should be a coaching plan that you both co-create.
When you meet with the salesperson to compare results, start by asking the salesperson to identify his or her strengths. These are skills that both you and salesperson have rated above average, skills for which you will feel comfortable empowering the salesperson to assume more responsibility. By having the salesperson go first, you avoid biasing the conversation with your perspective.
You should then move the discussion to the development needs of the salesperson, skills which both you and the salesperson rated either average or below average. These will form the basis of the salesperson’s coaching plan. Again, have the salesperson go first.
Finally, after comparing both assessments, there may be skills where you and the salesperson disagree over the salesperson’s skill level.
These are areas to investigate, not something to argue. If you and the salesperson categorize a skill as an area to investigate, you should have a clear plan to gather more information.
For example, if you disagree over the salesperson’s presentation skills, you may want to observe the salesperson in action on an upcoming sales call or review his or her proposal in detail before it gets submitted to the buyer. By acknowledging the disagreement and creating a plan to gather more information, you’ll make the process feel more collaborative.
Great sales coaching begins with having a collaborating mindset. That means allowing the salesperson to become part of the coaching process, including having them co-assess their selling skills. The benefit of this collaborative approach is that it creates more buy-in from the salesperson, and that ultimately leads to better results from your coaching efforts.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.