Seven Essential Sales Coaching Skills
Do you want to lead your sales team and each of your team members to achieve even greater success? As the manager do you want to increase the value of each of your team members? Of course you do! Sales coaching is the proven vehicle to make it happen. In fact, a study conducted by the American Management Association found that firms that provide optimal sales coaching achieve 17% greater annual revenue growth than those that don't. Another study conducted by CSO Insights found that organizations that have a formal coaching program achieve 28% higher win rates. Those are some pretty gaudy numbers, and the numbers don't lie. But you might be wondering, what exactly is sales coaching and what skills make a good sales coach?Below are seven essential sales coaching skills all managers must master. If you are not getting the support you need to effectively coach your sales team, try working on developing each of the following sales coaching skills.
Presence is a sales coaching skills that simply refers to the manager's ability to convey interest in their subordinate including their goals, aspirations, challenges and way of thinking. But it also refers to the manager's ability to demonstrate confidence and conviction in their people and their ability to give their salespeople self-confidence in what they do. Presence also demonstrates the manager's willingness to help the salesperson grow and develop professionally. These can be expressed by the manager verbally and through body language and posture. Part of having good presence means having good bedside manner, much like a doctor or nurse.
Relating is a sales coaching skill that refers to the manager's ability to connect with his or her people including the ability to build rapport and empathize. Managers who possess good relating skills are referred to as a "player's coach" because they know how to connect with their people. They have the ability to "walk in the salesperson's shoes," which of course is a reflection of their ability to demonstrate empathy. Relating all about the manager's ability to show support for their people and to use sales coaching to build the relationship.
Leading with Questions
Arguably the most important sales coaching skill is the manager's ability to stop telling, and instead lead with questions. But most managers mistake manager feedback for sales coaching in which the manager tells their recruiter or sales rep their analysis and perceptions of their performance. This feedback comes in the form of constructive feedback. This is not sales coaching. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially salespeople.
Sales coaches who lead with questions not only uncover root cause issues holding back a sales reps performance but they challenge the salesperson's assumptions and require people to think and uncover new ideas and possibilities that they would not have come up with otherwise. More importantly, salespeople like the feeling that they get when they discover the answers on their own. When salespeople come up with their own ideas or solutions, they own it and when people own an idea or solution they are far more likely to apply it. This level of ownership breeds a deeper level of accountability compared to simply exerting control out of authority. It also builds their self-confidence to solve problems and generate solutions on their own.
A perfect example of a manager leading with questions is after the manager attends a rep ride with their sales rep. Instead of telling their sales rep their analysis and observations, the manager asks their sales rep to self-diagnose how the meeting went including what they did well and what they think they can improve on and why. Really good coaches know what questions to ask that enable the salesperson to direct the next step and action plan for improvement. That is self empowerment.
Finally, the skill of leading with questions requires sales managers to ask thought-provoking questions to make their salespeople think. It's the quality of their questions that elicits deep thoughts, feelings, emotions and perceptions in which the sales coach and sales rep can collaborate on to help the salespeople achieve breakthrough results.
I know, it sounds cliche' but let me be specific. The listening skills I'm referring to is the manager's ability to concentrate and focus on the sales person’s point of view without thinking about their own. Far too many managers get caught up in telling their sales rep's their perceptions of their actions and behaviors. These manager's can't block out the noise and truly listen, hear and understand their salesperson's point of view.
Good listening skills on behalf of the manager also includes the ability to identify vague or nebulous words and explanations and then asking drill down questions for clarification.
Positioning refers to the sales manager's ability to present information persuasively including their ability to use specific examples when discussing the sales reps performance or selling behaviors. Sales managers can't develop the skill of positioning without first mastering the skills of listening, presence and relating.
Positioning also refers to the manager's ability to effectively articulate the positive impact behavioral change will have on the salesperson. This includes communicating the benefits of the behavioral changes in a way that is meaningful to the salesperson.
Checking is the act of the sales manager asking the salesperson for feedback on something the salesperson has said or on something they have said. Checking is how managers ensure they understand what it is the salesperson said. It is also how manager's ensure the salesperson understands what they have said. Checking lets manager's test for your understanding and ensures the manager and seller are in agreement on what has been discussed.
Checking lets you gauge the employee's reaction to the conversation. With the information you gain you can change or adjust your position and strategy throughout the conversation.
Exceptional sales managers are masterful in their ability to ask for feedback and gauge understanding and agreement with their salespeople as well as getting their salespeople to state their commitment to next steps
According to Wikipedia, “Empathy is the capacity to recognize emotions that are being experienced by another." For sales managers and those who want to excel at sales coaching, demonstrating empathy means that you are able to put yourself inside the shoes of your salesperson or recruiter and see the world through their eyes. Possessing the skill of empathy is important for sales managers not just because it shows that you understand your employee, but more importantly because of the way it makes your employee feel. Sales managers who express empathy make their salespeople feel understood. This is how sales managers build trust with their salespeople.
What sales coaching coaching skills are you working on developing? What sales coaching skills have you found most valuable? Lets start a conversation in the comments section below.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.