Observation Deck

Coaching vs. Managing

A new approach toward developing your team could increase its sales.

Call a sales person what you will: account executive, marketing representative, sales team member — the list goes on. The reality is that sales management is no longer the optimum way to bring out the best in your team, but sales coaching is. This might be even more true in the retail setting.

There is significant data available to prove that sales coaching actually works. Ten years-ago, sales managers could barely spell the word “coach.” But within the past few years, sales industry research has shown that sales representatives consider being coached to be a top priority for success.

So is sales coaching a gimmick? Is it the newest hot phrase to sell books, seminars and webinars. It depends on who’s using the expression. For some, the answer is yes. But for others, sales coaching can produce real results. Speaking as a professional Registered Corporate Coach, I have witnessed countless businesses change their entire approach towards sales and the management of their sales team through coaching.

The process comes naturally. Most sales managers innately want to coach and most sales people want to be coached. Sales organizations are struggling on how to make this not just happen but change the way they do business. Let’s examine the initial and continuing steps that your business must take to adopt and implement a Sales Coaching Platform.

What is Sales Coaching?

First we need to understand sales coaching and why it helps sales teams. A 2007 study of 2,000 salespeople conducted by the Sales Executive Council identified that salespeople who received three or more hours of sales coaching per month on average reached 107 percent of their quota, as compared to 88 percent of quota for sales people who received little or no coaching. The Chally World-Class Sales Executive Report identified sales coaching as one of the top seven benchmarks of world-class sales organizations.

A generational paradigm has taken place under our noses: people in sales today are very different from the old guard. Lightly put, this generation of sales reps has been coached throughout their entire life, so the last thing they want is a boss. Moreover, for the old guard in sales, coaching is refreshing and they actually embrace both the approach and outcome.

Sales coaching is the secret of sales success because it improves the performance of your sales team — and the coach, by coming alongside the sales reps and working with them and not having them work for you. Sales coaches not only encourage the team, but take a shared ownership in its success.

Overcoming the Sales Coaching Obstacles

There are three obstacles that can get in the way of sales coaching:

  • Directing and not collaborating.
  • Not devoting enough time.
  • Talking and not listening.

As just stated, there is a fine line between managing and coaching, evaluation and development; coaching does less directing and more collaboration.

By directing a sales-person you will miss the chance to see where they are in the motivational and learning curve. We will also miss the opportunity of knowing how they see a certain situation and what they would do to remedy it. Directing voids almost all interaction because we are busy directing and not listening and probing. (If, at this point, you’re thinking that coaching sounds a lot like sales, you are correct!)

Another coaching obstacle is making the time for your sales team without interruptions. They need to know that they are one of the most important people in your day. You need to give them your presence right then. You also need to provide a solid foundation of follow up and just general calls or emails checking in and seeing how they are doing.

Last, by doing all of the talking and not really listening to your sales person; may move your agenda ahead but does little to engage them for sustained growth both personally and professionally. All sales leaders have an agenda. We have a quota to hit, goals to achieve, and a BOSS to report to. It is when this get’s in the way as opposed to making this a part of our coaching that we negate any true growth.

Coaching is a culture that must envelop the entire organizations. Coaches need to be coached themselves. You should not have a sales coach who is managed by a boss. This just does not fit.

Develop a Sales Coaching Process

To begin your Sales Coaching Process you must understand the 5 steps of Sales Coaching, they are:

Step 1: Connect with your Sales Person.
Pay attention to the relationship between you and your salesperson. This will make everyone more comfortable. Establish rapport and let your team know you are there to help (not just evaluate). Always open by building rapport. This is where you will be working together to improve the situation. Be hard on the issues not on the people. Coach people, and manage processes.

Step 2: Compare Perceptions.
Let your staff talk first. Sixty-five percent of all sales managers open their coaching sessions by asking a question. Asking questions helps you learn where the salesperson is on the curve; discover their insights, skills, and judgment; give specific feedback and direct your coaching.

Step 3: Consider Obstacles.
Obtain the sales person’s perception of the obstacle and then describe your perception of the obstacle. Spend up to 30 percent of your sales coaching on these two actions. Once the perceptions are on the table and an agreement is made about the need for change, help the salesperson consider what is blocking his or her progress.

Step 4: Construct or Remove Obstacle.
Once you’ve considered the obstacle, either the salesperson removes the obstacle, based on dialogue from step 3, or you add value and encourage the decision on the table.

Step 5: Commit to Action.
Determine what actions need to be done? Put some detail into this as it will be the map for the success of the sales person. Summarize the plan and get the salesperson to commit to following it.

Start Coaching for Success

Retail sales is unique and come with its own obstacles and added challenges. Not only must retail sales professionals sell, but they must be the expert on all the products and services offered by your company.

This is where sales coaching must become more intentional. Develop a coaching plan and stick to it. Your sales team will be overwhelmed in a positive way and your business culture will be changed for the better forever. The investment of your time in coaching your sales team will be a deposit into the future success of your business.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

About the Author

Ty Bello is the president and founder of Team@Work LLC, which provides sales coaching, training and professional education to the HME industry. Bello is a Registered Corporate Coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches.

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