The process of managing a sales team is evolving into coaching and some managers may not be completely ready for this somewhat subtle change. In order to effectively coach a sales team, your process needs to evolve. The following are 5 key ingredients for coaching a sales team:
Establishing unwavering consistency
When transitioning from managing to coaching, it is critical to establish and maintain unwavering consistency in the process. Reaping the long term benefits of coaching takes time and requires consistency maximize the effectiveness. It is critical to establish a fixed schedule, stick to the schedule and perform the steps at the highest level of integrity. This creates a powerful expectation of accountability which translates perfectly into sales and results.
Promoting desired outcomes vs. dictating rules
The key difference between coaching and managing could be as simple as pushing your sales team to identify their own desired outcomes instead of mandating the expected results. Coaching means listening and promoting the best in your sales professional and having them take ownership. Although subtle, having your sales pro reach their own goals and desired outcomes creates a different attitude vs. telling them exactly what you expect them to accomplish. Ideally, their desired outcome will be consistent with what is needed by the company.
Asking probing questions vs. telling people what to do
If you are an experienced manager, you may find it very tempting to tell your sales people exactly what to do and how to resolve any challenge or conflict they uncover. Coaching means asking the right questions in order to have them solve the problems in their own way. Of course, don't discount your experience and do share ways you have seen other overcome similar challenges, but do your best to engage in discussion with your sales pros and let them discover solutions that best fit their personality and goals.
Recognizing and rewarding effort in addition to results
A sales manager knows that the primary measure of success is sales and commission. However, the motivation of a sales pro, especially a less experienced one, may come in a number of forms beyond total sales. If you have a longer sales cycle, why not introduce gamification concepts that reward the good behaviors and habits that will result in a sale. Contests for most calls made or new leads generated or other measurable steps in the sales cycle can go a long way to keep your younger sales pros motivated. Competition with peers is a great motivation and showing a leaderboard each week can provide the juice needed to pick up the phone a few extra times this week. Don’t always make it about the one with the most sales. Try to zoom into the process and identify ways to motivate positive activity along the way.
Presenting coaching as an opportunity, not as a task
One of your biggest challenges is to introduce coaching to a busy salesperson. They already have too much on their plate and never have any free time to do things that “don’t make them money.” First off, remember that there is never any free time, but successful people make the time to set a course, get focused and find clarity. Truly successful people do this daily. You as a coach are asking for this weekly at most. There is no excuse for not setting a weekly course and it is a habit every sales professional should develop. Therefore, you presenting this as an opportunity and not a task is a key element.
Don’t forget, coaching provides extremely busy people with an opportunity to actually save time, make more money and overcome obstacles that get in the way of their success. Do not allow the coaching process to feel like just another task that you or they have to check off the list in an already busy week. Instead, anchoring all coaching discussions on empowering your team to achieve their professional and personal goals and including these 5 key ingredients will put you on the right path to transitioning from management to coaching.