Sales leaders have heard for years that we need to be great coaches… and that our primary role is to advance both the talent of our team and our sales opportunities to ensure organizational success.
Many sales leaders have salespeople communicating randomly during their day (phone, text, IM, video, and email!) looking for input on how to advance a particular sales situation or to solve an issue. This is on-demand coaching because of the level of urgency. It can become overwhelming for even the best sales leaders, as requests for attention occurs unpredictably and sometimes too often. This disrupts our own planned schedule and patterns of work. The result? Reactive coaching with a random approach.
For sales leaders to bring order and focus to our coaching, we need to become more proactive, with more control over our day. Of course, we also need to provide value to our salespeople – their perception is our reality. We do this by building habits around the following five principles. This is when great things happen in sales coaching.
1. It Starts With Consistency
To cultivate strong coaching habits, we need to start with a simple discipline. After all, the great habits you have in your personal life were born out of a new discipline you were committed to.
Start by setting up weekly, one-hour coaching sessions with each of your salespeople. My experience is that in one hour, you can reasonably cover four to five sales opportunities… if you are well prepared and do not have to over invest in getting updated on the deal during the session. Set the stage to dive right in to exploring new options and actions.
Schedule the sessions for the same time every week for the next six months, so everyone is committed. Mine are scheduled every Thursday and Friday. The time might have to shift if something more important arises, but it is seldom that a weekly call is missed altogether.
2. State the Intent
Your weekly coaching sessions are not there to review the numbers for management, nor to interrogate them over a long list of deals and when they are closing. This can be covered in a pipeline review meeting.
The intent of the weekly coaching sessions is to bring maximum value to your salesperson in the least amount of time for them to win their pursuits!
By being clear about the intent of the sessions, your salespeople will be more motivated and even excited to join these weekly calls.
3. Create Shared Responsibility
To start with, you may have to name the deals to focus on for the weekly session. Give your salesperson advance notice if you are going to do so, so they can come prepared.
My experience is, over time, the responsibility will automatically shift. My salespeople now always know which deals they want to prioritize. They will often send me the list via email the day before. This sense of shared responsibility makes the session focus on what is important to them, so they are engaged. This naturally results in keeping me updated, which brings me to habit number four.
4. Keep Updated
One of the keys of a powerful weekly coaching session is to limit the “update time.” There are two elements to this. First, my salespeople blind copy me on the most important emails they are sending to their clients. And while I do not necessarily read them immediately, it enables me to be updated before our meeting in terms of communication and interactions with the client. I can simply search my inbox for the client’s name and quickly review the latest communication.
Second, the salesperson also has the responsibility to update their sales tools, especially the Relationship BarometerTM Tool, if you are using the Revenue Storm Sales Tools. There is nothing more difficult and annoying than having to listen to a long list of names of who reports to whom, and you having to try to remember each relationship and the organization structure. If you have the updated tools in front of you on the screen, you can quickly and effectively refer to the individual, their role, power ranking, and relationship with us.
5. Be Prepared to Coach
As a coach, we have the responsibility to be respectful of our salespeople by also being prepared for the weekly sessions.
Do not schedule your sessions back-to-back. Make it a habit to have a 30-minute gap between meetings / calls, which gives added time to prepare. I look at the deals the salesperson wants to discuss and review related emails and tools so we can “cut to the chase” when we meet. Start the meeting with a short summary of the current sales situation (by either side) and then get straight to the awesome work of coaching.
These five principles may sound basic – but successful coaching results from how well you consistently stick to these habits. Even the simplest of disciplines will lead to outstanding results because great things happen when sales coaching becomes a habit.
Good luck, coach!
The key to starting a new habit is to just take the first step. Trying to think the whole thing through and weighing the pros and cons often results in procrastination. It becomes overwhelming. Get your team together, discuss this simple approach, and share the days of the week / times you will use for this coaching. Get their feedback and then just start. After a month, you will be surprised at the positive reaction in your team and the changes in their behavior.