Sales is a highly competitive field. People who sell for a living often face many rejections before receiving a “yes.”
Coaching can be helpful to struggling salespeople, as shown by a recent Forbes article that reported many salespeople who quit cited a lack of coaches and mentors as one of the top reasons they bolted. Some in sales management see their role as being comparable to a sports team coach, given the attributes required to drive success in sales and sports are similar. They include encouraging a positive attitude, motivating, presenting a clear strategy, insisting on dedication, and breeding consistent winning habits.
As a sales leader, you will often find your people looking to you for wisdom, direction, and reassurance. Therefore, you need a coaching process that takes time to build up in the people who make up your talent pool. You need to look beyond what they can do today and help them realize what’s possible tomorrow.
Improvement in sales teams starts with how effectively sales managers coach their teams while emphasizing a competitive mindset.
Here are five ways sales leaders can improve the coaching of their sales teams and thus facilitate more team success — much like a sports coach looks for ways to lead his or her team to more wins.
1. Identify weaknesses
Sales leaders must keep their eyes and ears open to find areas that need improvement. This information may come from a customer or vendor, a performance review, or observations from a colleague. Regardless of the source, always assess different opportunities for coaching and improvement.
2. Establish desired results
This requires a leader to describe to salespeople the gap between what they are currently doing and what they should be doing. Associate an identifiable action with all the steps in between. When you outline the process up front, your team member can envision well-defined results.
3. Provide resources
For the coaching process to be successful, you must clear away obstructions and make the appropriate resources available: time, money, equipment, training, upper management buy-in, and support. Most importantly, your salespeople must commit to the process and want to achieve the results.
4. Practice, practice, and observe implementation
Better results require new behavior, which won’t come overnight. Once you have the resources in place and you’ve explained and demonstrated the desired skill, it’s time for the team members to implement it. They must sharpen the behavior with the help of a coach. Practice allows the coach to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement while witnessing the skill in real-time.
5. Use effective follow-up
Many training sessions have gone for naught when there was no follow-up and new ways toward success were forgotten. Remember as a sales leader that your goal is to effect a behavioral change. Coaching is a process, and it never really ends. The next step is follow-up — regular intervals to review results. And when your salespeople reach goals, take time to acknowledge and celebrate them.
As a sales leader, you just can’t settle for telling your team what they should do. You need a process for coaching them to achievement. It gives you a framework to accommodate an individual’s unique personality through small adjustments.
Lance Tyson (www.tysongroup.com) is president and CEO of Tyson Group, a sales training, coaching and consulting company. He is the author of “Selling is an Away Game: Close Business and Compete in a Complex World.”