Sales’ coaching separates stellar sales managers from average ones. Sales management is not everyone’s cuppa tea and effective sales managers are few. These few know that sales coaching importance cannot be gainsaid
The meaning of sales coaching
Sales coaching can be defined as a continual formal one-on-one engagement by the sales manager with his team members. It is intended to identify and address behaviour limiting specific areas of sales improvement. Formal doesn’t necessarily mean scheduled nor necessarily in an office. In fact, I advocate for ad hoc driven by demand and manager seller relationship. Sales coaching never ends. It is a continual process that morphs across the different stages of the salesperson’s career. For example, the novice seller requires handholding and the top seller occasional prodding. After all, sales success contains the seeds of its destruction. In between those two extremes are myriad stages of a sales person’s growth. However, irrespective of stage though, with respect to supervising sales personnel, helping the seller find direction and ways to improve are the ultimate keys to sales coaching.
Impact of sales coaching on performance
The advantages of sales coaching on performance are a foregone conclusion. We might as well debate the importance of effective parenting on a child. Selling is an emotionally charged profession. Unlike a desk job where work comes to you, in sales you look for the work. Depending on what you are selling, life assurance for instance, you first create demand before fulfilling it. Amidst all this, is a swirling ocean of rejection. And this wave after wave of rejection billows in the field and in the office. Professionally, salespeople tend not to be high on the list of ‘liked’ colleagues.
Selling is emotionally charged
Further, it doesn’t help that selling goes against the societal grain. You may have heard a relative say, “He’s doing Sales right now but that’s just temporary until we get him a real job.” Or, worse, a pitiful looks when you tell a relative, “I’m in Sales.” Depending on the seller’s stage in his career it can also be physically demanding. Think of the budding insurance agent or loans sales rep that must cover long distances on foot. And then there is the never-ending chase and pressure of meeting increasing targets. And we haven’t even touched personal challenges.
The toll on the salesperson, especially emotionally, can sink many a salesperson and therefore his performance. The importance of sales’ coaching is that it arrests this before it starts spiraling. If the sales person does not have a port of call, or worse, a light house to guide him there, and, unfortunately, many don’t, he sinks.
How does coaching increase sales
With all the foregoing, sales coaching serves to quiet the emotional roller coaster ride. This is a critical role. If the sales manager does not offer emotional and some times, practical, support the sales person is unlikely to perform optimally. At best he will stagnate, at worst, sink. The emotional support acts as a release valve for the sales person and the practical support a solution to what they are struggling with. These are effective sales coaching techniques which inevitably translate to increased sales.
For example, the sales manager notices that the otherwise exuberant sales person has become quiet and distant. “Hey, Kageche,” he says, “Walk me to the supermarket. I’m going to buy some stuff.” Whether the trip there was real or crafted doesn’t matter. The sales manager is known to make it and he knows that Kageche opens up better when he’s outside the office, and engaged in an activity. And so between the office, supermarket and back, the sales manager discovers that the seller is concerned that he may have impregnated his girlfriend and is terrified at the prospect of being a father at 22, to a girl he isn’t serious about! And that’s sales coaching for you-it calls for addressing personal and professional challenges the salesperson is going through that are impeding his selling.
Professionally, the salesperson may be struggling with feeling intimidated with approaching architects face to face but surprisingly has no problem doing so on-line. So during the sales coaching session the sales manager addresses this. Being sales, chances are that, in addition to coaching, he will also need to mentor the seller by showing him the ropes. So he walks the talk with the sales person and guides him through the learning curve until he becomes competent.
Best practice in sales coaching
As with all coaching, sales coaching is not about telling but creating an environment for self-discovery. For example, after the ‘pregnancy bombshell’, donning his sales coach cap the effective sales manager will not go all self-righteous and hit him over the head with the Bible condemning his actions; nor will tell him what to do. Instead he will ask great sales coaching questions like, “What are your plans?” Or, “What are some of the challenges you envisage?”
Or even, “What’s your greatest fear?” Such are the characteristics and challenges of sales coaching. Whether dealing with professional or personal matters, effective sales coaching requires patience and understanding by the sales managers. Extremely few salespeople will come out and say, “Hey, I have this problem I’d like to bounce of you.” Therefore, the sales manager must read his salespeople and know what makes them tick. It is his responsibility to create a sales coaching culture.
What it is not
Whereas sales coaching importance is to enable performance, it is not sales training nor is it sales contests. And it certainly is not coddling. Even responsible parents show tough love too when it’s necessary. Equally, the responsible sales manager decisively deals with the errant seller in these three steps.
(You may want to watch this video on sales coaching importance and how to manage sales staff)
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