To Coach Or Not To Coach, That Is The Question

As salespeople we are motivated to drive results for our clients and ourselves, there is a bit of ego in there, let’s be honest.

When we started in our career we went through the learning quadrants, starting as unconsciously incompetent, we were unaware of our lack of skill, we didn’t know what we didn’t know.

At this early stage of our career, we most likely attended product training with some sales training to help position our product. This amongst other things helped advance us to the next stage of consciously incompetent. You start seeing the gaps in knowledge and skills and your awareness is becoming heightened. This is where the desire to get better, to close the gaps, to improve performance starts to kick in.

This is also a great opportunity for sales leaders to analyze behaviours, thoughts, actions related to their sales team. Look at how they are seeking to improve, what channels are they turning to, how do they learn, communicate? ask for help?

You can learn a lot more about your team here, lean into your curiosity at this stage, it will help you piece the parts together in later stages.

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Finally, when you reach unconscious competence, you are on auto-pilot, you are operating from your subconscious. If someone asked how you did something or why you did it a certain way, you most likely were unaware you even did it.

This is where some reps can get lazy, sloppy or lack intention. As buyers become more aware this type of behaviour is easily replaceable by someone mindful, intentional, and aware of their buyers' needs.

How can we help our sales reps increase their self-awareness? Start looking for patterns, triggers within themselves to be more proactive, think through things from the customer lens and be others-focused?

Well the answer is…..provide coaching for them

It is not training; this is often mistaken for coaching.

Work with them to help them see why they do or don’t do certain things, what is holding them back. Hold space for them to tap into their emotions. Connect with themselves, get curious as to why this is happening, get to the source. Typically, the activities, outcomes, lack of empathy are all symptoms of a bigger problem, our job is to help reveal it to our sales rep.

The most common objection I hear from sales leaders is, “I don’t have time”. What is underneath this typically is, “I don’t know how to coach”.

As Sales professionals, when backed into a corner we rely on what we know best and in this case, it is selling, so to fill the gap, we tell our reps what to do.

  • “Send this letter to the CFO”
  • “book a second appointment with legal”
  • “follow up with purchasing”

These directives disempower our team, we are not inviting them to think of the next steps on their own, look at the bigger strategic picture and think about if we do this, then what happens. This heightened awareness extends well beyond this deal, we are teaching them business acumen.

When we are constantly giving them the answers, the freedom and motivation to act independently are stunted. They will always be looking behind them for you to give them the answer.

How can we cut the cord? trust you hired the right self-starters. Teach them to seek within themselves to find the answers. The sense of accomplishment when they do this is palatable.

They continue to build this muscle because they feel good about themselves, increasing their confidence, because they did it, you didn’t do it for them.

Yes, at the end of the day, I understand it is easier and quicker to give them the answer, that is a short-term fix. Practice restraint, be patient knowing that allowing them to seek within first will provide much more benefit than the quick fix you can provide.

For those of you wondering OK, I might be open to starting to coach my team, but I have no idea where to start, I will recommend 3 things to help you get started:

1) Sell the idea to your team. Why are you coaching them? Frame it around your objective to support and develop them, help them achieve their goals. The last thing you want them to think is they are under PIP, Performance Improvement Plan or this is micromanaging. Authentically share your desire to help them achieve their goals. Share some of your “why”.

2) To increase buy-in, show them the process, everyone needs to know what’s behind the curtain. Walk them through the process, disarm them and get them to lean in and see the good in it. This will help them improve their performance. Share the frequency, dates, times, calendar links. Who is responsible for what missed meeting policy? Set clear expectations here. You can continually refine this based on what is working and what isn’t.

3) Start with setting 3 goals they would like to work towards in the coaching sessions. Understand why these 3 goals, why now, what have they done in the past to achieve them? Understand what achieving these goals will do for them professionally and personally. Get to know your team. What are they saving up for? Studying for? Planning a family etc. Connect with them on an individual level.

At the end of the coaching session, always get your sales rep to summarize lessons learned, next steps, what will they take into next week and start working on, they need to be held accountable. Also, highlight any A-ha’s, these are important and celebrate the mini wins and awakenings along the way.

If you are excited about the idea of coaching your team and unsure of where or how to start, reach out to me. I would be happy to learn about what you are currently doing and make suggestions on how to introduce a coaching culture within your organization.

About Karen Kelly

For 20 years Karen has been specializing in the art and science of sales and communication her passion and experience are helping technical sales professionals become more confident and to disrupt with value.

Her dedication to developing and delivering customized sales training programs provide her audience practical, relevant tools  that can be used immediately to break down the barriers in a competitive landscape and separate themselves from the noise.

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There are so many areas of business out of our control, yet we continue to invest in them and hope for a different outcome. What about your people? You have control over them and their development pathway. The ability to build a positive learning culture, improve their level of confidence and increase bottom line revenue.
Invest in them. Hone their sales skills to  attract your most ideal clients, gain the required commitments through  discovery, engage authentically  and create an enjoyable repeatable experience for your clients.
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