3 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Sales Coaching
Coaching is one of those areas in sales that is clearly recognized as critical. Study after study shows that those who do it well reap the benefits in terms of sales productivity. It’s proven. Yet, most teams haven’t cracked the code on how to really coach effectively.
The biggest problem is training. Most sales managers haven’t receive much, if any, on how to coach. So they shy away from coaching. People just don’t like jumping into things they’re not comfortable with—even sales managers—some of the toughest people on the planet.
So, let’s look at some simple ways to get coaching on a good path. We’ll start with what I consider the 3 biggest sales coaching mistakes to avoid.
1. Not focusing on 1 thing at a time
One of the best ways to really make progress improving a sales rep’s game is to focus on coaching one thing at a time. Don’t try to correct or recommend too many changes all at once. It’s overwhelming. The truth is, as humans, we can really only focus on one thing at a time anyway. So pick an area that you think will make the biggest difference and focus on that.
Let’s say you’re role playing with one of your reps—trying to improve her ability to ask more questions rather than jumping into product explanation mode. You notice her introductory open-end questions sound really canned and artificial, and her follow up questions are also weak and don’t naturally flow with the conversation. In addition, she needs help in knowing when to listen versus change the topic with another question.
Start with the open-end questions. Get her to work on those and know them cold. Then move on to naturally delivering the follow-up questions. And so on. Resist the temptation to mention all that you see wrong. Focus on 1 thing at a time.
2. Giving answers versus asking questions
Most sales managers tend to be problem solvers. When a rep brings a problem, they jump right in and take charge—giving the rep specific actions to solve the problem. It’s human nature to want to help. But, nearly every good sales coach will tell you: if you solve the problem for them, you will become the crutch they depend on. Every time they encounter a problem they’ll come to you for help. You simply can’t scale with that approach.
Your goal should be to develop independent, problem-solving reps that have the skills and confidence to face challenges and work through them.
Take the Socratic approach. Ask reps questions that help them discover or arrive at the answers themselves. This is difficult for most managers, because they usually have the answers and know how to handle most situations. Resist the temptation. Focus on developing their problem-solving skills with questions.
3. Not being consistent with repetition
Coaching a skill or weak area once or twice, and them moving on to the next coaching point is not an effective way to coach—at least for the vast majority of reps. Only the top 10% or so have the skill and discipline to take your feedback and work on it on their own. Most reps need more help.
Repetition is the mother of learning. No doubt about it. It’s amazing how awkward you can feel the first few times you try something new, only to find how much better you get after even a few attempts. And here’s the amazing thing… how much better you get still with just a few more reps.
Give your reps plenty of repetitions. Role play is a perfect forum for this type of development. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much improvement they’ll make in a short time.
Hope you have your best year ever.