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 comparable to a sports team coach, given the attributes required to drive success in sales and sports are similar: 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 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.
My clients include the sales departments of numerous professional sports and entertainment franchises and I think 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:
- 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.
- 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 members can envision well-defined results.
- 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.
- 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 their 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.
- 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 to follow-up at regular intervals to review results. And when your salespeople reach goals, take time to acknowledge and celebrate it.
As a sales leader, you just can’t settle for telling your team members 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.