We all seem to recognize that sales coaching can significantly improve the performance of a sales force. Unfortunately, many coaching initiatives fall short or don’t stick because sales leaders don’t know how to fully capitalize on the enormous potential.
So, as a sales leader, how do you help your front line sales managers get the best possible results for their time and effort? How can you turn your managers into force multipliers that boost the results of your sales force? I’ll answer these questions in this article by sharing the framework for a methodology that has been implemented in multiple companies and is field-tested, proven-effective, and shown to get results.
Where to Focus
Start with a review of results versus objectives. Where are the shortfalls? You can examine both leading indicators (the activities that predict results) and lagging indicators (the results). I like to do a historic pipeline analysis, looking back at a period equivalent to 1-5 times the average sales cycle. You can then compare the number of opportunities in each stage of the sales process and the conversion ratios between the stages. When the results don’t meet objectives, dig in further. Even if you don’t see shortfalls, compare your rep’s (or your team’s) averages to known top producers’ averages and you will uncover areas where you can help your sellers improve their skills, thereby improving their results.
How to Engage Your Reps
Be a servant leader. Share with your reps the reason you are working with them – to help them get better results and be more successful. Engage your sales reps in a joint performance improvement journey. They own their performance; you become their guide – their Sherpa.
Don’t do things to them; work with them. If you analyze their results, they should as well. If you develop recommendations, they should come to the table with their ideas. If you want them to feel ownership of action plans and take accountability for their development and results, they need to develop their action plans with your support. Telling reps what to do is not coaching; it’s feedback. Shift to engaging them rather than directing them, and you’ll be pleased with the difference you see.
Determine the Best Solution Type
There are two parts to solution design:
Determining the right solution type (training, coaching, or something else)
Determining the best solution content (what to train or coach)
Training is the right solution to a performance issue when an employee doesn’t know what, why, or how to do something. Coaching is the right solution when an employee or rep knows what, why, and how but needs to do it better or differently.
Find the Best Solution Content
When the right solution includes training or coaching, you also need the right content to address the issue and improve performance. The content can come from your experience, from a mentor who is a top producer, from your company’s sales methodology and training programs, from your top-producer best practice library, or another source.
Support Reps with Field Training & Sales Coaching
Tell/Show/Do/Review is one of the simplest models for manager-led (field) training. Yet, when it is well done, it can radically transform your rep’s skills and performance.
Teach your rep what to do, and they summarize their understanding back to you. Don’t leave this stage until their summary is accurate.
Demonstrate the skill and have them demonstrate it back. Again, don’t leave this stage until the summary is accurate.
Have them create an action plan for implementation (with your support, as needed) and execute.
Review their progress together as needed and cycle through the model again.
This approach ensures great communication, supports your rep, keeps you both focused on the targeted behaviors and results, removes excuses for non-performance, and fosters accountability.
Diagnose/Plan/Do/Review is the sales coaching process that you would complete like the field training model. DPDR is a process, though, with stages to follow, but not a model for how to conduct the coaching sessions. When you run individual coaching sessions with your reps, use the SLED model:
Set the Stage: This is an overview to get aligned and establish your supportive partnership and journey. What are you doing, why, what’s your plan and desired outcomes, and how will you get there together? Use this time to establish the partnership with your rep where they own their development, and you are their guide or Sherpa.
Lead the Performance Analysis Discussion: This aligns with Diagnose in the coaching process. Lead this discussion, review your rep’s analysis, add your perspective, and agree on the problem to solve (if there is one) or the skills to improve.
Explore Solution Options and Agree on the Best Solution: This aligns with Plan in the coaching process. Based on the issue to resolve or skills to improve, select the best solution type (training, coaching, or something else) and the best solution content (training program, known best practices, mentorship, or ideas from your rep or yourself).
Develop and Implement an Action Plan: This aligns with both Plan and Do in the coaching process. Guide your rep (as needed) in developing an effective action plan to implement the content, and how you will support them.
Establish a Regular Coaching Cadence
Getting into a cadence or a recurring rhythm and pattern of coaching is critical for sustaining continuous performance improvement and creating a coaching culture.
The framework includes:
- Diagnostic inputs
- The rep and manager
- The coaching process of Diagnose/Plan/Do/Review
- Outputs or personalized learning plans
- Field training
- Sales coaching
- The resulting actions plans
The cadence is created once results are achieved, and the process starts again from the beginning. I’ve seen this done quarterly, biannually, and on an individualized basis based on a sales rep’s need and progress.
Whichever you choose, get the ball rolling and don’t stop. When you weave these pieces together, you will have truly implemented a framework for coaching your sales reps to success.
Learn More In a Free Webinar
To learn more about these methods and ask questions, join me on Wednesday, April 14, at 2 p.m. Eastern on SMMConnect.com for my webinar called, “A Framework for Coaching Sales Reps to Success.” Learn more and register here.