How To Coach High Sales Performance
3 simple but highly effective formulas for successful sales coaching
A sales coaching culture has certainly become a hot topic over the past few years, and an overcomplicated one at that. You can find yourself a comprehensive Sales Coaching Training Programme that will give you all the theory you will need to lead a sales team to perform. Your Google research will undoubtedly return many complex methodologies, pdfs and top-tips, designed to tell you what needs to be done to coach sales people effectively.
At the end of the day however, it does not have to be a rocket science. You can learn how to be a highly effective Sales Leader and Coach with a simple and structured, ‘mirror-signal-manoeuvre’ type of approach.
In this article we take a stab at providing you with 2 simple but highly effective formulas to help you coach sales people to achieve their true potential.
Formula no. 1: What do you NEED IN PLACE to build a coaching culture?
Formula no. 2: WHAT can you coach?
Formula no.3: HOW can you coach it?
Let’s address the formula no.1 first:
3 things you need to be in place for a coaching culture to start to grow within a sales team or organisation
1/ People need to know how they will be measured, what is expected of them, and why it’s important.
Here’s how your sales people think:
‘If I know how I will be measured, my behaviour will reflect that. If I know what the expectation is, I know where to focus my efforts. And if I know why it’s so important, I’m more likely to be committed and passionate about it.’
A quick way to sense check it if this thought process exists in your team, is to ask everyone within the team to be honest with you. Ask them, how THEY think they are measured, what THEY think is expected of them and why THEY think it’s important. If you have that level of awareness in your team, everyone will give you the same answer.
In reality, that hardly ever happens. Everyone thinks they are measured in different ways, everyone is vague about what the expectation is, and most of the time they don’t know why it’s important.
To sum up: ask your team, get their feedback and then focus on ensuring the foundations are there.
2/ Clear and concise expectations, that apply to everyone, are vital.
A coaching culture is not developed with an individual alone in mind. It’s designed for a team, an organisation, a company. It’s a collective experience. In order for an environment to be fair, the same expectations need to apply to everyone, within the same job role.
This is not to say that if you have a high-achiever, their goals should be the same as the others. They will naturally aim higher. However, the expectations should be equal, and they ought to be measured using the same formula.
3/ No paperwork overload, death by reporting or CRM data input.
Self-explanatory really, isn’t it? Successful people want to be free to do their job not fill in endless paperwork and reporting.
Now you know the 3 essential elements or foundations of effective sales coaching, it’s time to realise something interesting.
Anyone who is responsible for a team – providing they are honest with themselves – will be able to quickly ascertain if these elements are present within their team. It’s a quick, simple, yet essential gap analysis.
You are now fully confident that these 3 factors exist. Everyone is on the same page. Everybody has the parameters for being successful. They also understand it with crystal clarity.
You can now begin to coach. It’s the perfect time to address the formula no. 2:
3 things you can you coach
There are only 3 things you can coach your sales team on:
1/ Mindset : the attitude
You need to ensure your people’s mindset is where it needs to be.
2/ Activity: the what
Their activities must be aligned with your performance expectations.
3/ Skillset: the how
Their skill must allow them to perform at a required level.
People say that attitude colours everything; that if everyone has a high performance attitude, the results will take care of themselves. There’s some truth in that.
However, if you spend all your time focusing solely on attitude, the concern is that you’re going to end up with a bunch of highly motivated, but chaotic individuals.
There’s a sequence in which to approach the 3 above-mentioned elements.
- First, start with activity. Without activity you have nothing to coach: you have no opportunity to observe your people’s skill sets. Consequently, if you have no activity to coach, a positive or negative mindset is irrelevant.
- Once both activity and the expectation for the activity are crystal clear, you can then focus on the skills that are important for them to carry out the activity successfully. And that’s where you spend your time observing, listening, coaching, mentoring and training those skills.
- You now have clear expectations around activities. You’re also confident that your people are actively working on them, equipped with the right level of skills. If the results don’t come, there is only one reason for that: their mindset and/or attitude is holding them back.
We are going to cover how to coach these 3 elements successfully in a moment.
Firstly though, let me share why I believe this approach to successful sales coaching works beautifully. It’s because…
…your people will SHOW YOU where they need coaching.
Let me explain:
It’s your responsibility to set the expectations around activity.
It’s also your responsibility to keep an eye out on their ability to perform these activities.
However – it’s your people’s responsibility, to ask for help.
It’s also their responsibility to manage their attitude.
But – it’s your responsibility, to inspire that attitude.
Everyone is accountable. But it starts, and ends, with you.
Let’s now drill into the final piece of the puzzle:
HOW do you coach activity, skillset and mindset?
Let’s address it one by one.
1/ How do you set activity expectations? Aka WHAT you want your people to do.
A very good way of coming up with a list of priority activities for your team is to make sure YOU understand the company’s goals and what elements your team is directly responsible for. Once you have a clear picture of what your team is targeted to achieve within a set period of time, you can then start listing out the key activities. Ask yourself: what do I want my team to do more of on day-to-day, month-to-month basis? The example could be: more prospecting, more deep conversations with customers, more proposals going out the door.
Next, you take each activity and define the expectations. How high is high? What is the target?
Let’s take the 1st example: more prospecting. What are the S.M.A.R.T. expectations around prospecting? Suppose that you need your people to make 10 new approaches a week, and from those 10 approaches secure at least 2 face-to-face meetings with clients. Is it specific and measurable? Will anything stop them from putting it in action right away? Is it realistic, given everything else going on in their world? And finally – what’s the timescale and follow up rules?
Once each activity has defined expectations, there’s the small detail of communicating all of the above in an inspirational way, without coming across as putting another layer of pressure.
How do you do that?
You start with ‘why’.
You might have heard of Simon Sinek’s golden circles rule: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. This rule can successfully be applied here. Firstly, share with your people why this activity is important and what’s in it for them. Then, tell them how you will be mentoring and coaching them. Finally, inform them what the S.M.A.R.T expectation is.
An example of a compelling way of sharing it with the team could look like this:
“At the start of the New Year, we are going to raise our game when it comes to hunting and acquiring new business, so that we stand the best chance of hitting the 1st quarter target and hitting the accelerator on commission. I’m going to commit to coaching and working with you as your manager closely, to give you the support you need to approach the best targets for new business, and secure new face to face meetings that are going to translate into a winnable business for us. How I’m going to do that is, I’m going to set the expectation that from the 1st January everyone needs to make at least 10 new approaches a week , and I’m confident that with the skill set we’ve got as a team, every single person will be able to book at least 2 new face-to-face meetings a week, every single week. Hopefully that’s clear, please let me know if you have any questions.”
2/ How do you identify the skills? Aka HOW you want people to do it.
You have now set the clear expectations around the prospecting activity for the 1st quarter: 10 new approaches, 2 meetings a week. In order for your team to achieve that, they will have to employ their prospecting skill set: i.e targeting the right prospect, understanding what the profile of an ideal client is, making the first approach, getting through gatekeepers, etc. There’s a complex skill set sitting behind successful prospecting, that you as a leader need to be witnessing and/or coaching. The level of these skills will indicate whether or not your team is going to hit the target.
3/ And finally, how do you assess mindset on day-to-day basis and how do you influence attitude in an inspirational way?
If you have very clear expectations communicated to your team around an activity, AND you’re all over the skill set, but some individuals aren’t getting the results, it’s for one reason – their mindset isn’t where it needs to be. Some of your people may be complacent about the new expectation, i.e. – they don’t think it’s relevant. Others might be in denial – i.e. they don’t believe it applies to them. Some will be on board and have the best intentions, but they can’t believe they can do it. There’s a tried and tested way of dealing with those attitudes in an assertive and effective manner. This however, is a whole new topic.
If you’re interested in finding out more about:
1/ recognising the state of mind of your people and addressing it assertively
2/ implementing a sales coaching culture in your organisation
3/ or any of the topics described in this article,
get in touch with us for a no-obligation chat about how we can assist you in coaching high sales performance.