Sales leaders tend to be more comfortable telling salespeople what to do, instead of coaching salespeople to recognize and develop options to address internal or external selling situations.
SALES LEADER COACHING TIPS:
This post provides a high-level roadmap for sales leaders to properly navigate conversations with sales reps. Consider these three everyday situations sales leaders encounter:
1. Account Plan Reviews
The salesperson is walking the sales leader through an account plan for a strategic account. It becomes apparent that the salesperson has not updated the account plan nor made much progress since the last account plan review.
As soon as the situation becomes evident, the sales manager responds by telling the salesperson, “you must come prepared to the reviews and demonstrate progress executing the plan.” This approach may communicate expectations, but it won’t get to the root of why the salesperson is struggling with account plan execution.
Instead, the sales leader could ask the salesperson: “How important is it for you to develop, manage, and execute an account plan for this account to achieve your revenue growth goals?”
It’s likely that the salesperson would explain that the account plan is a priority. Sales leader follow-up questions such as “what do you think might be getting in the way to executing your account plan?” would help the salesperson explore behavioral change or a priorities reset to enable account plan execution.
2. Pipeline Reviews
During a Pipeline Review, the sales leader identifies a “stuck” opportunity, and as the salesperson begins to describe the situation, the manager quickly responds, “Here’s what you should do.”
The sales manager’s response moves the conversation along, and it could be the right answer. However, it’s not empowering and doesn’t enable the salesperson’s development, and the salesperson becomes conditioned to ask what to do when they encounter challenging sales situations.
Alternatively, the sales leader could ask the salesperson: “What options might work to advance the opportunity?”
This approach shifts the salesperson’s responsibility and challenges them to take a step back and explore how to do things differently. The sales leader can then probe which options the salesperson thinks would work best.
Even if the sales leader disagrees with their conclusion, it creates space for meaningful dialog, learning, and personal development.
3. Customer Selling Situation
Before joining a virtual customer meeting, the sales leader and salesperson meet to plan, and they agree that the salesperson will lead the call, and the sales leader will observe. The salesperson handles introductions well but fails to ask useful questions that explore the customer’s pain points or needs. As a result, the salesperson struggled to foster consensus on the exact next steps.
During the meeting debrief, the sales leader tells the salesperson “I should have prepared a list of open-ended questions to guide the discussion to a successful outcome.” While the sales leader may be right, this approach is not ideal as getting the salesperson’s perspective first.
Alternatively, the sales leader can ask: “What are your thoughts about the meeting?“ And then follow-up with “what might have you done differently?”
This approach enables salespeople self-discovery, which they can apply without the sales leader in the future.
Yes, telling a salesperson what to do is faster than coaching. However, it won’t enable behavior change, adoption of an objective mindset, or accountability for their development.
Sales leaders that over-rely on telling salespeople what to do create a vicious cycle of becoming the “chief problem solver” instead of empowering salespeople to explore options to address selling situations for themselves.
Sales leader coaching requires patience, consistency, and a bias toward enabling your team to succeed without you. Investments in coaching today provide the sales leader with more time in the future to focus on the highest-value activities.