When I think about coaching, this Chinese proverb always comes to my mind: 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day… Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime'. If you apply this adage to sales then the coaching function becomes clear – by enabling the team to learn and apply skills themselves, you become a support function that is enabling them to succeed by themselves.
Many people can recall the positive impact a ‘mentor’ has had on them in their childhood – in the majority of cases it was a special teacher that gave them the confidence to maximise their own potential and then ongoing guidance that helped them maintain success. A manager needs to go a step further and fulfils four roles: supervising, mentoring, coaching and training. A manager isn’t just a ‘telling’ role, that forms part of supervision and training, with the mentor role that helps model behaviours and attitudes – the coach has to assist the coachee to discover the answer for themselves and own the next steps in their development.
In a job function like sales it is an excellent way to retain staff, keep them motivated and improve the overall sales figures. Ultimately it’s a key tool to improve business outcomes, plus it is a flexible, cost-efficient learning tool that can be done on a small or large scale. Here are my top tips to coach your sales team effectively:
- Start at the Top – it is advisable to start a coaching program that can be developed on a small, flexible scale at first, and then be modified based on the experience and growth of the participants. With that in mind, it’s best to start a coaching program with the sales directors/ managers and use insight from coaching these individuals to coach the team. External coaching companies could coach the directors/ managers – or if anyone on the board has successful sales experience then they could also fulfill this role. The key is that you start with the sales directors/ managers and during this initial coaching set the example so that they feel confident then fulfilling a coaching role themselves with the sales team.
- Provide Clarity of Purpose – Your sales team will more likely accept the program when its goals and objectives are clearly outlined. And, while this is very important to do at a company-wide sales level, it is absolutely critical to target results and measures for each coachee – so be clear about how the coaching is designed to help teach them any gaps in their skills or answer any questions in situations they are facing so that they can become more effective and apply the learning’s in their every day role.
- Carefully Consider the Coach’s Role – The coach should be chosen based on the skills needed to be taught. Recognise that your internal coaches—even those who are already leaders or managers—will probably need some guidance to handle the role effectively.