Too often front-line sales managers (and a lot of senior managers) try to “manage” sales professionals to improved performance or out of dry spells, instead of coaching them.
They mistakenly believe that all sales performance problems are solvable by focusing on the mechanics, process and metrics of what sales professionals are doing. Instead they should engage with a sales rep as an individual to understand their specific situation. That way, they can mutually understand the obstacles preventing them from reaching their goals.
Effective coaching is similar in many respects to selling.
The key is to build a relationship with the person you’re coaching that transcends the “manager/rep” relationship.
To do this, demonstrate empathy just as you would with a prospect. This means that as a coach you have to learn how to really listen to the person you’re helping. When talking with your rep, eliminate your biases and listen without filters or judgment. Only then can you put yourself in their shoes and really understand them as a person and how they view the challenges they are facing.
Related: 11 Keys for Effective Sales Coaching
You also have to do discovery with the rep. Ask insightful questions to uncover their perceptions of the obstacles they face. Learn to ask the extra question, the “that’s interesting; tell me more” question that uncovers their true challenges, goals and aspirations.
Then, take what you learn and synthesize it into a plan and solution to help the rep achieve their goals. Part of this includes working with the rep to jointly create a vision of what they can achieve if they keep an open mind, accept your coaching and follow the plan you develop.
Perhaps most importantly, the person you’re coaching needs to see the value in it. Coaching is not a pro forma, scripted exercise. It’s an individualized, personalized success path for each individual.
To help them see the value in your coaching, create opportunities for the rep to experience early and frequent success. Define a series of short-term objectives for the rep to achieve using the advice and strategies defined in your coaching. For the rep, this will breed self-confidence as well as confidence in your coaching.
Where management fails, coaching can succeed.