Move away from the computer and coach
Time is a limited and much sought-after resource in the sales environment, especially for sales managers who are being tasked to do more with less. Taking the time for coaching sales professionals can seem like an unrealistic luxury, but the time invested can create greater gains and even more time for the manager. We all struggle with making time to coach so that you have to create a cadence.
There are a few secrets that I have found that can improve your sales coaching techniques and make coaching easier and more effective. The first is discipline. As a sales manager, I disciplined myself to make time for “in-the-moment” coaching every single day.
Each morning, I would walk over to the office or workspace of each of my employees. I said, “Good Morning,” and then asked them three questions:
- What was their plan for the day?
- How were they doing?
- Was there anything that required my immediate attention or that they needed my help with today?
The whole process took about 20 to 35 minutes. It helped me manage my time, coach my people, and deliver on expectations.
I could tell what I needed to do to coach them in the moment by how they answered the questions. This process surfaced urgent items that needed processing, challenges with a client, any lack of focus, attitudes that were forming, and any performance issues.
This morning routine also provided me with the opportunity to connect employees who might be dealing with similar scenarios so that we could share best practices or address an emerging problem. I also had the opportunity to praise them in the moment or to guide them, if needed. If something arose that needed more time, we could schedule a meeting.
This practice became helpful, especially when it came time for performance reviews or more formal one-on-one coaching.
The second secret is to be present. Whether I was standing in someone’s office or they were in mine, I gave them my full attention. I focused on the individual and, if I was at my desk, I moved away from the computer, to avoid distraction. This was not always easy, and I struggled with it. I had to force myself to turn my back on my computer and turn off the sound so that I could not hear the ping of incoming e-mails.
Every person is unique, and you have to get to know the sales professionals on your team as people first. Some will need more help than others. Some require more structure. A sensitive situation for one person might not be for others.
Coaching is about collaboration. In order to be an effective coach, you need to create an environment of trust. Coaching is not only about improving performance but also recognizing when a person has done something well, as success breeds success.
In its purest sense, coaching is about sharing feedback with someone about their performance — what is working, what isn’t, and what opportunities exist to do things better. Together, you create a plan of action for taking performance to the next level. The Richardson coaching framework helps provide managers with the structure to optimize performance, connect with the person, and coach authentically. The framework helps managers focus on the person and the objective.
Some managers feel that their top performers don’t need coaching, that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But, all sales professionals need recognition and direction. Giving top performers the recognition that they deserve can challenge them to higher levels. Direction, when well placed, leads to mastery. Mastery is about the small tweaks that we make to a job well done. These tweaks say that I, as your sales manager, am here to help you be the best that you can be; I am listening and watching. Giving recognition and direction to middle performers can make sure that their progress continues. It helps them adjust their sails, giving them the confidence to push through rough patches and focus on the results to strive for.
Coaching requires a genuine concern for helping people succeed and for recognizing progress, no matter how small. Most people are starved for good, honest feedback. It’s the sales manager’s job to refine their sales coaching techniques and find the most effective way to deliver such feedback to their team. Catch people doing the right thing and tell them about it. Help them adjust their technique to optimize their performance, and assist them in seeing where they fit into the big picture.