April 26th, 2016

Bring structure to your sales coaching calls

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In my previous blog post, Do you Intend to Provide Developmental Sales Coaching, but Tend not to, I explored the environment today’s sales leaders encounter when attempting to deliver developmental sales coaching. Despite their best intentions, time pressed sales leaders are pulled in so many directions that talent development gets put on the back burner. Bringing structure to dedicated coaching interactions is a proven way to build positive outcomes in people and results. Without structure and planning, sales leaders often mail it in, missing real opportunities to move their people to the next level of success.  Avoid this common pitfall by structuring sales coaching calls and each interaction around a guiding plan to bring consistency to the conversation, and ultimately results.

My approach is to organize coaching content into “buckets” that are consistent for everyone. When thinking through what I want to accomplish with a salesperson I am coaching, I typically build my planned dialogues in 3 buckets:

  • Navigating within the sales organization: This encompasses mastery of the sales organization, from products and services to the resources available to support the sales effort. How agile are they inside our organization?   Can they build customer teams on behalf of their client?   Do they build internal relationships?   Do they lead and quarterback sales pursuits with appropriate resources?  How well do they understand our products and the value they bring?  Can they translate that value to the customer’s situation?
  • Customer and selling skills: This involves the critical behaviors I am looking for when observing or participating in client interactions with my people. How well do they establish rapport, set agendas, transition to business, ask good questions, listen, confirm needs, positon solutions, follow up and confirm next steps?
  • Knowledge of the prospect or customer: This is my favorite – talking with my salespeople about their prospect or customers. Exploring the customer’s landscape and asking simple but powerful questions: Why this, Why Now?  What’s prompting them to talk to us?   What is occurring in their sector or industry that’s causing the pain?   What will success look like for them?   How will we know?  Who wins in their organization?  Who owns the pain?

The above are the consistent givens in my approach.   I like to use the phrase “vary the treatment” when thinking about my people.   In other words, I have common goals for everyone but the path for how I get them there has its own DNA and blueprint.   The above buckets remain the same but the dialogues are different and special to each person.    That takes planning and structure but the time invested yields dividends that build over time.

When thinking about the long development journey with sales people, I have come to one exciting realization:   It’s a great time to be a sales coach.   Technology today has enabled us to move the needle even further.  Here at Richardson we are utilizing exciting mobile technologies that provide an ability to capture real sales behaviors with our people over the long haul.  Using tablets with a user friendly platform, I am able to capture my observations of client interactions that lead me to richer coaching dialogues with my people.   The result is a salesperson reaching for new levels of success with my encouragement and long term support, and their buy in and commitment to change.

Cadence and consistency are essential. One rich coaching dialogue will not get the job done.  Make real commitments to coach over the long haul, setting up a cadence of coaching dialogues that set expectations, establish trust and build mutual goals.   The complexities of the organization will constantly test the best sales leaders when it comes to delivering coaching.   Don’t let your people down.  Often I have met salespeople who haven’t had a conversation with their direct leader for the better part of a month.   Setting and honoring a protected time for quality dialogues must be the hallmark of the coaching relationship. Don’t discount the time together.  Salespeople walk away stronger when working with a caring and dedicated coach.

It’s all about them.   The best sales leaders are in it for the pure joy of seeing others achieve success.  Honor their time, and yours, by structuring the dialogue and setting the right expectations.   Your people and organization will thank you for it.

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About The Author: James Barnett

Jim Barnett is Vice President, Sales, Central and West Regions with Richardson. He leads a team of senior sales professionals and is responsible for the business development efforts for the team and for ensuring the highest level of quality in the management of Richardson's client relationships. Jim is a member of Richardson's Operating Committee and plays a role in shaping Richardson's go-to-market strategy as well as in the development of the sales organizations' structures and processes.

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