As sales managers, it’s our job to coach. Good sales coaching or sales people development starts with observation. I talked about the three steps to coaching a while back; observation, description, and prescription. When it comes to observation the key is knowing what you are looking for and therefore I wanted to touch a bit more on this.
Far too often, I see sales leaders reacting to what they see in their people. They don’t have a deliberate set of desired behavior criteria they are looking for before they start to observe. Coaching is about evaluating what we see, however evaluating what we see in the absence of what we WANT to see is a problem.
When I’m teaching skiing, and someone wants to ski steeper, off piste terrain, I start with looking for their position over the skis (fore/aft position), I looking for their skis to be tipping from edge to edge with little washout. I’m looking to see their legs rotating in their hip socket. I’m looking for a strong flexion and extension. When I am coaching skiing, there a series of things I’m looking for BEFORE I evaluate what the skier is doing. These movements are critical to creating the ski performance the skier is looking for.
Coaching sales people is no different. Before we start critiquing what we see, we have to know what behaviors we are looking for. Observation starts with knowing what success looks like before we go in. Once we establish what it is we are looking for, the key is to match the sales person’s behaviors with the desired outcomes and most importantly the cause and effect.
To get more out of your coaching consider breaking down the observing part of the coaching sessions like this:
- What are the goals the sales person wants to achieve, make them specific. Increased revenue, better prospecting, improved cold calling, shorter sales cycles, etc. Know what you or the sales person want to accomplish before coaching starts.
- Once the goals have been set, identify the specific behaviors you’re looking for that support reaching the goals — know what behaviors matter.
- Be clear on the cause and effect, know the effect of the behaviors you are looking for as well as the behaviors you are seeing. When it comes time to describe, it will be critical to understand the effect of the observed AND desired behaviors
- Have tools, or approaches that allow you to accurately identify the behaviors you’re looking for. (In skiing, when watching the skis looking for good [tipping] or edge to edge skills we look for the absence of “smearing” in the turn. The presence of smearing tells us they aren’t tipping appropriately.) Developing strong methodologies for identifying the success criteria you are looking for will increase the chances you accurately observe the behaviors required.
It’s not enough to just sit back and say a sales person is doing this right and that wrong. As sales leaders we need to be more specific and deliberate in establishing the specific behaviors we want to see in our sales team and what it is we do to find them. Knowing what it is we’re looking for before we start the coaching sets the entire process of the right way.
When it comes to coaching, I say; “Know before you go!”