Exceptional sales leaders understand the importance of coaching their sales teams, however the phrase ‘coaching a team’ is misleading. Whether you supervise ten reps or two, there often is only a small focus on the team. There may be an area revenue goal, but in actuality, each rep is an individual contributor to that expectation and most likely focused solely on his/her own quota. More likely there is healthy competition between sales reps, driving each of them to make that extra call or schedule that additional meeting.
A sales leader is expected to coach several ‘individuals,' simultaneously, while executing administrative duties and many times carrying a client base as well. Having worked with several sales teams over the years, a ‘common profile’ for a sales rep doesn’t actually exist and what motivates them, beyond the money, can be as individual as their DNA. Getting to know each of your reps is imperative to their success. The type of relationship that a manager has with a rep, as well as the culture and environment, will determine a rep’s ‘coachability’.
Coachability refers to how available and open a person is to coaching.
If someone is in a place of low coachability, he/she may have filters that don’t allow for listening, unresolved issues that are distracting or a disconnected/angry or an apathetic attitude. Any of these can reduce or block a coaches’ ability to make a difference during coaching.
However, here are a few strategies that a sales leader can incorporate, that will increase the openness and listening (coachability) of his/her sales reps.
1) Build an ‘authentic’ personal relationship: A good coaching relationship is built on trust. Trust is built over time when we truly believe that someone has our best interest in mind and that we are safe in our vulnerability and failures. As a sales leader, we can achieve a level of respect with our teams by executing ethically and working closely to help our teams achieve their goals. To build an authentic relationship with our teams, we need to get to know them personally. We need to hear their stories, understand who they are AND in the process, share our stories.
This requires us to spend time in conversation beyond the deals, revenue and sales process, but the BENEFIT is a connection and relationship that becomes the foundation for coaching.
2) Create a ‘healthy’ culture of feedback: Giving and receiving feedback is a skill we are rarely taught and our ability to do either ‘well’ is dependent on how we experienced feedback in our homes, schools, playgrounds and work places. Feedback has historically been focused on correcting or redirecting behavior rather than reinforcing or rewarding what has been done well. The truth is that we need both. We need to know that we are doing things correctly or that we are meeting expectations just as much as we need what needs to change. The reality is that we often avoid giving feedback in fear of hurting feelings, being seen as demanding or just because it is uncomfortable.
The BENEFIT of acknowledging the value of feedback, providing ways to give and receive feedback, demonstrating and modeling appropriate ways to give feedback and putting a focus on providing authentic positive feedback to our sales rep is increased openness and ‘coachability’. I know that if I have heard from someone on an ongoing basis the things that I have done well, I am more apt to be able to hear from them when I need to make a change.
3) Selfless vs Selfish Leadership: The members of our team that we easily connect with and find easy to build relationships with usually have strong ‘coachability’. We understand how they communicate, what motivates them and if there is a conflict, we usually can resolve it – even if it seems as though we are stumbling through it. The team members we don’t easily connect with, don’t understand or often times find challenging, are the ones that require a different kind of leadership. As leaders we create an environment that emulates how we lead. We establish our expectations, create and evolve our systems and processes and communicate in ways that fit for how we best execute. There are times when our sales reps don’t respond to ‘our way’, even if we provide some flexibility within that structure. Sometimes we need to look at a person or situation and become ‘self-less’ -thinking about our self less than our sales rep. If they are not responding to my leadership style, how do I work with him/her within their style? What can I do to find out what barriers (whether perceived or real) are keeping him/her from executing with excellence?
The BENEFIT of letting go of having to be ‘right’ or requiring people to align to our style could be increased performance where we might not have anticipated.
Coaching is time consuming, requires us to know our reps at a deeper level and sometimes requires us to think differently. The benefits can be seen in the level of engagement of the rep and improved performance.
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The author of this post, Shirley Ramos, serves as the Director of Client Engagement at EcSell. She came on board with 20+ years of experience in training, leadership and facilitation experience.
You can connect with Shirley on LInkedIn by simply clicking here.
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