The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    Coaching Conversations: Using Powerful Questions

    by Sarah Wirth / September 3, 2014

    Sarah_sIn today’s blog, we continue our four-part series on coaching your reps’ mental performance.  This type of coaching drives the mental engagement of your team in order to keep their performance at its peak level.  As a reminder, in previous blogs, we introduced three key coaching principles that you can use to help improve your sales reps’ performance mentality. These principles are:

    • Creating relationships of trust with those you are coaching
    • Asking powerful questions to drive effective learning
    • Facilitating growth experiences for your team to maximize potential. 

    In today’s blog, we are going to further explore the second mental coaching principle of asking powerful questions to drive effective learning.

    EcSell Institute research indicates that helping a rep improve their skills is highly related to increased motivation levels. And one of the most effective techniques for helping someone learn and improve is to ask them powerful questions. Indeed, asking good questions is one of the key techniques we teach our new sales reps. This is because questions help us learn customers’ needs and their business, as well as help customers self-diagnose their issues and how we can help solve them.  A great questioning process can even create customer buy-in for a solution before we suggest it.  And in the same way that questions help us consult with customers more effectively, they also help us coach our reps.

    Now, obviously we have a different relationship with reps than customers.  But at the end of the day, they are people too.  They want their opinion to matter.  They don’t like people to make assumptions about why they did what they did. They bristle at being criticized without context.  And they want to learn rather than just be told what to do.  This is why asking questions is just important when coaching reps as it is when selling to customers.

    One of the best opportunities to coach with questions is when you’re doing a post-call de-brief with a sales rep. Many of us start a post-call coaching session with the most basic question of “how do you think the call went?” But after the rep gives their initial response, we often quickly transition into giving our assessment of the call and what we think they could’ve done better.  Next time you are doing post-call feedback, consider asking your rep a lot more questions, such as the following:

    • Why did you choose your strategy for the sales call?
    • How were you hoping the customer would respond to your strategy?
    • How well did you accomplish your goal?
    • What could you have done differently to achieve your goal?
    • Which aspects of the call do you want to replicate?

    Asking open-ended questions like these encourages the rep to really consider the reasons behind their actions during the sales call. When you are able to get them talking about their ideas and beliefs underlying their actions, then you are better able to coach them.  This is because you will be dealing with the root cause of their behavior, whether it is positive or negative.  Then you can reinforce the thinking and subsequent behavior that is on the right track or coach the thinking and subsequent behavior that is on the wrong track. You will also be helping them self-diagnose any issues, which is helpful in getting them to buy into the need to make a change.  Above all, you will be showing how much you value their thinking and view them as a true partner in their success.  This will create a much more positive and collaborative relationship between the two of you, and ultimately, help them in their development and performance.


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    Tags: Coaching Sales People

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    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth is the President of EcSell Institute and has over 20 years of experience in employee assessment, leadership development, sales executive coaching, and customer service. She has presented to executives from across the globe with organizations such as Mercedes Benz, Estee Lauder, Ritz Carlton, Cheesecake Factory and many more.

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