Sales Coaching Blog

Sales Coaching Part 3: Developing a Coaching Methodology

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

February 26, 2014

The year was 1948, the last time the U.S. had won the Olympic gold in women’s gymnastics, and they vowed to end that streak in the 1996 games.  Coach Bella Karolyi wanted different results than what had been produced from the past 38 years of U.S. gymnastics and knew little things would matter. Among many changes, the team of elite athletic girls didn’t even stay in the Olympic Village, coach selected instead a fraternity house on the Emory University Campus; a silent retreat to further bond, focus, prepare, avoid distractions, and vividly imagine dreams coming true.  Changes would produce different results.

Later in the games, as it turned out, one of the greatest moments in Olympic history was un-folding in our living rooms involving 4’ 9” Kerri Strug, and all we got to witness the best part.  Or did we…?

The best part is never the end result.  That is one of the biggest performance misconceptions in athletics or sales—too much focus on the result and not enough on the process and work that leads to it.  Praise or critique only the result and sooner or later, when one doesn’t achieve the desired result, they won’t know how to get there or perhaps how to bounce back. 

Bella Karolyi had a way to prepare his team for a great outcome.  The point of this blog is not to discern whether his method was tough, fair or even the best, but we do know it was effective.  Look not just at the results on the gymnastics floor, but also how his athletes performed and behaved well beyond the athletic arena. The best part is the work that leads to an end result.  The best part is all the work along the way-developing and executing a method that leads to success.

On a sales team, there is the role of a “manager”, whose job is to get a team to hit a number, to drive performance to levels that couldn’t be achieved without their involvement.  EcSell has published, spoken and researched the need of a manager to take on more of a coaching role to grow sales.  Through our research we have identified three themes that move the needle—management, leadership and the catalytic-factor (read a whitepaper on the three drivers).    And, while those performance themes are critical to what we know and what we will continue to research, they don’t mean squat if we cannot convert them to a coaching methodology that involves practical activities and tools.   This is the simplistic brilliance of research done well, for we can now show how a sales manager can get his/her team to sell more.  

With sales people, most leaders get it; adopt a sales methodology that fits how your prospects/customers want to buy.  Then educate and train how to execute the methodology, track adherence to the method, and a manager/coach can now have data that should guide sales skills improvement conversations in addition to other outcomes such as a more accurate pipeline and forecasting.  When sales departments do this they sell more.  Not just theory, but all research I’ve seen backs this up.  Business leaders love it for they can more accurately predict revenue, they have visibility into sales rep effectiveness and insight into customers buying patterns. What’s in it for the sales rep?  Well, they have the solace of knowing there should be a better outcome, more buyers, more money, if the method is executed effectively. 

What about the sales manager?  Similar to sales reps, similar to Bella, should they have a process or method that is proven to have a better outcome? Methodologies are not effective only for sales people and athletes, they are practiced in most every profession.  Medicine, manufacturing, professional services, etc.  So, the answer is simple… “YES”, sales managers should have a coaching methodology that if executed, tracked and improved upon will lead to more sales from their team.  Today’s challenge for sales leaders is knowing the activities and tools that make up the most effective coaching methodology.  What should a sales manager do, with whom, and how often?

A coaching methodology is focused on how to engage with a sales rep in a way that leads to increased motivation to sell more.  The key components to an effective sales coaching model are as follows:

  • Education and training to the coaching methodology
  • Executing high pay-off coaching activities
  • Utilization of high pay-off coaching tools
  • Tracking compliance to the above
  • Measuring effectiveness of the above

Failure to follow through on all of the above and sales results will not be fully realized.  Failure to do any of the above and sales leaders are negligent.

The above is too much to cover today in detail, so for now I will outline the five high pay-off activities and tools with detailed explanation in future blogs.  Keep in mind, much of what one reads may be currently in play or one may say “I’m already doing most of these”.  However, one must also keep in mind the key issues—how often, with whom and how effective.  Without being able to quantify these key issues, there is no insight as to whether a coach is helping a team perform at a higher level.

High pay-off activities

  • Joint sales calls with reps
  • Regularly scheduled 1:1 meeting with reps covering a specific format
  • Regularly scheduled team meetings covering a specific format
  • Sales skills development sessions
  • Team retreats

High pay-off tools

  • Pre-call plans
  • Joint call coaching feedback forms
  • Career development plans
  • Sales skill audit
  • Sales activity calculator

Because Bella had a method to train and prepare his team, they were all ready to perform.  Even if a performance disaster occurred the chances of them all melting was not likely--or so it seemed.  The U.S. entered the final rotation with a commanding lead over the Russians.  They needed nothing heroic, just solid performances and seven little ladies would be standing on the highest platform.  The unthinkable began to happen; they all began to fall.  Dominique Moceanu even fell, twice, and suddenly the Russians were back in the game.  It came down to Kerri Strug, and all she had to do was her part on the vault, a routine she had performed countless times. 

Her first landing fell short, she heard her ankle snap and Kerri fell backwards onto her booty.  Limping off the mat nobody could calculate the score quickly enough to know whether or not she needed to use her last vault.  Don’t vault because she tore the tendons in her ankle and risk losing gold, or vault and risk much more.  She removed the ice bag from her foot, Bella helped her rise and escorted her to the runway.   What happened next will still bring goose-bumps to any human.  Now quit reading and watch… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6shbIiblA8Q

We all remember the outcome, but it was the coaching method that drove Kerri’s commitment and refined her ability to succeed.  It was a method that had been refined through failure, success, one that was and will continue to be refined.

Word of caution:  While any methodology that leads to a better result is attractive, remember the laws of complexity and order.  A methodology that is never evolving will eventually lead to stagnation and decline.  Don’t look to a coaching methodology as the end result, but as a step in your performance process—which is the best part.

For more information on how to develop a performance changing sales coaching methodology, come to our Sales Coaching Summit

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