My second year in sales I found myself in a place of great professional growth. I was hitting my quota at an outstanding pace and was quickly recommended for the role of Sales Director.
My company’s CEO explained it would be my responsibility to coach my colleagues towards reaching their assigned quotas.
Coaching sounded easy enough. I pictured an individual standing on the sidelines telling others how to push through the pain, keeping them motivated and offering anecdotal advice. Then I began the time consuming and ineffective one on one meetings. Reps seemed to roll their eyes at my at my advice, with body language that yelled: “Thanks, but I’ve already thought of that, can I go now?”
In an effort to generate change, I began learning more about how to better lead others. I attended professional courses on coaching and discovered seven things that helped me become more self-aware in my in my sales management role.
1. Understand What Coaching Is / Is Not
In her book The Extraordinary Coach Kathleen Stinnett shares that “When it comes to coaching for behavioral change, advice doesn’t work. What does work? Coaching people to arrive at their own solutions so that they are committed to the outcome.”
Adults like to figure things out for themselves, and appreciate the opportunity to learn at their own pace. Gone are the easy-going days of elementary school when we were content to get the right answer. Creating a framework for your salespeople to come to their own conclusions builds confidence and improves recall.
2. Gain Command
Steve Martin teaches sales strategy at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. In his 2015 Harvard Business Review article titled: The 7 attributes of the Most Effective Sales Leaders he writes that Great Sales Leaders:
- Establish a firm command over their team.
- Hold their team to a higher level of accountability.
- Establish an environment where sales team members continually seek to prove themselves.
Martin emphasizes that gaining command of a team requires that leaders use and obtain what he refers to as command instinct. “The command instinct is responsible for creating the peer pressure and attention-seeking environment that eliminates complacency.” In this method, high achievers receive public praise and recognition and underachievers are given the chance to redeem themselves.
3. Create a Growth Mindset Culture
In a fixed mindset, individuals believe that they can rely on fixed traits such as intelligence or talent in order to achieve success with little effort. Individuals that possess a growth mindset believe that they can learn more through hard work and perseverance. Most importantly they view challenges and failures as opportunities to improve their learning and skills.
A growth mindset also assumes risk. Allowing and encouraging less traditional methodologies creates another level of accountability and permits reps to feel more autonomous.
4. Hire Top Performers and Use Them as Your Exemplars
It’s important that sales managers communicate with recruiting organizations in order to help them gain a clear understanding of the kind of individual that will succeed within the organization. Top performers will naturally rise to the surface and their consistent production efforts will be easy for others to see. These top performers can then provide examples of their pitches and strategies through video coaching software, which is then distributed to struggling team members. This will help them develop successful habits such as time blocking, script practice, and lead conversion.
5. Provide Accountability
Accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for our actions and decisions, which inevitably become our results.
- Develop and agree on an action plan and timelines during staff or one on one meetings.
- Review potential distractions that could get in the way of your team reaching their goals and together create solutions for overcoming them.
- Act as a foundation for the plans put in place at meetings. Know the responsibilities of each member of your team and hold them accountable for their duties.
6. Build Strong Relationships
No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Leaders must develop their ability to genuinely care about the success of the individual. Gaining a clear understanding of each team member’s particular methodology is essential to providing valuable coaching advice. Sales leaders should maintain confidentiality and be honest about their agendas in order to build a relationship of trust.
7. Request Feedback
Successful leaders and coaches know that coaching is a two-way street. Feedback can sometimes be difficult for a coachee to provide; managing the conversation with questions that generate direct and effective feedback is important for gaining insight into your own weaknesses as a coach. Here are some questions to add to your arsenal:
- Do you have any feedback for me?
- Is there anything about our conversation today you’d like to expand on?
- Is there anything else that you wish I was aware of?
- Were there any items you wanted to discuss that I might have overlooked?
Inviting feedback sends a powerful message that a sales leader is self-aware and invested in becoming a better leader. But even the best feedback is worthless if it is not utilized. Your reps will know if you never actualize their suggestions. It is essential to not only gather data, but implement it as well.
Self-awareness is critical to the development of a solid coaching foundation. Check out How the Best Leaders Motivate Sales People.