Process-driven sales coaching is about aligning with a sales person and mutually agreeing on a vision of a better future state. As a result the sales person is successful. To enable this alignment, a consistent standard for coaching conversations helps both the manager and the sales person to engage in a productive discussion, agreeing on that vision together.

After analyzing the sales person’s pipeline and opportunities a sales manager should then prepare for the one-on-one coaching session. Key points of the conversation should follow the GRAF approach:


This approach is the basis of every good sales coaching conversation. It is a straightforward discussion based on observed facts and objective standards. It is designed to empower the sales person, avoiding criticism and have clear actions for improvement of complex selling. More importantly, there is an aim toward improved performance with the accompanying rewards. 




Sales managers can be an invaluable resource for helping sales people figure out how to win sales opportunities, or more importantly, when to qualify out. The decision to walk away from an opportunity is difficult for most sales people usually because they don’t have enough opportunities in their pipeline. 

One way to determine if further engagement with a potential buyer is warranted is to use objective criteria for assessing the sales opportunity. We call these criteria the Sales Success Formula, which consists of six components:





Do we know what buyer pain we are solving?
Has the buyer admitted that there is a problem, critical business issue, or potential missed opportunity that needs to be addressed?



Do we know the people in the buyer organization with influence and authority, related to an opportunity? Can we gain access to them? Can we influence their thinking? Do they support a mutually determined vision that includes our solution? 




Do all of the stakeholders agree on a vision of a solution? Does the buyer agree that there is enough value in our solution to take action? 



Have we quantified the value of the problem, critical business issue or potential missed opportunity? Have we quantified the value of the proposed solution? Does the buyer agree that there is enough value in our solution to take action? 



Have we and the buyer agreed on a mutual plan for action – a Collaboration Plan? Is the buyer collaborating with us? Are we engaged actively with the buyer to help progress toward a purchase decision in a way that minimizes or mitigates the buyer’s risk?



Compelling reason to act. Is there a time-bound event that is driving the purchase decision beyond which bad things may happen? Are these potentially negative implications of delay acknowledged by the buyer? 


The next step is to assign one of the following values to each criterion:

+ = All answers are known for this criterion and are favorable to us.

? = Answers are currently unknown for this criterion.

= Some answers are at least known for this criterion and they are unfavorable to us. 


If all criteria in the formula are positive, then the chances of winning the sale are very high. 



If there are any unknown factors, then the outcome is still indefinite and your activity should focus on understanding the true nature of any uncertain criteria. 



If any criteria are negative, then the chances of winning the sale go virtually to zero. This is unless you can realistically change the value of those criteria. In any case you should seriously consider qualifying out of that opportunity. 



We have been surprised by how often sales people ignore aspects of the Sales Success Formula. It is a helpful tool for determining the strength of the sales effort in each opportunity. It also helps to identify specific actions that are needed to improve the certainty of winning or for qualifying out. 


There should be no shame in deciding to walk away from an unlikely sales opportunity. We sometimes tell our clients to think of sales opportunities as playing a poker game with multiple rounds of betting in each hand. The winner of every hand of poker is the one who either has the winning cards or is the last player remaining after all others have folded. However, who comes in second place? The answer we usually get is “Nobody”, but that is not really correct. The player who comes in second is the one who folded first, because that player bet the least on a bad hand. If that player looked at his or her initial cards and deduced objectively that the odds of winning were low, the player made a wise choice in folding first. 

Unfortunately, too many sales people do not do this. They find a potential sales opportunity and invest their time and company resources with only hopes of winning the business.  They have never really taken an objective measure of the chances of actually winning the business. A sales manager using a Sales Success Formula can keep sellers honest, coaching sellers to make a correct decision about when they should wisely withdraw.



In major sports, coaches don’t play the game – the players do. It should be the same in sales. Unfortunately, it is far too common to see sales managers jumping into opportunities and taking charge, rather than allowing sales people to learn from doing and providing coaching and feedback. Examples are sales managers that parachute into the middle of a sales opportunity to close it. These sales managers end up dis-empowering their sales team, making it very difficult to collaborate with the buyer. Further more, one sales manager cannot be everywhere at once, making the process impossible to scale.


You have written an excellent piece. I do not say that lightly

VP of SALES, $3 Billion Revenue Co.

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