4 Highly Effective Tips for Virtually Coaching Your Sales Reps
Let me guess, you never coached your reps much when you could travel with them. Now you are stuck in your home office and you do have time to coach and you are not sure where to start. Well you are in the right place, coaching and developing reps is even easier virtually and now, we actually have the time to do it.
First, let me back-up. In this previous article, we highlighted and discussed some of the obstacles that sales reps may now be facing as we conduct business from our own homes. Selling while quarantined is presenting a new set of challenges, but also an emerging set of “best practices.”
What is also interesting is that going virtual is affecting leaders and managers as much as reps. Managers are facing another set of challenges, including how to remotely (yet effectively) coach their sales reps.
It’s important to address these realities because although COVID-19 and the quarantine will eventually come to an end, we may not see a complete return to the old industry norms. Business will bounce back, but our way of conducting business could be forever changed. Virtual meetings and remote sales calls might become more commonplace as businesses look to cut travel costs. Change is going to be required.
With that in mind, let’s break down the challenges of coaching a remote sales team and offer solutions for you to implement with your own reps at home.
Tip #1: Team building is more critical than ever to stay connected.
First things first, make sure you’re checking in with your team. Sales people are typically very social creatures who chose this career because they crave camaraderie and in-person interaction.
As sales leaders, we need to make sure our reps are encouraged, motivated and inspired. And while that’s harder to do when you’re remote, it’s definitely not impossible.
Many teams have taken to hosting a weekly “virtual happy hour” or team meeting, giving reps a chance to see each other’s faces, engage, and stay connected. We’ve heard of some companies imitating episodes of “Cribs” by giving their co-workers a tour of their homes, or hosting virtual trivia nights, or doing employee spotlights where one person gets to run the show with a cooking demo or some other fun activity. It can be a great opportunity to find out what’s on everyone’s mind and check in, as well as to share challenges, tips, best practices that you’re finding useful when selling virtually. But the main goal is to continue team building and keep morale high despite the social distance.
Tip #2: Change happens one-to-one, so you need to know your reps.
While coaching remotely will certainly have its differences, the core ingredients for a productive, collaborative, and mutually beneficial coaching session remain the same.
First, the rep needs to have the desire to be coached. The goal of coaching is, above all, about the development of the rep. The goal of the coaching session has to line up with not only their professional goals but also their personal goals.
Once the manager finds (and caters to) where the rep emotionally experiences the payoff for hitting their targets, they will create and foster that desire. And luckily, the “desire to be coached” is easy to measure:
Does the rep do the developmental work you give them? Yes or no?
Without the investment and intention on the rep’s end, the point of sales coaching is almost moot. As CEO Tom Stanfill says,
“As leaders, we cannot coach them until the rep embraces the strategy and is intrinsically motivated to change.”
So what does your rep care about? What’s on their whiteboard? Where do they want to go?
As managers, we need to uncover this priceless information and leverage those answers to help inspire and motivate reps. For example, a rep may communicate that their professional goal is to become a manager, but the underlying motivation for that professional goal is because they want to buy a house. The key to finding the desire within the rep is understanding what motivates them intrinsically.
Especially during this pandemic, there may be emotional or logical barriers that are (seemingly) blocking their path to success. Ask yourself this: “Do your reps believe they can succeed?”
Your reps may be experiencing a lot of doubt in the current circumstances. If you can get into that with them, or at least acknowledge it, you’ll be able to coach them more successfully.
“The #1 barrier to selling right now is the competing belief that what you did before will work now.” – Tom Stanfill, ASLAN CEO
What you did before will not work now.
As leaders, we need to be able to demonstrate why it matters, why it’s important to keep selling and keep being there for our customers.
Tip #3: Coaching is as easy as 1,2,3… so follow the process.
The good news is, the steps to a successful coaching plan remain the same, even when coaching your team remotely:
Step 1: Diagnose the specific gap in their performance – it is best if the rep discovers it first.
Step 2: Align with each other that this gap is the most critical one to fix for max improvement.
Step 3: Develop a plan for improvement with clear tactics and deadlines.
We dove deep into this topic in our previous coaching podcast, sALES with ASLAN Episode #47 “Do These 6 Things to Become the Best Sales Coach.”
Especially when coaching your reps from home, managers need to clearly define the specific capabilities that we’re going to coach to. Tom Stanfill says:
“The key to giving effective feedback is to agree on what success looks like.”
To be effective in sales coaching, managers need to do a lot better than just, “Do better, sell more!”
This does nothing for the rep and frankly, doesn’t work. Remember when you were in little league and the coach yelled: “Just hit the ball.” Super helpful, right? True coaches help their reps actually improve their capabilities by changing behaviors. Debating tactics just does not work.
Tip #4: Leverage remote tools to assist with coaching.
Here are some practical applications you can employ to coach your reps from home.
Since you cannot be present during your reps calls, use the technology at your disposal and have your reps record their meetings. Then use the recording of the video conference or phone call to break down the interaction and coach.
Note: Be sure to get your customer’s permission. They usually have no reservations, but say something like:
“We want to make sure we get everything you say and don’t miss anything, do you mind if we record this call?”
By the way, I talk to sales reps all the time and I have never denied this request to record the call. Why would I, if it helps the rep improve or helps them serve me better, we both win.
Remote Role Play
If for some reason you can’t capture a real video conference or phone call, you can role play with your sales rep. Be the customer and record the role play interaction. Listen together and coach from there.
Another coaching tactic, and an important skill for all reps to have in general, is self-evaluation. Give your rep an outline of questions to go over and answer after each sales call, in order for them to evaluate their own capabilities.
A few examples:
- Did the customer agree to a “Discovery” meeting and/or another Objective?
- What was your agenda for the meeting/call?
- What specifically did you say to start the meeting?
Make it easy for them to track. Have them jot down the key things that happened during the call. This practice of self-diagnosing is especially helpful for coaching because people don’t argue with their own data. Having your reps measure their own success will help guarantee a successful and collaborative coaching moment.
The moral of the story is this:
Be on the same team as your rep. Make the coaching session collaborative. Take the Trip® and see what life looks like through their eyes. Learn their intrinsic motivations. Speak to their personal goals. You’ll both be more satisfied with your remote coaching sessions and will reap the rewards.
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The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.