How to Make the Most of Your Sales Coaching Time

Sales coaching is one of the biggest keys for sustainment from a sales training and development perspective. We often discuss sales coaching from the management angle. However, it’s equally (if not more important) to examine the topic from the sales rep’s perspective. Most sales reps have likely had a variety of experiences with sales coaching in practice: good, bad, indifferent, nonexistent. 

The truth is, sales coaching is important, critical even. Sales reps, you should crave coaching from your sales manager. We’ll unpack what sales reps should do before, during and after a coaching session, in order to make the most out of coaching time with sales managers. After all, your sales manager is your partner in success and a resource for development. 

How can you get the most “bang” for your sales coaching “buck?” 

If you prefer to take this topic on the go, you can listen to our conversation on sales coaching on  sALES with ASLAN podcast episode 103:

Productive Sales Coaching is Essential

We see all kinds of statistics about how the time spent by sales reps and managers together in coaching sessions yields dramatic improvement in sales results. With more coaching time, sales reps achieve more. However, other than, “You’ll be a better sales rep if you spend more time with your manager,” there isn’t much dialogue directed at sales reps about why they should care about sales coaching. 

Sales reps, you should care about coaching. Sales reps should crave coaching from their managers. 

In order to help facilitate that relationship, let’s break down a few pointers for sales reps as they navigate productive sales coaching relationships with management. 

 

Tips for the 3 Phases of Sales Coaching

There are three “phases” of sales coaching: before, during, and after the coaching sessions themselves. 

What can you do, as a sales rep, (before, during, and after each session) to get more out of that coaching time with your sales manager?

Before the Coaching Session

In our sales training workshops, we teach reps about the importance of your mindset. Remember, your motive is transparent. When you shift your mindset and make a decision to serve your customer above all else, you find more success naturally with your sales opportunities. 

That same principle, or logic, applies to sales coaching. Instead of approaching coaching sessions with your sales leader as an obligation, shift your mindset to, “I see how this benefits me.” 

There are two pieces to this:

1 – Embrace the Goal

The goal of any sales coaching conversation is to talk through and discuss things that will make you more successful as a rep. That’s the Other-CenteredⓇ objective. Sales managers are spending time coaching you because they want you to develop and improve. 

 

2 – Don’t put all the pressure on your sales manager to be the coach. 

You are your best coach. Your manager watches and observes a tiny percentage of your sales interactions. For the remainder of your sales calls or meetings, you are the coach. It’s on you to self-assess and continually work towards improvement. 

Don’t sit back and wait to be told. It’s a team effort, designed to expedite your progress. So be active and involved. Watch your own “game film.” Record your phone calls or virtual calls. This is one instance where virtual selling has its advantages. You can record your customer meetings, then listen, review, and reflect. 

 

During the Coaching Session

The coaching session itself is focused on reviewing something you’ve done (some sales interaction with a prospect or customer) and having a dialogue about what happened. Sales managers may ask what you think went well, what didn’t, what you could improve, etc. 

There are different coaching models and formats, but at the end of the day, the session with your managers is a time to review and plan. It should be a productive conversation for both parties, but mainly for you, the sales rep. 

Based on my own experience, there are a couple things sales reps do that detract from coaching sessions:

1 – They focus on the customer instead of themselves. 

In other words, reps may attempt to defend or explain certain events by saying, “Well, the customer said ____.”

We’re not coaching the customer. The coaching session is about you. It’s about improving your sales skills and capabilities. So focus on what you’re doing well and what you can continue to work on. We can’t control what the customer says or does; but we can focus on improving our sales acumen and learning to help influence the way those sales interactions go. 

That’s what your sales coaching session should be about – not about the customer. 

 

2 -They focus on too many areas for improvement. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to improve everything all at once. Pick one or two skills/ habits that you want to develop and work on those. 

Your manager’s role is to observe sales interactions and take notes on everything – but not to tell the rep every single thing they could have done better. It’s so important to simplify the list and focus on one or two things to work on. 

Occasionally though, sales reps will get a manager who does give them that comprehensive list, a dozen things to work on. It’s fine to write those down and review them. But sales reps, you’re doing yourself, your manager, and your team a disservice if you don’t pick and choose a couple areas to hone in on. You cannot effectively and efficiently work on improving a dozen things at once. It just won’t work. 

The expectation of a coaching practice is that you, the sales rep, will improve those highlighted skills by the next session. And if you don’t demonstrate that improvement and effort (which you cannot do for a dozen things at once), it’s demotivating to all parties involved. Your manager wants to see you improve. Set yourself up for success and improvement. Give yourself the ability to demonstrate true progress by focusing on one or two things at a time. 

Prioritize those capabilities/ skills or ask your manager to do so. Take the lead. Ask your manager, “Can we narrow in on the one or two things you think I should really focus on for the next week(s) until we meet again?”

Pick the things that have the biggest impact on your sales conversation. Then get to work on the top one or two, show improvement, and then move onto the next. 

 

3 – Believe in, embrace, and internalize the gap. 

If there are one or two capabilities that you’re going to go work on, they have to be ones that you can see. It can’t be something you simply agree to. Don’t just humor your manager. 

Do you embrace that particular gap? Do you think you can improve in that area? Do you think working on that skill would improve your results? Are you really going to work in it? If not, stop. 

Don’t hope it goes away. Don’t seek short term peace at the expense of long term pain. Don’t make the current conversation easier by just acquiescing. The problem won’t solve itself. So if you’re not truly bought in, now is the time to discuss that disconnect with your manager. 

For example, if asking better questions in discovery is an area of improvement you discuss, but you don’t really see that gap, you could say something like: “I hear what you’re saying and I appreciate it, but I just don’t yet understand how my questions are not effective…”

Then your manager can go back and give you examples or context or whatever is necessary to bridge that gap for you. 

Don’t let weeks go by, pretending to work on a skill. You’re wasting your time, and your manager’s. All you’re doing is setting yourself up for more frustration down the line when that conversation inevitably resurfaces again. 

The takeaway is this: do not leave a coaching session accepting feedback that you don’t believe or embrace or agree with. 

 

After the Coaching Session

Most coaching sessions end on such a vague note. This is probably the number one problem with coaching sessions: we discuss the interaction, align on a goal, and then part ways – and then nothing happens

At the close of the session, the sales rep agrees to “work on it” – whatever “it” is. But what does that really mean?

Productive sales coaching sessions need to end with commitment to a developmental activity, a fancy term for “homework.” For example, if the gap identified was asking open-ended questions, don’t just think about it. Write down a list of those questions, ask them on your next sales call – then after the call, review how many you used and how it went. Think about who asks good open-ended questions on your sales team and talk with them. Find a mentor. Do something that helps you improve, take action. 

Hold yourself accountable to your plan for development. 

 

What Next?

manager coaching ebook download

As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.

Leave a Comment





About ASLAN

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.