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Is What You Learned About Sales Coaching and Performance Assessment Wrong?

Is What You Learned About Sales Coaching and Performance Assessment Wrong?

For much of the sales world, the notion that sales coaching is an essential ingredient in improving sales organizations is not up for debate. 

But while the debate about the necessity of sales coaching may be over, most sales leaders – if they’re honest – will tell you that they barely have time to manage their sales teams and they don’t have time to coach. With that reality as the backdrop, I want to pose this question: 

What if you could cut your sales coaching time in half and get better results?

In our over twenty years of working with leading sales organization executives and front-line managers, we’ve identified what we consider to be the top two mistakes that hinder effective sales coaching – errors that if avoided will significantly simplify the sales coaching process and minimize the time it takes to develop your reps effectively.

First mistake: Developing the wrong people.

Who is responsible for improving sales effectiveness, you or your rep? Obviously, you are responsible for the overall results of your team. But are you accountable for a rep’s willingness to improve? 

Absolutely not. 
This is the critical principle for effective sales coaching and performance assessment. If you grasp this, it will not only shift the primary burden of change to your reps but will ultimately save you countless hours of wasted time spent trying to develop the wrong people.

Here’s the not-so-secret secret: Desire determines development.

Change is difficult. In other words, it takes work. 

When a rep doesn’t have the desire to do the difficult work required to reach a new level of performance, sales coaching is futile. Desire, not talent or skill, is the only ticket needed to enter a coaching session. The responsibility of the sales coach/manager is to be prepared and available. But if the rep is unwilling to put in the effort to improve, what’s the point? Moreover, if all that happens is that the rep goes through the motions, the change will never occur.

But you may be asking, “How do I know if the rep is willing to change?

This is an important question that highlights a gap in most sales coaching sessions. It’s similar to a common gap we observe in sales conversations between reps and prospects. Think about this: Why do most reps fail to surface a prospect’s true objection or their barrier to moving forward? It’s because they never create a clear fork in the road. 

Reps never attempt to gain a commitment that would cause the decision-maker to reveal their true intentions. The same is true for a coaching session.

In a coaching session, the fork in the road is the assignment at the end of the session — the step that should be the conclusion of any coaching session. It is a clear action plan that ensures the rep has a specific assignment to address a knowledge or skill gap.

Unfortunately, most coaching sessions are little more than discussions about the previous call with the manager offering a few tips and reminders on how to improve. While it is always helpful to review critical information, talking has minimal impact on developing new skills and habits. For reps (or anyone for that matter) to change, they have to do. To learn to swing a golf club, I have to practice swinging a golf club. Talking about it won’t help. It may help me choose the right club, but it won’t change the quality of my swing.

Therefore, every coaching session should end with a developmental activity with an agreed-upon completion date and a specific goal. By drawing a line in the sand, what is required to improve is a rep’s desire to do so. Attitude is irrelevant; their engagement in the assignment exposes their genuine willingness. 

This approach opens the door to a whole new way of thinking about where to invest your time. Assessing a rep’s desire and embracing the idea that desire is a requirement for coaching allows you to categorize your team members and develop an effective development strategy for each role. 

If you’re interested in learning more about sales coaching and performance assessment, stay tuned for the next blog in this series where we explore Mistake #2. In the meantime, check out our sales training podcast or reach out to talk to us about what specific roadblocks you’re facing when trying to engage your team.  

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