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ATD Blog

Coaching Your Team to Find Their Stride

Friday, September 16, 2022

The customer’s buying process has changed, and sellers are uncertain of how to adapt. Tenured sellers are discovering that traditional methods are not as effective as they once were. New sellers are struggling to get up to speed amidst accelerating change. Coaches must respond with a new, agile approach. Coaching must be ongoing to help sellers quickly develop skills in an evolving field.

Sprint coaching aims to make the developmental process iterative and flexible. This solution applies an agile approach consisting of a prepare, engage, advance framework. Here is how it works:

Prepare. This critical first step enables you to engage sellers, minimize defensiveness, ask thought-provoking questions, and share perspective, feedback, and ideas.

  • Know your purpose. Identify priority topics based on an overall assessment of strengths and opportunities for improvement. These assessments should come from observations of real pursuits unfolding in the moment.
  • Know your perceptions: Coaches need to ask themselves four questions:

1. Where are we? (successes and gaps)2. Where do we need to be? (desired outcomes)
3. Why aren’t we there yet? (root issues)
4. What can we do? (actions)

  • Know your plan: Coaches must be able to visualize the conversation. Think about the questions. Limit feedback to one or two priority focus points to allow the coaching to happen in 15 to 20 minutes.

Engage. This phase of sprint coaching is where behavior starts to change. The coach and the seller align on the purpose, move through mutual exploration and idea sharing, then conclude with agreed-upon actions.

  • Connect. People feel at ease when they know what is coming. Effective coaches state the purpose of the conversation, review the agenda, and check for feedback. Use neutral language to manage emotions and reinforce your intent to support and not judge. This is the time to build rapport and provide support.
  • Collaborate. The heart of the coaching conversation lies in the manager’s ability to engage in a collaborative process to help sellers self-assess and discover ways to leverage their strengths to improve performance. Get the seller’s assessment, provide an assessment, and check for alignment. Coaches should apply each of these three steps in this order when they pursue each part of the coaching model.
  • Commit. Every coaching conversation should end in a commitment to specific behaviors and actions that will strengthen the seller’s performance. If the coach issues next steps, they become directives. Sellers will take greater ownership of these steps if they articulate them. Set a specific time to follow up (and also reinforce your support). It is often necessary to reinforce more frequently than just during periodic coaching conversations.

Advance. This phase is about affecting change, creating an atmosphere of accountability, and progressing the coaching relationship after every conversation.

  • Seek feedback. Successful coaching begins with improving the self and striving for continuous improvement. Engage in self-reflection before seeking external feedback. Consider what you did well, where there are opportunities to do things differently, and improve. Once you have self-analyzed, ask your team for feedback.
  • Summarize notes. Coaching is a long game. It is easy to become distracted with other internal initiatives, trends in the market, and quarterly goals. Note taking keeps you and the seller anchored to a plan. Keep a record of discussions to ensure continuity. Enter agreed-upon action steps in your calendar to facilitate follow-up.
  • Follow up. Following up on expectations builds accountability. If sellers know that you will follow up, they are more likely to follow through. You’re showing that you’re committed to their commitment you agreed upon together.

To help your team keep up with the rapidly changing customer market, consider adopting sprint coaching. Making the development process iterative and flexible develops your team members as sellers and develops you as a manager.

About the Author

Ben Taylor is the content marketing manager at Richardson, a global sales training and performance improvement company focused on helping you drive revenue and grow long-term customer relationships. Our market-proven sales and coaching methodology combined with our active learning approach ensures that your sales teams learn, master, and apply new behaviors when and where they matter most — in front of the buyer.

Ben has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and more than a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for brands, including Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.

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