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The Three Legs of the Sales Coaching Stool

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Tue Jul 23 2013

The Three Legs of the Sales Coaching Stool
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In ASTD’s Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate program participants examine the three components of world-class sales coaching: observation, motivation, and feedback.  The analogy of a three legged stool is used to denote the need for all three of these components to be used in order to have a balanced approach when wearing the hat of sales coach.

 

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For example if a sales manager relies too heavily on feedback and motivation and not equally on observation, then that unbalanced structure could be labeled “Uninformed Management.” If the sales leader relies heavily on observation and feedback but stifles motivation, then that approach might be labeled “De-motivational Management.” If feedback is underutilized when coaching sales professionals with an over-reliance on observation and motivation, then that approach could be labeled as “Cheerleading Management.”

So the importance of utilizing all three components, feedback, motivation, and observation are critical for a well-balanced approach towards sales coaching. The Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate program devotes a module to each of these components and utilizes exercises, tools and techniques, and best practices in order to enhance the development of each of these skills in program participants.

One class attendee called feedback the “Breakfast of Champions” because, when done well, it can develop stronger manager-employee relationships while enhancing the credibility of the sales manager and accelerating sales rep performance. Although feedback is typically delivered by sales leaders with the best of intentions, it many times is done poorly. As a result, relationships can become strained, credibility possibly damaged, and the golden opportunity to accelerate sales performance is often lost.

The module on feedback has participants classify the situation for giving feedback to ensure that the right approach is used for the right situation. For example if the situation is associated with addressing a problem created by sales rep behavior, then the feedback approach would be different than if the situation was associated with a simple work requirement or task. A situation associated with proactive sales rep development would use a different feedback approach compared to one that involved dealing with a crises situation. Knowing when to use which type of feedback approach can spell the difference between success and failure for a sales manager, even those who have the best of intentions in mind.

Observation by a sales manager of what a sales rep says and does is one of those “leading inputs” described in an earlier blog entitled “You Can’t Do a Result.” There’s no substitute for spending quality time with a sales rep observing how he or she makes a prospecting call, deals with a client objection, or asks for the order.  

Sales managers can become easily seduced and end up too often showing the sales rep how to do these activities. In some cases (for example, a sales “rookie” who doesn’t see the danger or a high risk client situation requiring management intervention) it may be necessary for the sales manager to “step in” and show the rep how to handle things. However, if this approach is used too frequently, then a dependency could develop on the sales manager to continue to “save the day” which could negatively impact the opportunity of building the competence or confidence of the sales professional. Class participants explore these situations in role plays, group exercise, and small group discussions.

Motivation is a topic that generates a lot of class dialogue. ASTD’s research in this area provides learning opportunities for program participants as the dynamics associated with internal versus external motivation are explored. Recognizing the motives that drive sustainable sales achievement, career fulfillment and the establishment of lasting relationships with clients and colleagues vary per individual. Many times class attendees experience an “ah-ha” moment when they realize that they might be making incorrect assumptions on what motivates their sales team members, or perhaps they haven’t asked their sales professionals in quite a long time what are their current motive drivers. Often a “take-away” from this module by participants is having, earlier than later, a focused conversation with their sales professionals to find out exactly what gets “their juices flowing.”  

So the three legged stool approach toward sales coaching: observation, feedback, and motivation provides a reliably stable platform for the program participant to take-away greater awareness, insight, and learning in service of being a more informed and enlightened sales coach.

Explore this topic further with me in ASTD's upcoming offering of the Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate program December 9, 2013 in Alexandria, VA.

 Click here to view all upcoming dates of the Sales Coaching for Business Impact Certificate program.

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