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The Importance of Good Coaching

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
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With today’s competition, we need to focus on cutting cost—all while building our client base and closing the sale—right? Who has time to coach members of the sales team under these conditions? I would argue who can afford NOT to coach their sales teams?

I believe the sales teams with the best coaches are more productive and have more loyal team members—not to mention higher sales.  But before I continue, let me define coaching.

An article on the new ASTD Competency Models in the January 2013 issue of T+D Magazine defines coaching as: "using an interactive process to help individuals develop rapidly and produce results: improving others' ability to set goals, take action, make better decisions, and make full use of their natural strengths." So, coaching is simply providing instruction and support for people to be successful.

Unfortunately in business culture, we tend to perceive coaching as a form of discipline. As you can see from the definition, though, coaching is about development.

Just consider the coaches of Olympic athletes. Do they only coach the athletes when the athlete is doing something wrong? No! A good coach helps the athlete to grow and develop their skills. Interestingly enough, some athletes keep the same coach for much of their careers. Wouldn't it be awesome if our sales teams had that same type of commitment to us that athletes do with their coaches?

Great coaches set their teams up for success

One way to ensure a team is successful is to properly train every team member. Do they know your product? Do they know your competition? Do they know your sales philosophy?

In the our arena, we tend to hire sales people based on the results of their last job and assume that they can perform as well or better on the job we're hiring them for—without further training. However, we have got to be sure they are trained and fill in any performance gaps with coaching.

In addition to training, a successful sales leader ensures sets clear performance expectations. Be sure to define a "reasonable" amount of prospecting. How many sales should a good salesperson close a week or a month?

Great coaches are consistent

Great coaches not only focus on their team, but they also focus on their own skill set. And perhaps one of the most important skills is consistency.

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Without consistency in the behavior of the sales leader, you cannot expect consistency in the sales team. Leadership sets the tone. Think about it: No matter how much money your sales people earn, they will not be happy if there is not consistency in the workplace.

Consistency is like a compass. You may not always like the direction that the arrow of the compass is pointing, but it's clear where you are heading. Your sales team may not always like the direction that you are leading the team, but if you are consistent, it will be clear what direction you are leading the team and why you are leading them there.

There are a number of key areas of consistency, but I believe three areas help set the course of the team than the rest. Ask yourself the following three questions—and answer them honestly:

  1. Am I consistent in my expectations?
  2. Am I consistent in my communication?
  3. Am I consistent in my discipline?

Are you as consistent as you need to be? We can all improve on areas of consistency, and our efforts will not be lost on those we lead.
Moving forward

As sales leaders, I challenge you to be coach your sales team members on a regular bases. Carve out time to informally coach each salesperson twice a month. Even coaching once a month would likely be more than the average salesperson is getting today.

The greatest asset you have on your sales team are the people on your team. Invest in them and help them grow and watch them perform.

Here's to great coaching—and great results!

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This post is based on content explored in the new ASTD Press release, The Art of Modern Sales Management, which covers everything you need to know to be a top sales manager! 

Sales management has changed dramatically in the past decade. With increasing globalization and many companies adding more virtual workers, the task of managing these diverse sales teams has become increasingly complicated. In a connected and evolving world it is hard to offer a definitive guide, but this book strives to sketch out a blueprint for managing performance in a changing sales landscape. 

Each chapter is written by a sales professional and thought leader, many with experience as both a salesperson and as a sales manager. Learn from their experience and utilize the action plans at the end of each chapter to grow into a better leader for your team, whether they are down the hall or across the world.

About the Author
Leonard Cochran holds a bachelor’s degree in adult education and has more than 15 years of experience managing teams ranging in size from 2 to 65. He began focusing on designing and developing sales training in 2009. He fell in love with the energy and excitement of working with the sales teams from the various Hilton Worldwide hotel brands and is now considered by some to be the resident expert on sales training. Today, he is employed as the learning programs manager for the commercial college as part of Hilton Worldwide University. Leonard is also an ASTD Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and actively serves in his local ASTD chapter.
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