Grow Sales Coaching Model

How to use the GROW Sales Coaching Model

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What is the GROW Sales Coaching Model?

The GROW Sales Coaching model is a framework for coaching sales people whereby:
G = Goal – What are the Salespersons Goals for the session?
R = Reality – What is the current reality of the situation?
O = Obstacles & Options – What obstacles are holding you back and what options have you?
W = Way & Will – What way and actions do you commit to taking to move forward and how do you feel about them?

Who invented the GROW Coaching Model?

The GROW Coaching model was invented by the Leadership Coaches Sir John Whitmore and Graham Alexander in the 1980’s and is probably the most widely used coaching framework due to it’s simplicity and the fact it is action or outcome focussed.

How Frequent Should Sales Coaching be?

Sales Coaching sessions should take place every 2 weeks and last for 45 minutes.

1. GROW Sales Coaching

Sales Coaching is slowly being adopted by many companies, however, in many cases sales coaching is seen mostly as a luxury only large Enterprise organisations can afford. With more and more Salespeople and Managers working from home online sales coaching as become more important. Whether you deliver coaching online or face to face it’s important that coaching sessions have a structure, process and consistency to them which is where the GROW Sales Coaching model fits in.

The slow uptake on Coaching may be because most Sales Managers are still carrying a Sales Target. In addition most Sales Managers were hired on the basis that they were great Salespeople and in some cases are never given the right Management structure or tools that would help their Salespeople grow. 

This results in Sales Managers trying to grow sales – you can’t grow sales. Grow your people and they will grow the sales for you.

Grow Sales Coaching Model
Grow Sales Coaching Model

In fairness to Managers, they often are not given the time to Coach their teams, as pressure from Senior Stakeholders is focussed on lag indicators, not leading indicators. Profits are hugely important, but too many companies still have a lack of understanding and experience in building and maintaining Sales Teams. Many business owners and Entrepreneurs we meet are great Salespeople, but this is a different skill to building an effective sales machine. Selling is not Managing and Managing is not Coaching.

2. Coaching Styles

There are three main coaching styles that you should be aware of – Directive (telling), Non-Directive(asking) and Collaborative which is working together with the Coachee to find the best way forward.

The coach needs to be able to move between the three coaching styles to engage the coachee and find the best way forward.

2a.Directive Coaching Example

An example of Directive Coaching could sound something like:

“John you’ve done a great job calling on your target accounts however as you know we’re still at 80% of target your area. How can I help you move that up to 90, 100 or even exceed your targets?”

This opening commends John for his efforts but then uses data/hard facts to focus the conversation where the Manager/Coach knows the Salesperson needs help. Often Salespeople will ignore issues that are uncomfortable for them and Coaching needs to deliver a benefit to the business, not just the Salesperson. 

2b.Non-Directive Coaching Example

An example of Non-Directive Coaching would be where the Sales Rep sets the agenda. The could sound something like:

“John when you prepped for this meeting you messaged me saying you want to discuss Presentation Skills. How can I help you with that?” 

The problem with this is that when we allow Salespeople to drive the agenda they can choose topics that have nothing to do with their performance. A recent conversation with an HR Director who based on a Staff Survey asked us to deliver Presentation Skills training, went back to challenge his team when we said:

“We’d love to help you however, we know your sales process and your sales team and at least 80% of them don’t deliver Presentations. I just want to check this is the best use of your budget?”  

Non-Directive Coaching has it’s place, however, it allows Salespeople to set the agenda and they may dangle every Red Herring possible, in order to distract the Coach/Manager from the most important issues.

If the Coach believes the Goal provided by the Coachee is simply an avoidance tactic they should gently ask the Coachee:

  1. Why did you choose that Goal?
  2. How does that Goal relate to your overall Sales Goals?
  3. What will change in your results if you reached that Goal?

2c.Collaborative Coaching

In theory Collaborative Coaching allows for both parties to jointly agree the Goal of the meeting, however, the problem here is simply as time is always at a premium the Coach may end up wasting the first 10-20% of the session agreeing the Goals.

It’s a much better use of everyones time if the Goals are agreed and set before the session. The Coach can then work in a Collaborative role to help the Coachee identify the R (Reality), O (Obstacles) and the W (Will and Way forward).

If time permits often the best way to agree Goals is for either party to choose a Goal and then work on two goals per session.

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3. Sales Coaching – Purpose, Tone & Content

Purpose – Coaching sessions are focussed on helping the Salesperson achieve better results. What exactly better results are will vary depending on the Salesperson, for example, better results for a high performer will be very different from a struggling Sales Rep.  

Tonality – Supportive. This is not a session for the Coach or Sales Manager to criticise or discipline the Sales Rep. Regardless of the performance of the Salesperson, criticising, and being negative in this session may make the Coach/Manager feel better, but it will do nothing for sales results. Furthermore being critical in a Coaching Meeting will only encourage the Salesperson to look for another position.  Coaching is about building people up, not tearing them down.

Content – This session should be focussed on either the Goal of the Coachee (Non Directive) or the Goals of the Coach (Directive). Either way it should relate to one of three core areas of selling, Mindset, Activities or Sales Craft. Mindset might cover the attitude that the Salesperson displays to the team, to the customer and most importantly to themselves. Being negative never solved anything in the same way as smiling and being overly happy doesn’t solve anything. Being Positive and supportive is key to this. Sales Coach Collen Francis has a great meeting tip “don’t bring a problem to a meeting unless you bring a solution with it”. This encourages Salespeople to be positive, think for themselves and importantly allows them to contribute which will keep them engaged.

As Sales Managers are so busy what often happens is that coaching never takes place or it takes place on an ad-hoc basis when the Sales Rep has a question or is stuck and even then it can merge into training. Ad-hoc or unstructured coaching does have a value as it can provide short, powerful interventions, however, it is reactive.

One of the advantages of the GROW sales coaching model is that it is pro-active and provides both parties with an objective framework to follow and document their conversations.

Grow Sales Coaching
Grow Sales Coaching

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4. Using the GROW Model for Sales Pipeline Reviews

The GROW Sales Coaching Model is a versatile framework and can be used to conduct Sales Pipeline Reviews with Salespeople. Please note Pipeline meetings should be done on a 1-2-1 basis and kept separate from Coaching sessions.

The purpose of a Sales Pipeline Review as the name suggests is to focus on the Sales Reps individual Sales Pipeline and is an opportunity for the Sales Manager to inspect both the quantity and quality of the pipe.   

Unlike Coaching sessions the Pipeline Review, depending on the situation, may have to be Challenging as well as Supportive. It’s possible to be challenging without being rude, blunt or abrupt. This is where a Sales Manager can deliver real value to the company by coaching the Sales Rep through the pipeline. The Manager should challenge every deal and re-qualify each one forcing the Salesperson to justify: 

What problem is the prospect trying to solve? (Goal)

How is it impacting their business? (Reality)

How much is the problem costing them? (Reality)

Why the deal is worth the stated amount? (Obstacles)

Why the deal will close when they have stated? (Obstacles)

Why the customer has chosen you as a supplier? (Obstacles)

What is the mutually agreed next step? (Way & Will)

If the deal is a Complex Sale then you should drill down to the individual account strategy using tools like the Miller Heiman Gold and Blue sheets.

Use the Company’s pipeline KPI’s to challenge deals using the Rotten Deals KPI and if necessary you should do a full Pipeline Scrub.

There are often lots of assumptions that Salespeople when working on deals and it’s the Managers job to challenge those. Some common assumptions and problems are:

I can’t get to talk to him/her.  The manager should ask them what specifically they have done to try and talk to them.

They won’t tell me that.  The manager should ask what the prospect said when they asked.

They are really interested.  Why?

They have asked for a proposal.  Proposals cost the business time and money and should always be qualified.

They have asked for a presentation.  Personally, most presentations are a waste of time and money, and should be delivered via a pre-recorded video available on your website. Presentations tell Salespeople sell. If you need to customise a presentation then like a proposal, it should be qualified first.

The Sales Manager should be looking for coaching opportunities to help the Rep move deals through the Sales Pipeline, or move them out. 

In addition to requalifying every deal your Sales Pipeline Meeting may cover additional topics that can be verified by the data. An example of Directive Coaching here is where the Coach or Manager sets the Agenda by choosing the Goal (The G in Grow) of the meeting. This could sound something like:

As you know John your sales numbers are down this month. When I drilled down into the data it shows 85% of the deals in your Pipeline have gone past our Rotten Deals KPI of 45 days, why do you think that is?”

This sets the Goal and focusses the conversation on a data and fact based problem that needs to be addressed.

GROW Sales Coaching Model

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Discover how to use Remote Sales Coaching to help your Sales Teams take control of their sales in their and start to exceed their sales goals.

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Author Bio

Iain Swanston has spent over 30 years in B2B sales selling, training and leading teams both domestically and internationally.  In addition he serves as an Associate at Strathclyde University Business School where he has delivered the sales content for the Masters in Entrepreneurship since 2015.

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