Sales Performance Coaching
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1. Sales Performance Coaching
Sales Performance Coaching is one of the most important tools available to the modern sales manager. The ability to coach and raise the skill, activities and mindset of a Salesperson is a key ingredient to sales growth.
Every top Salesperson and Sales Leader will tell you about a Manager, a Mentor or a Coach that helped them on their journey.
Often those coaching conversations have been the catalyst for success and the skills and behaviours learned, have proven to be the foundation for a lifetime of success in professional selling.
2. Sales Coaching Models
We use two different sales coaching models dependent on the needs of our clients. These models have been developed internally and reflect the needs of our clients.
The coaching models are very similar however the main difference between the two models is that our High Performance Coaching includes more emphasis on developing and maintaining the Mindset required to be a high performer.
Both models are available to everyone and we discuss the suitability of each model during the onboarding process.
Our High Performance Sales Coaching is centred around four quadrants – Mindset, Sales Craft, Activity & Development. The components inside each quadrant can be customised to match the exact needs of the Salesperson.
Like every human being Salespeople will avoid areas they are most uncomfortable with, however, in reality, these are the areas where the most growth lies.
When used in conjunction with a structured onboarding process the Sales Coaching model will provide a framework for tangible growth both in confidence, personal development and business results.
3. The Sales Mindset
Sales is a contact sport and everyday Salespeople pick up the phone, or go out into the field and face a barrage of No’s.
Rejection is the norm, it’s a numbers game even for the top performers which ensures a constant level of stress and anxiety. Sometimes this is healthy and sometimes it’s not.
The divorce rate among top Salespeople is often higher than it should be, so success often comes at a cost.
Coaching provides an outlet for that frustration along with practical strategies and techniques to deal with them.
4. High-Performance Sales Coaching
Many people have likened salespeople to sportspeople in terms of performance. Indeed books on performance covering mental toughness and flow state are the staple diet for cyclists, golfers, rugby, football and top performers in every sport.
The more you read about sport and sales, the more compelling the analogy is. In sports, the difference between winning and losing at the highest level is the mental game.
Sports Psychologists refer to Self Talk – the internal dialogue we have with ourselves which is formed from our beliefs, thoughts, questions and most importantly self-doubt.
In sales, understanding and addressing the self-talk and mindset of salespeople at every level is key to success. Unfortunately, many Salespeople are simply unaware of these potential mental barriers to success and even when explained many are simply dismissive of them.
Often the few Salespeople that do take action on these issues often do so in isolation and even in secret as they fear being ridiculed by their peers.
The facts are there for all to see – there is no athlete, golfer, cyclist, footballer, rugby player or sports star who does not use and or receive coaching for their “mental game”. Author of the Amazon bestseller The Chimp Paradox Steve Peters is a Consultant Psychiatrist who specialises in the functioning of the Human Mind.
Peters clients include Team GB cycling, GB Taekwondo, England Rugby, England Football, Liverpool FC and British Swimming and 4 times winners of the Tour de France Sky Cycling Team. In short, for High-Performance Sales Coaching to be effective Coachees must be prepared to address the “Mental” side of their Sales game.
“Tennis is a mental game – everyone is fit, everyone hits great backhands and forehands”
Nature vs Nurture
Are all top performers born or can you be trained, developed and nurtured into being a top performer? This question is constantly posed by sceptics of the mental game. A study of the last 40 years of Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champions shows only Lleyton Hewit, Andre Agassi & Bjorn Borg were under 6ft high. Andre Agassi was the last sub 6ft Men’s winner some 28 years ago in 1992.
There is no doubt that in this case nature has given the taller players an advantage, however, that’s not to say sub 6ft players can’t compete and win, it’s just more difficult for them.
Former Liverpool and Australia football players Craig Johnson claims he had much less skill than those around him in his early years, and he simply practiced harder and for longer, than anyone else in his quest to be an elite football player.
Sales Performance Coaching won’t turn you into the best Sales Person in the world unless that’s your goal. The purpose of performance coaching is to help the Salesperson be the best salesperson they WANT to be. The desire that a well-formed goal creates is what will drive them on and the coaches role is to simply guide and support you on that journey.
In our Executive Sales Coaching programmes, we use the analogy of a staircase in that the coaches role is not to support the Exec to get to the next level because in many cases with a little thought they could do this themselves. The role of the Sales Performance Coach is to transition the Executive up 10 levels.
Sales Performance coaching should be a holistic approach that addresses the four quadrants of sales success – Mindset, Sales Craft, Activity & Development
There are four main parts to the Mindset in sales:
Understanding how your mind works
The mind is a complex organ and most experts would admit we are still discovering and learning more about its functions and it’s operation. We do however know the main parts and what they control or influence. For example, the medulla oblongata controls breathing, blood pressure, heart rhythms and swallowing.
What if anything has this got to do with sales? Well this is what controls our nerves, the nerves we may get before an important presentation or a boardroom meeting.
The more we know the more we can develop coping strategies to deal with potential problems.
Managing your Beliefs & Emotions
All of us at some stage suffer from Self-limiting which often prevent us from even trying something. This comes from our perception of our own identity – who we think we are. The most common self-limiting beliefs in sales are “I am not worthy of…” “I could never…” They would never…”.
Unless challenged and removed these beliefs will become self-fulfilling philosophies and cripple the Salesperson career. These negative beliefs are often in the subconscious part of the mind making them difficult to access and remove.
Fortunately, there is a range of natural and mental tools a coach can use to remove the self-limiting beliefs and replace them with more positive ones.
Natural tools which we believe are the strongest include simple Breathing Exercises, Visualisations, Affirmations and Journaling.
Becoming the Sales Performer You Want to Be
It’s always important to start with the end in mind. As the saying goes if you don’t know where you are going how will you get there? To become a High Sales Performer, it’s essential to set a vision.
The vision is a mental picture of what success looks like for the Salesperson. As an example, this could mean picturing themselves standing on a stage in front of their peers receiving an award for the top salesperson in the organisation.
Unless you can mentally picture success it’s highly unlikely that you will achieve the outcome. Your external world is simply a manifestation of your internal thoughts.
Winners in sport mentally picture themselves not just on the podium but receiving the gold medal and acknowledging the crowd.
Football players mentally picture themselves lifting a trophy or cup. Salespeople who mentally Picture themselves as winners are already ahead of those that don’t.
Many publications endorse this, however, for brevity this poem by Walter Wintle is a perfect summary:
If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don’t;
If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.
If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out in the word we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will,
It’s all in the state of mind.
If you think you’re outcasted, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.
Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man;
But soon or late the man who wins
Is the man who thinks he can.
For those with a little longer to read the English philosopher James Allen who was centuries ahead of his time penned the classic book As a Man Thinketh in 1903. This was 34 years ahead of the more famous Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
Written in Olde English it can be difficult to understand however it is without a doubt a classic book on the power of the mental game.
Most sports athletes train and prepare for annual or even quadrennial events like the Olympics or World Cup and when they don’t win it is a huge failure and disappointment [Note Failure is not a bad thing to be avoided or discussed, it’s simply a learning event and stepping stone on the path to success].
No matter how big the event is, it’s one disappointment. By contrast Salespeople, even the top performers face failure and disappointment every day, sometimes even multiple times in one hour if they are setting appointments by telephone.
This constant rejection over time can take its toll and self-doubt will then appear. Building Resilience is a series of tools and coping strategies that puts failure into context and “parks” it so the Salesperson can move on. One of our coaches Stuart Rowell, an avid golfer, advocates this technique for golfers who have just missed an “easy” put.
Unless the golfer can “park” the miss and move on, then chances are the next shot which will be the drive from the tee will be substandard. Salespeople who mentally carry over lost deals, poor meetings or missed opportunities onto the next call will inevitably struggle to maintain a high level of performance.
An important area for Salespeople is their Mindset or beliefs around the products and services they sell, the company they work for and the industry they serve. Unless these are all congruent with the internal value system of the Salesperson they will internally be wrestling with them on every sale.
For example, many Salespeople are reluctant to hand over customers after the sale as they feel a sense of loyalty to the customer and they may feel that “others” in the company won’t look after the customer as well as they could.
If this happens too often then Salespeople can spend too much time servicing accounts and not enough time opening new accounts.
5. Sales Performance Coaching
Our Sales Performance coaching is based on our Sales Scorecard system which focusses on the high value sales activities of Finding more sales, Klozing more sales, Growing more sales and developing as a Salesperson.
In coaching, it’s important to use facts and data, and our Sales scorecards are a great way to facilitate a targeted coaching conversation that supports the goals of the Coachee and the business.
Finding More Sales
This area of our coaching supports the Salesperson with the strategies and tactics that the employer and salesperson have chosen to generate new sales leads. We suggest an initial focus on three activities for the first 1-2 months where after we would add any additional activities that the business and salesperson choose.
Klozing More Sales
Once the heavy lifting of generating a sales lead has been done it’s important that the lead converts to a qualified opportunity and is moved through the sales pipeline as quickly as possible. Nothing kills deals like time. In many cases as the deal progresses numbers in the customers decision making unit increases and momentum drops off.
Managing the sales conversation, internal and external expectations and the proposal or bid process can be complex and time-consuming. In the fast pace of a modern sales environment, it’s easy for deals to slip once they get in the pipeline.
Growing More Sales
In most cases, at least 70% of next years sales revenues are coming from this years customers. It’s, therefore, more important than ever to have strategies and plans that lock clients in and lock your competitors out. Cross-selling and Up-selling are good starting points, but the longer you retain your customer, the more their circumstances and needs will change and unless you change you will quickly be swapped out.
Key Account Management is the art of keeping one step ahead of your customers’ needs and positioning your organisation to still be relevant and the partner of choice.
The development quadrant is vital in sales due to the rapid changes in sales technology, but also the changes in the industries they serve which we call Domain Knowledge. Every conversation with a prospect and customer is an opportunity for a value add conversation to position the Sales Rep as a Though Leader and the “Go To” person in their industry.
Salespeople must keep up to date, they must stay relevant and they must add value to every conversation.
In addition to Domain Knowledge, Salespeople need to Train and be coached consistently in order to sharpen their saw and develop themselves. The development quadrant should be aligned with and follow Maslows Heirarchy of Needs and Kolbs Learning Theory.
6. Framing the Coaching Conversation
Both our Sales Performance and our High Performance Sales Coaching models are tools to kick start and structure our sales coaching.
In terms of the coaching conversations we have we use the GROW sales coaching framework which provides the track to guide our coaching sessions.
Whilst coaching models and frameworks form an essential part of coaching they serve little purpose without questions that probe and challenge the Coachee.
7. Sales Coaching Style
Most coaching organisation mandate that coaches may only ask and are not allowed to tell. The thought process behind this is that the answer is more powerful if it is the idea of and spoken by the Coachee.
This makes perfect sense except for Sales. In many circumstances, the salespeople we are coaching are working on live, high-value deals and asking the Salesperson to come up with the answer themselves can lose them deals and their organisation a lot of money.
Our Coaching style is to use a question-based approach in the first instance where time permits, but where time is limited and Salespeople need answers, we can quickly switch gears into training mode and utilise all our learning content at our disposal.
This blended approach is important for Sales and ensures the maximum benefit for the Coachee and their employer.
8. The Context of Coaching Conversations
One area we see coaching fail is when the context of the sales coaching is mixed. What we mean by this is that Managers have one meeting which covers a Sales Pipeline review, a general sales meeting, a performance review and a coaching session.
These are all completely different meetings with different objectives and outcomes. Any form of Sales Coaching should be a positive session with objectives and outcomes.
When you include a performance review the session quality will start to deteriorate and the coachee will close down in terms of their honesty and openness to answer questions.
Coaching should be challenging, whereas a Review may be a critique. Never mix the two.
This does require a greater investment in time, however, the results speak for themselves and Managers who believe in, and see the value in coaching, always find time. If you are trying to create a culture of Coaching then it can easily be added as a KPI.