Coaching and Your Sales Team

Creating a high performing sales team may be easier than you expected. Hiring is obviously important, but going from good to great, that requires an investment in coaching. Every sales person, regardless of experience can benefit from coaching. So have you considered coaching your sales team?

Sales team coaching has become a hot topic since Hubspot conducted an in-depth study of their top performing sales teams. What they found surprised them, it wasn’t teams with a lot of experience. In fact those with less experience often performed better. It was coachability that was the top predictor of success.

According to the Hubspot blog, “When a salesperson is good at listening to and implementing feedback, their name typically skyrockets to the top of the leaderboard — and stays there. After all, you’re combining the strengths of a great rep with the insights, wisdom, and experience of their manager. That’s a winning combo. Plus, sales is constantly evolving. Buyers are much more sophisticated than they used to be — and what worked in 1996 definitely won’t fly in 2016. To keep your process and strategies up-to-date, you’ll need to be coachable.”

Former employee Mark Roberge, now a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, mentions that highly coachable reps consistently analyze their performance and look for areas of improvement.

They go on to say, “Of course, the most important factor of coachability is how you respond to feedback from your manager, trainer, or mentor. Remember to stay open-minded and follow through on their comments and suggestions even if you don’t like them. If their advice works, you’re in better shape than before. If it doesn’t, you can stop using it. It’s a good outcome either way. Finally, communicate with your manager. It’ll be much easier for them to gauge your progress and give you valuable information if they’re always in the loop.”

Salesforce has also provided statistics that support coachability. “You’ve probably heard that coaching is important, but did you realize it explains a 17% performance difference between those coached and those not?”

And former NFL coach Herm Edwards has spoken extensively on the topic. “There’s an attitude that comes with being coachable – they listen, they learn, they have the right attitude about performance,” Edwards said. “They don’t just want to know what to do or how to do it. They want to know why. You can’t coach for situations because every situation is different. You can only coach on how to react, and that helps a player build instinct.”

Coach Edwards notes two different approaches, coach-driven teams and player-driven teams. “Player-driven teams are always going to be the higher-performing teams, because they’re accountable to each other and not just to one person,” he said. “They’re raising the standard for everyone. My job as a coach was to know my personnel and make them their best so they can meet that standard.”

Your goal is to hire a team of coachable sales people. This still requires identifying people with a high performing skill level. It also requires identifying people who are committed to their own professional development and open to feedback. The best way to achieve this is to ask the right questions during the interview process and use assessments that will indicate this behavior.

You want to understand how well a sales person accepts feedback. If they resist, it can negatively affect them and their team. You also want to see how well they listen and their openness to learning. As Marshall Goldsmith wrote in the book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There. Sales people who are stuck in their habits will struggle with coaching.

Three sample questions to ask include:
Can you tell me about a time you received difficult feedback and how you responded?
What are your goals for the coming year? (You’re looking for a lifelong learning analogy.)
Can you tell me about a difficult sales challenge and what you learned from it?

The following statements from the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science can also help you identify how coachable a candidate is based on how strongly they agree or disagree with each statement.

1. I frequently read books or magazines about selling.
2. During a sales educational seminar, I am willing to try anything to improve my skills.
3. I frequently let my manager know how I am doing in terms of improving my sales skills.
4. I often get advice from my sales team about my selling skills.
5. I frequently read books about famous sales experts.
6. When my manager criticizes me, I don’t usually get frustrated or mad.
7. I frequently seek out new and different sources of information on selling.
8. The sales representatives I work or train with frequently give me sales advice.
9. Overall, I have a very good working relationship with my manager.
10. After the manager gives me sales advice, I work really hard on what he or she told me to do.
11. I frequently think of ways to improve at selling.
12. When my manager tells me to correct a mistake I’ve made, I do not take it personally or feel angry and upset.
13. It is very important for my manager to think of me as a sales rep who is willing to do what it takes to get better.
14. I learn a lot about selling from the other sales reps.
15. If my manager criticizes or yells at me, I always correct my mistake without getting frustrated or mad.
16. I always listen closely to my manager’s instructions during sales meetings.
17. I trust, without reservation, the training methods of my manager.
18. I feel totally comfortable sharing my opinions with the manager.
19. I view the relationship I have with my manager as a partnership.
20. When my manager criticizes me, I become motivated to work harder.
21. Watching myself perform on videotape during role-playing is very helpful and productive for me.
22. I enjoy talking to my sales team members about how to improve my sales skills.
23. There is always something new to learn in selling.
24. I am always willing to try new drills or techniques to help improve my sales skills.

At Sheer Velocity, we use a tailored approach with our clients that supports your culture and the ability for new hires to adapt quickly. To learn more about coachability and how our retained search consultants can support your efforts, send us a note.