Today’s post is by Alyson Brandt, president of Fusion Learning USA.
A sales leader’s job is not to create sales; it is to create salespeople. Therefore, coaching skills are critical to success.
Unfortunately, only 50 percent of sales leaders and managers are held accountable for the coaching, development, and performance improvement of their teams. Those 50 percent are committed to help their team – their entire team – hit plan and recognize the value coaching brings. This is the most effective long-term approach to hitting team goals and building a strong, engaged culture.
Most sales leaders intend to make time for coaching. However, it often becomes the “D priority” (“Do it if I can”). When coaching sessions do happen, they often devolve into the sales leaders solving the salesperson’s problems. Solving problems, of course, is akin to catching fish for salespeople rather than teaching them to fish.
To teach salespeople to fish, sales leaders and managers need a simplified, actionable approach to coaching. My goal in this post is to provide you with such an approach.
Now, if you read the title and thought I was going to say something like, “Hearing is involuntary; Listening is voluntary” … you were close. But no cigar.
Listening is an important aspect of coaching. However, it is really an outcome of Acknowledge and Confirm, two core skills in Fusion Learning’s Sales Coaching model.
- Acknowledge – The use of verbal (e.g., “hmmm”) and non-verbal cues (e.g., nodding) acknowledges to the salesperson that we are genuinely listening.
- Question – Gather information about their situation and perspective. Then, ask more questions such as, “Tell me more about that.”
- Confirm – In communication, messages often get lost. Paraphrasing what we have heard is one way to ensure that we have correctly heard the salesperson and not missed any information. Confirming also adds value by interpreting and integrating information in ways the salesperson may not have considered.
- Respond – After building trust with the salesperson, we earn the right to share our knowledge to guide the salesperson to solve their problem. If, through the “Question” and “Confirm” stages, they have already solved their own issue, “Respond” may take the form of simple encouragement.
- Check – Here, we ensure the salesperson is comfortable with the conversation. Look for an emotional response by asking something like, “How are you feeling about our discussion?”
Clearly, coaching is much more about questioning and listening than it is about sharing your knowledge, ideas, and suggestions. A good way to know whether you are questioning and listening is to simply measure talk time in coaching sessions. The salesperson should talk two-thirds of the time. You should talk one-third of the time.
Similarly, measure the frequency of the coachee finding his or her own solution. They should determine their own action plan 75 percent of the time. If you solve, you train them to come to you with issues. If you coach and allow them to solve for themselves, they will learn that it is not necessary to go to the boss for help every time.
So, here is the formula: Question Better, Confirm More, Respond Less.
If you want to be a better coach, those six words are the key.
The concepts in this post were originally featured in Engage Me: Strategies from the Sales Effectiveness Source.