"How to coach to achieve sustainable sales performance" - Interview by John Smibert.
In my experience good, systematised sales coaching has more impact on achieving sustainable sales and revenue growth than any other sales management activity.
In my last discussion with sales management guru Bill Carson, he outlined his '5 facets of effective coaching'. In this discussion I asked Bill to elaborate on one of those - 'Sales Performance' coaching. The resulting discussion will be very valuable for all sales managers.
Firstly he said "the fundamental thing is that all sales managers need to support, develop and grow the performance of their salespeople" no matter what their individual capabilities. He explained why.
He then went on to explain how they should do this. In doing so he outlined a coaching method that will enable effective sales performance coaching.
Watch or read the interview below to get insight into 'Coaching for Sales Performance' - one of Bill's 5 facets of effective coaching.
Bill Carson is an alchemist in Sales Mastery, Service Excellence and Personal Leadership. He provides Coaching, Training and Consulting.
John: Hello, I'm delighted to have Bill Carson with me again - welcome back, Bill!
Bill: Thanks, John!
John: In our last discussion, Bill, we talked about the five facets of sales coaching that a sales manager needs to build their skills in, all five. I'd like to talk about one of those today, and I really had performance in mind.
Bill: Yes, so let's talk about that.
John: What do you mean by coaching performance?
Bill: Well, the fundamental thing is that all sales managers need to support, develop, grow the performance of their salespeople. Sometimes they're under-performing and we need to pull them up, sometimes they're up there where we need them to be and how do we develop them further.
John: That's important, because the research I've done indicates that the greatest level of productivity we get of our salespeople result from sales coaching by the sales manager, more than sales training or any other activity.
Bill: Absolutely, yes.
John: So that's really important. Tell me how they go about that.
Bill: Well, people join companies and they leave managers. When a sales manager really engages with a team very well, then you're going to get exceptional performance.
John: And people are likely to stay longer too, if they're going to be successful.
Bill: Absolutely, and perform and be very, very good at what they do. Now, one of the traps for sales managers is they're always time-poor and they run these corridor conversations all the time with their rep, so they're on the phone, they're in the car or whatever. That's necessary, but it's incredibly valuable to do some structured, more formal, albeit 30 minutes, and so I can share with you what's some good structure to put around that.
John: That'd be great. So you're talking about them setting up a prearranged time to spend one-on-one with one of their people, specifically to do some performance coaching.
Bill: Yes, absolutely.
John: How do they go about that? You've set up a time, I've got a half an hour with you, Bill. How are you going to coach me?
Bill: Well, right off the bat some sales managers listen and go, "You're kidding - I'm already ~flat check~! How can I do that?" Well, this is high-quality time, and when it's done well it's really important. Fundamentally it uses what most people have come across maybe, it's called the GROW model; the goal, the current reality, the options and then what action's next.
John: Yes, I'm very familiar with GROW.
Bill: So, I put a little bit more around that. What's the topic? You are going to specifically identify what it is you're going to be talking about.
John: Discovery or whatever.
Bill: Yes, the goal for the session, and then the R, the current reality in terms of... But then in terms of the Os, then I've added some extra ones. In other words, the first O is what are the obstacles that are getting in your way, and a sales manager needs to understand those. And then secondly, what are the opportunities if you actually take advantage of those, and then we explore options, and then the actions.
John: Okay. That sounds like a brilliant process. It sounds pretty much like GROW, but you've actually expanded it more.
Bill: Yes - Bill Carson expansion. [laughs]
John: Bill Carson expansion - good on you, Bill! I'll write that down when I publish this, and we'll make sure that's pretty clear. It's a good approach.
Bill: Yes, it's powerful. And again, it's the same as the questioning methodology, where it's helping our salesperson come to their own conclusions. It's taking them through their resistances, expanding their thinking, they take action, and much better outcomes for the sales manager.
John: Okay, so let me summarise what I've got out of this discussion. I think it's pretty important that coaching is done very well, and I think the concept of putting some time aside to actually formally do coaching from time to time with each individual is absolutely vital.
John: And what you're providing is a methodology to do that. It doesn't really matter what the methodology is as long as it's a good methodology, but I like what you just went through, and that's going to really drive the ongoing development of your sales force and ultimately drive your productivity. So, get out of that mode of chasing your tail. Do a little bit of planning and make sure you do get quality time with each individual.
Bill: Absolutely. And one final thing there, John, is that even when you have short time frames, 5-10 minutes, you can still apply the same structure which then guides, and just do it in an accelerated, compressed format, so that's very powerful.
John: Great point, thank you for your advice. I think the sales managers out there will get some good value out of this - thanks, Bill!
Bill: Thanks, John!
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