Three Essential Skills to Focus on When Coaching for Sales
Coaching for sales, like the art of selling itself, is complex and multi-faceted. Sales coaching requires its own skill set, and unlike sales training – which might be periodic and formal – sales coaching should be ongoing and individualized.
Indeed, while sales training is often underutilized and ineffective due to many factors, coaching for sales is often ignored completely. Sad. In fact, this is simply poor sales leadership! (And a good sales coach must be a leader in order to build trust, credibility, authority and respect).
So, if we agree that sales coaching is not the same as sales training, and that coaching for sales is necessary and valuable, what are some important areas of focus when coaching for sales? What we often find at Sales Xceleration is that among the many facets of sales, three key skills necessary for sales success demand particular emphasis. Let’s look at sales coaching to enhance skills for overcoming objections, following up, and collaborating:
The Skill of Overcoming Objections
Yes, there will be objections. It’s human nature to be skeptical, to be cautious. And even though, as Jeffrey Gitomer contends, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy,” I believe it’s in the prospect’s very essence to expect or even require being “sold.” Indeed, it is part of the professional buyer/seller relationship. It’s part of “the dance,” if you will.
So, if you want to succeed in sales, you’d better be good at overcoming objections. While tactics can be taught, the true skill of overcoming objections is perhaps a matter of nuance. And that’s where sales coaching comes in. The sales coach can observe the salesperson’s technique and dispassionately offer advice based on subtle cues the salesperson might miss while engaged in the process.
For example, the art of probing for information and truly listening to prospect needs can get lost if the salesperson is going through the motions of the process. A good sales coach can help the sales team member develop the skill of listening first. This is important because a prospect who feels respected and heard will be more receptive and offer fewer – or at least softer – objections.
Ultimately, overcoming objections requires cultivating a true connection. It requires listening. Relating. Caring. Assisting. Solving. Being genuine. Result: objections disappear.
The Skill of Following Up
Successful salespeople meet commitments and live up to promises. They follow up and follow through. Even in an extended sales cycle, they connect regularly with the prospect to learn how needs are progressing, how budgets are changing, and how industry and marketplace dynamics are affecting the prospect’s day-to-day experience. Without regular follow-ups, the shifting landscape remains uncharted territory.
When coaching for sales, it is vital to make sure the front-line sales professional understands the importance of the check-in. After all, it shows the prospect you care enough to want to stay in the loop and understand their current level of pain. While any successful salesperson reacts and responds in a timely and professional manner when the prospect or customer calls, sales superstars are proactive and persistent before the call comes.
A good sales coach also underscores this truth: If you are worried the client or prospect may be wondering why you haven’t followed up as promised, you are probably right. The good sales coach emphasizes that a missed commitment is a missed opportunity to fortify an important professional relationship. It could even derail years of effort to advance the relationship to the brink of a sale.
The Skill of Collaborating
When coaching for sales, it is critical to underscore this truth as well: To succeed in sales, you must not be a salesperson, but rather a collaborator, a solution partner. The customer must see you as having a vested interest in their long-term success and not merely in your short-term sale.
To empower the salesperson to be seen as a collaborator, the sales coach will emphasize the softer (but essential) skills noted above to overcome objections: listening, building personal rapport, caring about the customer’s pain, and developing a true solution. Collaboration requires connection. It requires communication. It requires commitment beyond the sale. Ongoing sales coaching makes it clear these things are essential to sales success and individualizes ways to makes them work.
What Makes a Good Sales Coach?
So, if these are a few essential areas for sales coaches to focus on, what does a good sales coach need to do to make sales coaching more effective? Here are a few key sales coaching commitments:
- Listening, relating, caring, assisting, solving and being genuine. (Recognize those?)
- Asking rather than telling (thus, challenging the salesperson to bring solutions, not just problems)
- Prioritizing coaching as a continual process (not just part of an annual review) with regular and frequent sales coaching sessions – weekly if possible
- Taking advantage of ride-alongs, with coaching moments before and after client meetings
- Establishing uniform expectations but personalizing ways to achieve them
- Encouraging and rewarding success and progress while also being forthright with corrective action needed
A sales coaching mindset permeates an effective, productive and successful sales culture. It manifests in continual coaching conversations (asking questions, listening, challenging, sharing expertise) throughout the year, rather than merely during annual performance reviews. And great sales coaching includes focus on overcoming objections, following through, and collaborating.
At Sales Xceleration, we understand, however, that successful coaching for sales isn’t typically ingrained in most organizations. It must be cultivated, nurtured, and learned. It requires commitment. Indeed, it requires training. That’s why our Certified Sales Leader (CSL) training – which is designed to help small and medium-sized businesses benefit from superior sales leadership to optimize revenue performance and business growth – includes a unit on Creating a Motivating Environment and Holding People Accountable. Lessons in this unit include developing a coaching culture and mindset as well as improving poor performance. Led by Sales Xceleration-licensed Advisors, CSL training is conducted in-person and focuses on specific company needs while also providing a comprehensive sales leadership curriculum. To learn more, click here, reach out to an Advisor, or contact us today at 844.874.7253.