How to coach a sales team to success

Back to hub 28 July 2017

Sales managers know all too well the importance of driving sales activity. After all, it’s your bread and butter and what you’re measured on at the end of the day. However, strong sales activity means little without consistent improvement of skills within your team. Not only does the development of your sales people directly benefit your organisational performance and ultimately your bottom line, but professional growth and development opportunities are hugely important to sales people. In fact, 87% of millennial workers rate such development as being important to them in a job, along with 69% of non-millennials. Despite this, 35% of sales people don’t receive any coaching at all, and less than half receive consistent coaching, according to research by BlackDot.

With that in mind, it’s time to look at how to coach a sales team to be the best they can be in order to continue hitting high figures. After all, to improve sales numbers you need to be a good coach.

Here’s how to get it right: 

Define your team’s goals and objectives

In order to coach a sales team, you need to identify what specific goals and targets you’re aiming towards. Pioneering research on the subject by Dr Edwin Locke and Dr Gary Latham reflects the importance of setting specific goals, noting that team members perform at higher levels when asked to meet specific high-performance goals. So if you follow this theory, asking your team to meet high targets should help to bring their performance in line with these expectations.

If you can quantify goals and guide sales people on how they can achieve them, you’re on your way to not only encouraging ownership and responsibility amongst your team, but also improving their motivation by showing that measurable goals can be achieved.

While you’re identifying team goals, take the time to assess how engaged and motivated your sales people are. You need to know who you’re trying to develop, and this shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all model. Your sales stars will likely require different goals, approaches and styles of coaching than those who are struggling to meet their targets.

Put the time in

Once you’ve defined your goals and communicated them to your sales people, you need to schedule in time to put the plans into action. This could come in the form of one-to-one reviews, team meetings and supervised activities, such as listening in on sales call or guiding them through how you would handle specific objections. According to Brainshark, nearly half of all sales reps say that coaching by their sales manager is one of the best ways to in reinforce new sales skills, so direct coaching and guidance from you is essential.

It’s important to take such meetings and training sessions seriously and block out the time in your diary – when your team see you committed to their development and making it a priority, so will they. 

Empower your people

While direct coaching and guidance from you is imperative to helping your sales team improve themselves, you also need to empower them with the tools and knowledge to self-analyse their performance and progress.

Ask questions after sales members undertake sales activities, questioning how they think they performed, what they did well at and what they might do differently next time. This gives sales people the chance to reflect and respond, participating in the conversation about their own performance rather than simply being told how they did.

Actively listen and provide feedback on not only how you think the team member performed, but what you think of their self-analysis. While coaching a sales team should include a focus on areas of improvement, you should celebrate the positive elements of your team’s performance and highlight areas of strength, showing your support and investment in their development.

Keep your team motivated

Once you’ve gained your team’s interest in their development and coaching, you need to ensure this motivation remains after the initial wave of enthusiasm and you continue to bring out the best in them. Tap into your sales team’s competitive spirit by using games and league tables to help nurture ongoing progress and development, using reward and recognition to celebrate key achievements. If you’ve set your goals clearly and have KPIs related to team performance, it will be easy to track success and give sales people something concrete to strive towards.

Another coaching technique to enhance motivation is to show an active interest in your team, including knowing what makes them tick. If you learn about individuals’ strengths, weaknesses and differences, you can target these in your coaching and tailor your techniques towards each team member. 

Ask for feedback

Following the above steps can help you coach a sales team to success, hopefully resulting in increased sales and more engaged people. One of the best ways to measure the success of your coaching – other than the tangible results of more money coming in – is to ask your team directly. There might be an area of coaching they’d like to focus on further, or something you could be doing differently to inspire them. Part of a good coaching plan involves active listening, so don’t be afraid to take notes!

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