Coaching Sales People to Achieve More than Just Quota

Posted on September 18, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Managers – do you want to be a better coach to your salespeople? Start diving for pearls.

For thousands of years, the pearl has been a highly sought after gem. Before the 20th century the only way to get pearls was to skim the ocean floor and gather them by hand one at a time. These divers – in some countries mostly women – would descend to depths of 40 meters or more to search for the prize. Divers risked death from several sources including blacking out due to a lack of oxygen, getting attacked by hostile creatures, or drowning from tide changes. I can’t imagine what their life insurance premiums were like. ..

When I think of why these women and men risked their lives performing such a risky profession, I can’t believe they were motivated only by economics, even though it is how they made their living. It’s likely they were motivated by pride, or recognition, or community status, or carrying on a family tradition.

What’s that got to do with managing your salespeople? They are diving for pearls. If you want to be a high impact coach, find out what those pearls are and help your people scoop them up.

Knowing what motivates your salespeople is job one. It’s easy to assume it’s all about money, since part of the income of most sellers is based on how much stuff they sell. If you dig deeper you will uncover more complex motivations. One seller told me he was in sales to earn more money than his father as a way to exceed his father’s expectations of the son. Another seller told me that he wanted to succeed in sales to get a promotion to marketing – a position that he associated with higher status. I challenged him on the status thing but that shouldn’t matter to him. With motivation it’s his opinion that counts.

So how do you learn their motivations and help them get what they want? Take a cue from Steve Chandler, an authority on the topic. Steve says coaching isn’t advising or telling. It’s not managing. It’s not bullying people to get what you want. It’s asking questions in a nonjudgmental way. It’s caring. Steve suggests the following:

  1. Seek first to understand. Have you ever advised a friend or family member to stop a behavior that is destructive, like smoking? I’m sure they didn’t say “Smoking isn’t really bad for me.” Then why do some people still smoke even when they know that the habit could kill them? I coached a veteran rep recently about the bad year he was having. Last year wasn’t that good either. The first thing I asked him was how he felt about his numbers being so low. I really wanted to know if he was feeling any pain. Honestly, I’m not sure he is. I can tell him how to get his sales funnel back in good shape, but I can’t make the calls for him or do his prospecting.
  2. Remove limitations. Usually, low or plateau type performance in a salesperson is due to self-limiting thoughts. If a salesperson thinks she’ll never hit quota until her company has new products, or until she is given ‘better’ accounts to call on, help her see that she’s created these barriers herself and they’re preventing her from getting what she wants.
  3. Suggest possibilities. The goal here is to get your salesperson to see what is possible. There’s no judgment, no committing to plans, no tactics to back him into a corner and deliver some knockout punch. This is an inspiring step in the process.
  4. Gain agreements. Steve says that people can’t be managed but you can help them manage what they agree to. The thing they have to agree to first is being coached. You can’t make them want your help. If my veteran rep client tells me he really wants to hit quota again, I’ll remind him of that in later coaching sessions. If he agrees to prospect in new accounts I’ll call him out if he’s not honoring that commitment. I’ll remind him of the consequences he told me he would have if quota is missed.

Some of your people don’t want your coaching now. You’ll watch them struggle and feel helpless. You might take offense to getting shut down all the time. It’s hard to set aside your own notions of what’s important or valued or reasonable or logical. But there is no greater accomplishment for you than to help someone tap into his or her potential.







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