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Top Coaching Tips to Become a Better Sales Leader

Although my title has “manager” in it, I don’t like saying I “manage” people.

I manage schedules, trainings, reporting — I manage things.

Instead, I prefer words like lead and coach when it comes to my salespeople because these words better align with my goals: to develop, train, pull people up, and help them succeed as individuals so we can win as a team.

No matter what you call yourself, talking to one of your salespeople about underperformance always feels awkward (read Brené Brown’s Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind.)

It’s not always easy having tough conversations with individuals on your team or finding the right words to say to inspire and motivate.

Most sales leaders mean the best but still end up using these conversations to give a textbook pep talk and mini-lecture on effort and determination. With little actionable and practical advice given, it’s not long before the cycle repeats itself.

How can you solve the problem and coach your team to bring out the best in them?

Sales talent is developed out on the field. You can’t learn to be a good salesperson from the classroom alone, the same way you can’t learn to be an amazing football player by reading a book on football. Just like an athlete needs a coach to train, motivate, and guide them, having a good sales coach can be transformative.

Here’s how to up your coaching game:

Take the time.

Being a good coach doesn’t happen overnight or in a packed group conference once a quarter. You need to build rapport and put in the one-on-one coaching with your sales professionals to give them the tools they need to succeed. Does this sound like a drain on your time? Try to reframe it more accurately as an investment in their (and your) success.

I currently hold weekly one-on-one sessions with my salespeople. In order to be efficient and productive with our time, my salespeople come prepared to discuss topics I’ve given them ahead of time, and we limit each session to 30 minutes.

Example of discussion topics:

  • What were your wins?
  • What were your challenges?
  • How will you overcome those challenges?
  • What do you need help with?
  • List actions for the upcoming week.

A team meeting should not replace one-on-one time.

Focus on the practical.

Our team members need practical, tactical steps they can use every day.

Coaches don’t just tell their players to “win” and leave it at that. In mortgage, you’ll hear “get more loans.” Coaches give their players the tools and strategies they need to make it happen. As a sales leader, you’re focused on the big picture but your team members need practical, tactical steps they can use every day. How will they execute on your big ideas and sales goals? Give them a clear vision and action steps.

Never stop learning.

There are a lot of amazing coaches out there but there’s not a single one that knows it all. Never stop learning and growing. Learning is for life. Personal development is great but you should also be learning from your role as a sales leader. Don’t get so caught up in your leadership role or the numbers that you forget to look around and observe. What is your team teaching you?

Get specific.

“Good job” just doesn’t cut it. You need to get specific. “I like the way you summarized what your prospect said during the meeting, checked you understood everything, and then addressed their concerns.” Big difference, right? General comments don’t provide enough feedback to reinforce positive behavior or stop negative ones. Imagine telling a student at school to “stop.” Stop what exactly? Don’t be afraid to give detailed comments.

Play to their strengths.

Bring out the best in your sales team by building your feedback around their strengths.

Emphasizing weaknesses damages morale. The coaching you provide should be given with the intention of building up and helping your team, not tearing them down or making them feel small. I think most sales leaders have the best intentions but are sometimes slow to notice strengths. But if you make a mistake, you can bet they’ll let you know! Bring out the best in your sales team by building your feedback around their strengths.

Don’t be rigid.

When you’re focused on the outcome, you won’t be stressed when your team members find their own way to reach it. They may do things differently than you would but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. If they’ve found an effective way to make it happen, it may be time to recognize their unique approach as a successful strategy. They may have something to teach you and the rest of the team.

Show – don’t just tell.

The best coaches show their team how to make it happen. They ask questions, listen, and engage. They provide constructive feedback. They get specific. Coaches diagnose problems and find effective solutions but, they also know how to put the solution into action. If you’re the kind of sales leader that simply observes without demonstrating – it’s time to make a shift. Your team needs to see your ideas in action. Roleplaying scenarios is often a good place to start.

The best coaches and the best sales leaders are active and involved in the day-to-day interactions. They’ve done their homework, they understand the game, and they have a clear vision to win.

What are your top coaching strategies to bring out the best in your sales team?

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