In almost every sport, the top athlete is guided by their coach through every play. The coach builds them up, gives them tough love, and provides guidance on how to get through difficult situations. While these star athletes have in-depth knowledge of the sport already, their coaches serve as their advocates and mentors to get to victory.
Similarly, sales coaching can be hugely valuable for your team. Your sales team has years of experience pitching clients and they know your products intimately, but just as consumer preferences change, so do the tactics your team needs to use to make the sale. And it’s your job to keep your team at the top of their game.
In their sales coaching guide, Lessonly explains: “To always be closing, always be coaching. As sales leaders, we have the privilege and responsibility to encourage, empower, and enable our teams with the practice, guidance, feedback, tools—everything—they need to win.”
If there was ever a year to focus on coaching your team, it’s 2020. This year has turned almost every industry on its head and many companies are still figuring out where they fit in the post-pandemic world.
Empower your team to learn new tools and be more effective by leveraging these opportunities for learning and growth.
Coach Your Team: Understanding Market Trends
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country, many companies had to stop operations or severely cut back on staffing and spending. In some cases, like the cruise industry, many companies are still waiting to reopen. According to Just Capital:
- 37 percent of companies closed or suspended services.
- 11 percent of companies experienced layoffs.
- 28 percent of companies had their supply chain impacted.
These shutdowns have trickle-down effects throughout the economy, as the vendors that support those companies were also let go or restricted. This complicates things for sales teams who saw the doors of many of their leads slam shut.
Coaching around how to analyze these trends, measure the impact, and shift strategy is key right now. Understanding how their target industries have changed and why makes it easier to develop a new strategy, fine-tune prospecting, and close the sale when someone finally gets on the phone.
Empower With Coaching: Encourage your teams to stay up on the latest trends and industry updates, and then connect once each month or each week to discuss what they’re seeing and identify new strategies they need to learn or understand. This is a chance to get them involved in the coaching process by empowering them to find the gaps where they need support.
More importantly, it allows you to help them understand the process of analyzing trends and developing new strategies for themselves.
Coach Your Team: Plan Through Frustration
Everyone on your sales teams needs thick skin in order to stay motivated. However, at a time like this, when they may be getting more no’s than yes’s, it can be hard to push back the rejection and frustration. This is where you use coaching to remind your team that there is always opportunity in a challenge—and the most successful companies find that opportunity and leverage it in any way they can.
This is one of the greatest benefits of implementing sales coaching on your team. When salespeople lose faith in themselves, you can build them up. But don’t stop there. Take it one step further: develop a plan and be an accountability partner.
Stephen Rosen, founder of STAR Results explains: “The effective coach understands that once the plan of action is in place, their role as a coach is to hold the sales rep accountable for following through on their commitment … Sales reps begin to understand that they are going to be routinely asked how the focused plan of action is proceeding and they then understand that the manager is holding them accountable for progress and improvement.”
Empower With Coaching: Set milestones for your sales team based on their current coaching work. Don’t ever leave a coaching session, whether formal or impromptu without an action item and quantifiable milestone they can aim for. Without this, coaching can easily fall through the cracks.
Coach Your Team: Build New Skills
The pandemic required teams to hone new skills that they may have never needed before. Road warriors were stuck at home showing product demos through Zoom calls while conference presenters had to learn how to engage attendees in a non-physical environment.
This is your opportunity to guide your sales team through upskilling and adapting to the “new normal” of post-pandemic sales. “Although many employees ‘learned by doing’ during the first phase of the crisis or received ‘quick and dirty’ training, continued remote working will probably keep posing an upskilling challenge,” suggest experts at McKinsey and Co.
The key is to not just recognize the frustration—but to plan through it. Hear your employees, understand their frustrations, and then make a plan to help them shift out of that mindset and into one that’s more empowered and confident.
They continue, “For example, sales forces will have to shift from setting up video meetings to managing customer relationships effectively in remote settings.”
The reality is that these pandemic skills are likely going to remain in place once the coronavirus is no longer in the headlines. Many workers will stay remote and companies will keep sales teams virtual instead of paying for in-person meetings for general leads.
Empower With Coaching: Consider developing a skill-building coaching roadmap for each employee, or group of employees. For example, you may have one roadmap for manager-level sales reps, versus those with some experience, and those who are totally new. Each person is on the path that best suits where they are and ensures that they’re continually building the skills they need to level-up in their career and within the company.
Good Coaching is Continuous Coaching
Sales coaching is never a one-and-done process. In sports, the coach doesn’t give a few tips at the start and then leave for the rest of the game. They’re deeply connected to each play and every second until the victory.
While investing in long-term coaching for your team will require more of your time, your business stands to benefit as your team evolves, grows, and learns the skills needed to be successful in this pandemic-era. Use this opportunity to connect deeper and build a resilient and more capable team.