Turning Individual Coaching into Team Results

I’m willing to bet that when you hire a salesperson, you do so for a specific skill set. At the very least, you hire them because they possess something special other applicants do not. Ideally, that smart hiring practice leads to a sales team of individuals working towards a common goal, while equipped with unique skills and abilities that enhance your business.

So why, when it comes to training and developing these very same people, do so many sales leaders look toward team training? After all, that’s the generic, one-size-fits-all of professional development.

You might argue that it’s cheaper. That it saves time. But is it more effective? If the answer is not a resounding “No”, it’s at least an “Ummm…Probably not.”

According to a study conducted by consulting firm Accenture, thirty-five percent of CSOs are unsure what measurable improvements result from team training. Which means that being “cheaper” and faster starts looking more like a waste of time and money.

As we established above, your sales force is the sum of its parts. Invest in your sales reps not as a unit but as group of talented individuals with distinct strengths worth developing. By tailoring your coaching to each person, you’ll help improve sales, boost engagement, foster creativity, and improve overall workplace satisfaction.

Easy, right? Well, according to a Conference Board Executive Coaching Survey, not really. Of the companies that use some form of internal coaching, most leaders spend less than 10 percent of their time coaching others. Given the power of coaching to drive bottom-line results, that seems like a serious deficiency.

So why isn’t individual coaching more popular? One unfortunate reason: coaching skills and experience are often way down the totem pole of desired resume traits when hiring managers. Companies evaluate sales leaders in many ways, but their history and ability as a coach just isn’t a deciding factor in the hiring process for most.

Obviously that needs to change. And the good news is, you can still make individual coaching work for your company if you emphasize the following to your sales managers.

Create relationships to earn trust.

When a salesperson understands your goal is to help them become more effective, they’ll be that much more open to and engaged in any coaching you can provide. But that understanding will never take place if you only come down from the ivory tower to provide feedback or make an announcement. Lay the groundwork for effective coaching by strengthening your interpersonal relationships.

Feedback is a good thing.

Nobody likes being told they did something wrong or that their performance is lacking. But it happens to all of us or sooner or later and it’s an essential part of developing as a professional. The real problem? Receiving criticism when we can no longer do anything about it.

So here’s a tip to prevent that blindside. Be generous with feedback as needed. Small coaching sessions that help your sales team brush up on new skills or address trouble areas early on will let them know that you care about helping them improve before it becomes a real issue. No one wants a “gotcha” moment come review time.

Set meaningful – and achievable – goals.

Ultimately this is a numbers game. Lofty goals may sound dazzling but if they don’t move the company needle, they aren’t of much use. And if they can’t be measured, it’s almost impossible to claim victory. The solution: be clear with where you want to go and what you hope to accomplish with this coaching, such as higher conversions rates or a better average deal size. Both you and the sales rep will understand the right metrics to use in evaluating progress. And when you lace goals with small victories, it paves the road to the larger goals that can energize the whole team.