Coaching sales people? Start here

By June 17, 2018 No Comments

Wether you play the role of a Sales Leader, Sales Manager, Sales Director or other similar position, and you are responsible for the success of a sales team and operations, the faster you understand that “managing” is only half of your job, and coaching, mentoring, and developing your people the other half, the sooner you’ll be in the right track for sustainable success.

Success in a sales team is defined by sustainable performance. And performance is driven by no other thing than behaviour. Your role as a leader then can be understood as driving those behaviours that produce the desired results.

The Challenge

Some sales leaders I’ve known are very effective in directing, and actually managing people, but when it comes to coaching and mentoring they are weaker. There may be several reasons for that, of course, including the idea that  this “coaching” thing does not really apply, and they have not really taken it into serious consideration.

As younger generations enter the sales-force everywhere, turns out that, what worked in the past does not as much any more. As values shift, people prefer, expect and even demand that their leaders actually lead with legitimate (as opposed to imposed) authority.

In practical terms, the challenge is that to understand coaching and mentoring you have to understand, among other things behavioural psychology, or in simple terms: behaviour, and that is (book) psychology, a topic that doesn’t show that often in the standard founder or manager playbook.

Before taking action let’s agree on two concepts:

Reinforcement. It occurs related to an act, and increases the possibility that the act will occur again.

A behaviour has different features: intensity, frequency, rate, duration, persistence, even shape or form.

Take action!

  1. Pay attention. If you act upon premature and incomplete information, chances are you’ll make more mistakes. Watch, listen, get curious by what your team does, what they say, what they don’t, why, how, and what specific results their behaviours produce. Patterns, you must get great at seeing patterns as one time or isolated behaviours may have a fully different meaning.
  2. Prioritize and Plan . What are the most important behaviours that have to be increased? Which ones diminished or extinguished? What is what you want to modify? the intensity? the frequency? the duration…? Start with a big one? Start with a small one? Your pick, but pick the right battles and act now.
  3. Ignore poor performance but reward good performance immediately. Why ignoring it? If you say something like: Hey come on, you’re doing it wrong..!  You are actually punishing the effort, a very non-strategic thing to do.
  4. Small reinforcements are ok, provided there is a strong behaviour-reinforcement correlation. Don’t worry, you don’t need to organize a parade every time, however the reinforcement has to be acknowledged by your peer.
  5. Think of modelling a behaviour by reinforcing the stages, aspects, and small parts that constitute a greater behaviour. For example, if your approach is to only give positive reinforcement when somebody on your team wins or loses a deal, you are totally missing out in terms of the impact that you could achieve. How about reinforcement when somebody makes a great first call, when somebody writes a cool email, when somebody finally gets a hard meeting, or performs a great negotiation…
  6. From reinforcing to learning: include the why. When reinforcing a behaviour include specific feedback in the form of a question: Do you know why I’m reinforcing this behaviour? (or congratulating you?), In the form of a statement:: I’m congratulating you because this and that. Including the why in your reinforcement, and being clear and specific is what will make it stick. Remember that people who have the most impact in our lives are the ones that teach us something, or help us learn things.
  7. Don’t be so naive that you think you don’t need to keep a log on this. Track and document progress of individuals, learn from what you do, this is fantastic material for decision making, for performance reviews (including yours), for onboarding processes, for team-building activities and brainstorming, and definitely for making a strong and positive impact in your team. Oops, if you think keeping a log is too much work, it is too time consuming, or it won’t pay off, you are totally missing out, or you are a bit too much in the evidence only learner, right? ” I have not seen this work, hence I don’t think it works”. If that is the case,  it will be great if you risk it, take a leap of faith, embrace testing (we call it lean these days), and give it a chance. Its about yours and your team success.


Try it, practice and iterate, make it yours… coach your team to the top and good selling, great customer onboarding, and success!

By the way, this article is about Revenue, and Revenue Generation, and we’re discussing a business model here.

Want to go deeper on this topic? connect with these:

Your Phone is your most important sales tool

Build a real success story to accelerate deals