When you think about what the sales manager does for the salespeople they coach, essentially it should never be about telling, but about asking pertinent, searching questions that make them think about the best solution to a particular situation. This same questioning process should be the main focus when the salesperson meets with a prospective buyer, at any level. Lets review the sales coaching process.
The Coach should ask questions that challenge the salesperson to examine their performance and evaluate how they could improve. Importantly, they shouldn’t be framed as “What always worked for me was”, or “What I think you should do is”, rather the Coach should be focused specifically on what the needs of the salesperson are, at that point in time.
The questions should guide the salesperson to improved performance through self-discovery. You can’t just tell a salesperson what to do and how to do it; the best way to make them learn something new is to let them “self-discover”.
The questions should stretch the salesperson to find answers from their own logic, intuition and creativity. The Coach then sets goals and objectives that end with specific targets and plans of how to achieve them. This is an iterative process, concentrating on defining and achieving specific goals and continually refining them, learning both ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’.
This questioning process, which softly challenges the assumptions and established practices of the salesperson, is ideally the questioning process that the salesperson needs to adopt with their prospect. Too many times, however, salespeople fall into the ‘tell’ attitude.
If they sell software, such as databases, they may talk about how their database is better than competing systems, or why their technology is better than another. In the end this boils down to talking about how much better our products are, why they shouldn’t go with the competition and only asking questions that are self-serving and designed to push the prospect towards their solution. None of this is likely to establish credibility with the prospect.
The coaching process has been proven to work and work well with salespeople to improve their performance over time, by concentrating on how to achieve better results. In many situations this same ‘coaching style’ questioning process, which is non-threatening but challenging, is the ideal way to establish credibility with the prospect and become a trusted advisor.
Most salespeople need constant reminding of the right type of questions to ask, at the right time and specific to the role of the person they are meeting. Technology now gives us the opportunity to arm our salespeople with interactive software that can pro-actively ‘coach’ them to coaching the prospect, rather than falling back on telling the prospect. This pro-active coaching should also help establish their differentials early in the qualification process as well as much more effectively qualify out prospects that are not targets for their solutions, so they can spend more time on to ones that are.