Coaching for Growth: Creating Buy-In for Reps
LEADERSHIP/MANAGEMENT DEVELOPMENT – By Gus Prestera, Ph.D.
Here are three things you could do differently in your next coaching conversation.
Engagement surveys, exit interviews and research consistently tell us that sales reps want their sales managers and field trainers to engage with them in coaching conversations. And yet, many coaches complain that their reps are resistant. Perhaps some of that variance relates to the coaching technique being used.
The Right Approach
A common misstep is to take a directive, problem-solving approach to coaching conversations. The coach’s focus tends to be on delivering constructive feedback and suggestions. For example: “You aren’t being assertive enough with your close. Try being more direct and make sure you leave with a commitment to next steps.”
This type of approach is often seen as judgmental, making reps feel that they are the problem that needs solving, putting them on the defensive. It also gets reps into the habit of being passive recipients of feedback rather than active agents for their own professional growth. That can inhibit them from developing their own internal drive for excellence, which is counterproductive when building a high-powered sales team.
The best coaches excel at getting buy-in from their reps. To accomplish that, they tend to do more asking and less telling. They judge less and listen more. They engage in the conversation to help their reps reflect on their own performance and professional development rather than to solve a problem for them. They are in the growth business, not the cloning business.
Here are three things you could do differently in your next coaching conversation:
- Instead of laying out your coaching goals up front, ask the rep what their goals are and what coaching support they would like from you. Wait for an answer.
- Instead of trying to solve what you see as their problem, use questions to guide your rep through a critical thinking process toward their own conclusion, so that they truly own the problem and their action items.
- Follow up with them about their action items, asking what progress they’ve made, what results they’re seeing, what challenges they’re encountering, and how they will continue to build on their success.
Try one or all three of these with your next coaching interaction and see if it makes a difference. When in doubt, come back to the default question, “What do you think?” That will keep your rep in the hot seat, encouraging them to think critically and take ownership.
When you offer your own ideas, it’s because the rep has exhausted their ideas and truly needs your help.
That’s when they are most receptive, so be ready to drop your pearl of wisdom at the right time.
Sales managers tend to be action-oriented problem solvers, which can make it difficult for them to adopt a more participative style of coaching, but the ones who flip the table and encourage their reps to think for themselves end up with a sales team that is actively engaged in their professional growth.
Gus Prestera, Ph.D., is an organizational effectiveness consultant, educator and coach with Prestera FX. Email Gus at firstname.lastname@example.org.