Today, having a superior sales team is more important than ever. Good is no longer good enough. Several factors are driving this need for excellence. First, you can’t sustain a competitive advantage by product alone. Because of advanced manufacturing technologies and global competition, even if you have a great product, the competition is likely to come out with one that is just about as good (or sometimes better), in half the time. Next, customer expectations have changed—they expect salespeople to know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.

In order to develop a superior sales team, first, start with these sales coaching tips, as we explain in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

How does a company effectively, efficiently and affordably develop and sustain a high-performance sales team? Let’s start by examining two different models for sales coaching—a traditional one and one that is proving to be a more viable alternative.

Traditional Model. “I’m the expert—I’ll diagnose the deficiencies and suggest what you need to improve. You are responsible for learning what I suggest.”

Alternative Model. “I’m responsible for helping you become more aware of your performance and expand your learning choices. You are the one responsible for improving your performance.”

The alternative model is proving to be more effective because it is based on the notion that people are more likely to want to change behavior and to learn new stuff more effectively by guided self-discovery than by dictated assessment and tutorial prescription.

Given all the competing priorities, how does a dedicated sales manager implement this model in the field? Start with this simple list.

  • Determine coaching time available. Figure out the maximum time you have for coaching and stick to it. Most coaching fails not because it doesn’t work, but because it never happens.
  • Focus. You can’t coach everyone, on everything, all at once. So determine priorities as to whom to coach, on what.
  • Develop a shared goal. With the salesperson, determine which skills need coaching.
  • Set expectations. With the salesperson, set responsibilities for the coaching effort. What should the salesperson do to prepare for each and every coaching call?
  • Select safe opportunities. Determine which calls will be coaching calls. On some calls you need to help the rep sell. Fair enough. Select other “safer” calls where you let the rep handle the call, and you observe and coach post call.
  • Provide feedback right away. Don’t postpone the feedback-do it right after the call.
  • Set a next step. Agree who will do what between coaching opportunities but always do something.

Try these sales coaching tips with your team, and see the effect on your sales goals.

Source: For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer, founders of Sales Horizons, have worked Fortune 1000 companies including UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron to design and develop sales training programs. During his career, Ruff has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored Managing Major Sales, a book about sales management, Parlez-Vous Business, which helps salespeople integrate the language of business into the sales process, and Getting Partnering Right, a research-based work on best practices for forming strategic selling alliances.