Becoming a Better Sales Coach

January 31, 2018 Tony Troussov

The author's views are entirely his or her own and may not always reflect the views of Dealertrack.

By Tony Troussov, CSP™


When you think about the world of any manager, things change rather quickly.  In this competitive environment, talent development becomes much more important than ever before.  Driving better results involves changing mindsets, attitudes, habits and ultimately behaviors. To do so, you need to focus on improving your coaching skills. 

The word coaching has often been misused.  In many cases activities that did not fit the description were labeled as coaching.  So what is coaching?  The quick history tells us the word came from the word “coach”.  No, not the purse brand, but the actual carriage with a horse.    It was the fastest mode of transportation in the eighteen hundreds.  To expedite learning and bridge the knowledge gap people used coaches or tutors to help them gain that knowledge quicker.  Another way to look at what coaching is - is to understand what it is not.  It is not – training, mentoring, consulting, counseling or a therapy.  In addition, unlike athletic coaching, which utilize the “telling” approach,  performance improvement coaching uses questioning and reflecting to help individuals gain insight to improve their performance.  It involves helping people change perspectives and ultimately change behaviors to improve results.  With that in mind, there are five characteristics of great athletic coaches that does apply. 


#1 - Great coaches recognize talent.  Being good at reading people is an important part of being a coach.  Recognizing someone’s abilities and seeing them cast in the right position is important for capabilities development.  But just because someone has a talent or great potential, it does not mean they will utilize it or reach it.  Best coaches help individuals recognize it on their own and show the path to get there.   It takes experience to recognize a talent, but it takes knowledge and right approach to help people recognize their own talent and achieve their potential. 


#2Great coaches believe in their people.  This one can be a tough one for some, but it is essential to performance coaching.  If you are about to coach someone, you better believe they have an ability to change and they can change.  Otherwise, you will telegraph it like a bad move in boxing.  You may be able to fool someone once, but in the long-term they will read your moves and see your insincerity.  To avoid breaking rapport, it is better you let someone else work with an individual that you have little or no faith in. 


#3 Great coaches have a system.  Athletic coaches have their own approach and methodology they use to drive better results and great coaches perfect their system.  This sounds simple, yet it is very hard for people to wrap their heads around.  When it comes to performance coaching you have to be methodical on how you work with people to help them change their behavior.  You’ll learn some approaches in this article.


#4 – Great coaches grow their people.  That is the goal.  You cannot get better results through unchanged people. Better results will be an outcome of an individual’s performance improvement.  This is why growing people is your goal as a coach.   To do that, focus on changing mindsets, attitudes and behaviors, versus harping on changing results.  Results will be the outcome of changes they were coached on. 


#5 – Great coaches stay in the shadows.  When it is all said and done, let people celebrate their victories.  Let their results speak for themselves and reflect on how good of a coach you have become.  This will go long ways.  To get there consider utilizing a proactive coaching system, which consists of three steps – prepare, deliver and follow-up.  

Prepare – since coaching involves helping someone change their mindsets and behaviors, its only appropriate to make sure you are prepared to hold a more structured conversation.  This means you must take time to prepare yourself and the person you’ll be coaching.  Part of this preparation is taking a quick assessment of individual readiness to change.  Here are few questions to consider.  Do I have the right data?  Does the data supports the need to change mindsets and behaviors?  Can the person do it?  Meaning, can they execute the task differently than they are doing it now?  Do they want to do it?  If they can, but don’t want to, you may have a more challenging conversation.  Working together, can we make it happen?  In other words, are you the right person to help them see things differently, or do they need to work with someone else?  Since, people can easily become defensive and tune you out, the most important thing you can do is think of ways to eliminate their resistance.  How will I frame the conversation?  What is my intent?  People, become less defensive if they understand that your intent is to help them get better.  Proactively framing this before your coaching session will help them buy into your guidance.   Remember, this is not a grinding session where you are telling them what to do.  The way you frame the interaction will be the most important part of your preparation. 

Deliver -  Begin the conversation with expressing respect to this individual.  Keep in mind you’ll be focusing on one or two things at a time, so it is important to stay on course.  Early in conversation you need to gain their commitment to stick to things they can change vs. getting distracted and blame things they cannot control.  Frame and re-frame this over and over if needed.  It is all about communication.  In choosing the right words and structure of conversation think in terms of what they are trying to accomplish.  What is their goal?  What do they want to improve.  The only way people change behavior is when they see the benefit of doing so outweighs the steps they must take to get there.  What’s in it for them?  Remember, it’s all in the spirit of having you reach your goal and making you better.  Pay attention to your voice, tone and inflection.  To keep resistance low, stay away from Why? questions, instead utilize What? and How? questions.  Once their perspective has shifted, you need to get their commitment to change the behavior and establish the next step. 

Follow-up – Coaching is an ongoing process.  Track their performance, check-in often and celebrate their victories.  Keep the continuous improvement wheel turning by helping them expand their comfort zone.  What do they want to tackle next?  What skills they want to acquire or improve on?  When they see you are there to help them grow and earn more, they will be much more open to work with you. 


It is not hard to see how coaching can be an effective tool to grow your current business.   By applying the proactive coaching methodology you will gain more credibility and loyalty from the people you work with. 


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