Coaching Your Sales Team to Success

Most managers don’t have the time to catch up with every member of their team on a regular basis or fit in a bit of one-to-one coaching – and when they do – it’s usually the “I need you to go in this direction” kind of talk, rather than a “How can we do this even better” conversation.

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In last week’s post – What to Do When Members of Your Sales Team Fall Behind – I promised I’d include a free template sheet and give you a little more detail with regards to a coaching strategy – which would (in most cases) stop you from ever having to prepare for the “Where’s it all gone wrong” chat.

You see, here’s the thing that most people don’t want to talk about – many of the big personnel problems that sales managers regularly deal with – actually stem from a lack of coaching by the management team.

In fact I reckon around 20% of all your headaches could actually disappear completely, if you’d just spend as little as one hour per week working the simple formula detailed below into your schedule.

First of all, bear with me briefly while I give everything a little context.

Whenever I talk about management, I always refer to my management training model – FAME; Focus; Accountability; Motivation & Education.

As a quick overview;

FOCUS makes us ask – WHAT – as in “What jobs need doing?”

ACCOUNTABILITY makes us ask – WHO – as in “Whose job is it?”

MOTIVATION answers the question – WHY – as in “Why is this job worth doing?”

But it’s the “E– EDUCATION that answers the question – HOW – as in “How does this job get done with spectacular results?”

And it’s at that point when coaching steps proudly into the spotlight.

Recognition is Curative

I first picked up the phrase “Recognition is Curative” from Myles Downey’s book Effective Coaching.

You see coaching actually has very little to do with giving your team the information and help they need – a statement which is really tough for most managers to get their heads around.

Your role as coach is to help your team find the answers themselves and develop their own problem solving skills (see the article When Will You Sales Team Start Thinking for Themselves for more details).

Let me ask you this – Would you be helping a baby to walk unaided if you never took away the four wheeled activity chair? Yes she would stay upright and be able to move about on flat surfaces – but certain muscles would never be stretched, skills wouldn’t be learned – learning to walk correctly would happen in the fleeting moments away from the chair, not in it.

And in the same way, salespeople can’t reach their full potential if they’re never given the chance to think things through for themselves (nb: that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll always want to make the effort or try ).

Give It Some Structure

Even though you shouldn’t take control of the coaching conversation – that’s the job of the person you’re coaching – you still have to make the experience effective for both of you, which is why it’s important that you have some element of structure to your input.

The acronym GROW is widely used to give coaching conversations some level of framework – but be warned – initially, this can feel clumsy and uncomfortable for both the coach and the salesperson.


And without any formal coaching training, managers tend to simply read the acronym and then have this kind of chat with each member of the sales team;

(Goal) “So what’s your current target ?” (Reality) “OK, and where are you up to with that?” (Options) “Oh dear, how are you going to make those numbers up then?” (Wrap Up) “Good, I’m glad we had this time to catch up, let me know how you get on!”

So, as promised, here’s a preparation template (click the link) – but strangely enough, it’s not a template to help you prepare – it’s for each member of your sales team.

As you read through it, you might think that this kind of conversation is the type that you have all the time with your team – and maybe you do – however, without this level of structure and prep;

  • The members of your sales team aren’t ready with answers that will eventually be helpful to both of you
  • You miss out huge chunks every now and then because they might seem a little too obvious or feel uncomfortable (especially with seasoned veterans)
  • There’s never a record to follow as a guide or review next time – apart from at appraisal time.

The directions to make this work are laid out clearly and simply on the document;

  • You just get your team to work through the questions for ten minutes (no more) the day before you call / meet
  • They send you an email with the answers they feel are most appropriate to the discussion, they’d like to have.

Don’t let them stretch it out pointlessly just to have something to say – it’s all about focusing on the parts that are the most important to them right now.

Mae sure however that you touch on each and every part during your coaching time.

Do It Weekly

Woah – did you feel that then? I just lost half the people reading this article simply by mentioning doing this on a weekly basis.

“Weekly? Are you mad? Do you any idea how busy I am?”

Yes I do – and I also know what it is you’re busy with and the kind of things you’re stressed out about.

If your team has up to ten direct reports in it (which really is as big a team as anyone can keep an eye on), then it’s not so tough to work in a 15 minute phone call with each of them once a week (30 minutes of your time – daily).

Interestingly many sales managers will quite happily tell you that the one thing they haven’t got time to do is manage the success of their team – or spend thirty minutes a day getting to grips with where they are up to, the numbers involved or the actions needing to be taken – which (equally as interestingly) isn’t an excuse anyone would accept from the accounts department, logistics or production.

However – if once a week really isn’t possible – then I’d always suggest 2 sessions per month for each member of your team; One at the beginning to clear the path ahead of any distractions or unnecessary debris – and then one in the middle of the month to make sure everything is heading in the direction you hoped for.

Last point – please try to remember that this isn’t about micro-managing – this is coaching.

If you treat it as a control exercise it becomes pointless and demotivating.

Approach your coaching sessions as fifteen minutes of you trying to help.

Encourage and guide as and when you’re invited to do so – ask questions 20% of the time, listen to them 80% of the time and pay attention 100% of the time – the designate proper sessions to give advice, develop and train – and see how much daily stress disappears for absolutely everyone involved.


Interested in finding out more?


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Our Sales Management Open Workshops show you how to piece together the four main elements of successfully managing a team – Focus; Accountability; Motivation; Education – and show you how to get the best out of everyone involved.


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