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Sales Coaching: 4 Best Practices from the World of Sports

Posted in:  Sales and Marketing Management, Sales Enablement Strategy, Sales Training, Coaching, and Onboarding

What do sports teams, households, classrooms, and sales teams have in common? There’s a coach backing all of these teams who enables and motivates people to succeed. If you take a moment to think about it, you may begin to see coaches in almost every aspect of your life. Coaches can take the form of a parent, professor, mentor, The Voice, NFL head coach, sales manager, or even your friend.

From competing for my high school track team to my job here at Highspot as an account development representative, I attribute my growth, drive, and success to the individuals who have coached me: the coach who helped me perfect my form over the hurdle, and the coach who helped me close my first deal.

These coaches made a huge impact on me personally, and I’ve come to appreciate the skills with which they helped me develop. Coaching has been and always will be about helping your people experience meaningful progress and growth.

While the goal of coaching has remained the same over time, the style and pillars of sales coaching have evolved. In today’s workplace, you have employees that come from a plethora of backgrounds, experiences, education, and companies. So, how do you adapt your coaching to their needs?

Here are a few techniques I learned from my many coaches over the years, which have proven to be most effective in successful coaching:

1. Know Your People

People are unique. Spend time observing your team. What motivates them? How do they communicate?

Motivation is key for any team. It’s the catalyst for teams to go above and beyond their responsibilities. For sports, it is the idea of winning the game, taking home the trophy, being a part of something bigger than themselves. For a sales team, it can stem from monetary rewards, recognition, or career growth opportunities. Sales coaches can leverage 1:1 meetings to understand the sellers’ professional and personal goals. Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to dive deeper to uncover their intrinsic values and motivation.

Every individual has a specific way of expressing ideas. Success Signals by Rhonda Hilyer defines a simple approach to understanding communication styles. The book groups individuals under four color categories of communication.

  • Blue – the language of feelings
  • Brown – the language of commands
  • Green – the language of precision
  • Red – the language of creativity

People are a blend of these color categories. To communicate best, understand an individual’s method of communication and mirror their language. Not only will you and your team streamline processes, you will find more effective alignment between your goals.

2. Listen

The most successful sellers are ones who excel in the art of listening. They are the sellers who can internalize the idea their prospect or customer is conveying. They are the sellers who can go below the surface, and uncover deeper needs. They are the sellers who can put themselves in the customer’s shoes and can help guide them to a solution.

As a sales coach (or any kind of coach for that matter), you must be an active listener. As I mentioned earlier, you must mirror your seller’s language, and that first requires listening for it. Understand what their needs are, and how you can help them achieve their goals to be successful. Practice listening during your conversations on the floor or in 1:1 meetings by:

  • Asking questions whether they are to clarify or simply use the phrase “why” — don’t be afraid to dive deeper with secondary questions
  • Concentrate on what the seller is saying, restating the point, respond, and remember their idea (write it down!!)
  • Have patience — everything takes time
  • Ask for feedback about how can you become a better manager, mentor, and coach and what you can do to further help them progress

3. Offer Resources

In today’s workplace, employees are being stretched in 1,000 different directions. Therefore, you have to ensure that your sellers have resources and tools readily available when you are not. A good coach will tell their sellers about relevant resources and tools; a great coach will bring those resources right to the seller. Think back to being on the football field or basketball court as a kid — not only did the coach provide access to the facility or field, but they gave their team access to the plays, strategies, and even films to study what they did on the field and share strategies to be even more successful in their role.

As sellers, we go to our managers with questions or for resources. But what happens when they’re not there? Great sales coaches partner with their sales enablement teams to:

  • Set up playbooks to help guide sellers through specific selling scenarios. These playbooks can provide steps to starting a conversation about a product, or even how to handle an unexpected objection.
  • Ensure they have materials and resources readily available for access. Make it easy for them to find and save them the time and stress of having to dig through reams of papers or different sites to find what the tools they need.

Provide them with in-context coaching and ensure it’s easy to leverage, and they can practically start coaching themselves.

4. Be Yourself

Be transparent, over-communicate, and show that you care. These things will help you make meaningful connections with your sellers. You are a coach, and nothing should matter more than helping your people experience meaningful progress. Simple as that.

If you’re interested in reading more about sales coaching and sales enablement, download Best Practices in Sales Enablement: Put Your Sales Content to Work.