The following is a post by our colleague Don Oylear. From time to time, we'll highlight great advice from our peers. Find out more about Don at the end of this piece, and contact us if you'd like to post something!
You’ve hired top talent, and you’ve trained them up on best sales practices. They know your products inside and out. You’ve role-played until you can no longer stump them, but something is missing. What is that?
The answer is Field Coaching: Watching salespeople in action in front of real clients who hit back and fire live ammunition is the critical step in developing your salespeople. Your salespeople may not be the LeBron James or Tiger Woods of their field, but if they have the basic talent to succeed in the job, then with a little coaching, they could become great.
Here are the best steps to ensure outstanding Field Coaching experiences for both the Sales Manager and the Seller:
1. Plan in Advance
Get a Field Coaching schedule out to your sales staff a few weeks in advance. It can be a Field Coaching day of the week or half days, so long as your staff knows well ahead of time when they are scheduled and can plan for it. You should expect to spend 3 to 4 hours with the salesperson and their clients and prospects. Make sure your sellers know that they need to plan to conduct real sales calls while you shadow them, not just friendly conversations… or else you’ll assume all they ever do out there is have friendly conversations!
During your prior weekly Focus Meeting with the salesperson, discuss the who, what, where, and why of the calls you will make with them. Reinforce ahead of time that this is an observation and training opportunity. Ask about his or her objective for each client.
3. Set the Stage
Determine ahead of time how your presence on the call is to be explained to the client. Training is usually not the best reason to provide to the client; most managers explain that they like to meet clients from time to time and hear their needs. This gives the seller the wide berth to establish himself or herself as the point person on the call.
4. The Calls
While on the way to each call, review the plan with your seller and reinforce your observer role. During the call take notes, but don’t draw attention to yourself. Avoid the urge to take over the call. Remember, you are observing. Interject only if the salesperson is drowning. If the client tries to interact with you, turn to the salesperson and ask them to respond.
5. Let the Coaching Begin
After the calls, find a comfortable place to debrief and start with a general discussion of the day and each of the calls. Don’t rush the review. Ask a lot of good questions and place the control of the evaluation in the hands of the seller. Ask what went well. Ask again. Ask one more time. Ask what they felt really good about during that call. Ask what they might have done differently. Use your notes to reinforce all of the good things that happened during the calls. Recognize and reinforce the things the salesperson has done right. Recognition for things done right should receive more attention than the areas you need to correct. Remember, you can’t fix deficiencies, but you do want to reinforce behaviors that you want to see more of in the future. As you think about what to praise and what to correct, keep the seller’s greatest talents in mind. Set ever-increasing expectations of their accomplishment related to a strength and rely on their strengths to find ways to work around their weaknesses. Establish goals for improvement. Wrap up the discussion of each by comparing the outcome with the objectives the seller had set.
6. Be Consistent
Your people will “compare notes” on their Field Coaching experiences. Make sure every session and recap is a positive learning experience for your sellers. Use an ongoing Field Coaching Plan for each salesperson and build on your seller’s talents from one Field Coaching Day to the next.
Managers are never more effective than when they’re in the field with their people, not selling, but helping each of their salespeople grow their talent, their business, and ultimately the bottom line.
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About the Author:
Don Oylear is a broadcast veteran whose career includes management and sales management roles in both Radio and Television. He has worked in large and small markets and is currently a General Manager for Townsquare Media.