It’s common knowledge that professional athletes who reach peak performance no longer need coaching, right?
Even top-performing athletes still have coaches because there’s always room for improvement. Coaches observe what athletes can’t see – athletes are too busy playing!
The same can be said for your sales team. Coaching helps your team members by boosting their confidence, improving their performance, and helping them see things they’re unable to see – they’re too busy selling!
But coaching isn’t always easy. If it were, we wouldn’t have Jim Mora’s famous “playoffs” rant or the iconic moment when Lou Piniella yanked up first base and heaved into right field. Coaching takes time, patience, and consistent dedication. Sometimes, you may even feel like you're running out of ideas to coach your team effectively.
If that happens, don't worry. We've got you covered. Here are six things you can start doing right now to better coach your sales team and help them reach their full potential.
1. Know Your Own Strengths
Sports teams have a multitude of coaches for a reason. A baseball team’s pitching coach probably isn’t going to walk into the batting cage and provide feedback to each hitter about their timing and bat speed. All positions, including coaches, require a unique set of strengths. When you’re aware of your strengths, you put yourself and the entire team in a position to succeed.
As a leader, the best way to understand your strengths is by completing a validated talent assessment built specifically for your job role. A strong assessment will provide you with information about your top talents, including strategies to help maximize them.
It’s also important to understand how others perceive your talents. If you have a strong talent of Persuasion with the ability to mobilize and motivate others past reluctance, but your team doesn’t see your talent in action, you clearly aren’t maximizing your potential.
Conducting a 360 survey that’s built specifically around your top talents is the best way to gain an understanding of the talents others see within you (in addition to those they may not be seeing). From there, you can put a clear and specific plan in place to grow your strengths.
2. Know each individual’s Strengths
The best coaches know their team’s strengths just as well as they know their own. When you focus on growing someone’s strengths, they have the potential to improve by up to ten times. Emphasizing weaknesses can actually be damaging – research shows it leads to disengaged employees. Trying to improve upon something you’re not naturally good at is frustrating and deflating. Continuing to improve upon something you’re naturally good at is confidence-building and energizing.
Each member of your team is unique so a one-size-fits-all approach will lead to failure. Instead, individualize your approach by taking the time to understand the strengths of each individual you’re coaching, recognize these strengths as you see them in action, and work together to set goals for growth. One of the most important parts of your job as a coach is helping others realize their potential.
3. Show You Care
It wasn’t long ago when leaders were cautioned not to “get too close” to the people they managed. It was believed that if you get too close, you would not only lose your objectivity, but you would lose your ability to have difficult conversations.
As it turns out, difficult conversations are actually more effective when you have a close relationship. These conversations fall flat when there’s a disconnect. Think about a time someone’s had to have a tough conversation with you – did the conversation land well if it was with someone you didn’t have a strong relationship with?
Probably not. When you’re close with someone, and you know they have your best interests at heart, these conversations are much more impactful.
The same is true with coaching. Build strong relationships with each of your team members. Understand their unique workstyles and remind yourself to exercise empathy often. A relationship-building tool, like the Growth Guide, can make a significant impact – even with those you may already be close with. When each member of your team feels genuinely cared for, they will take your input to heart and be better motivated to succeed.
4. Ask Open-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions encourage team members to think critically, reflect on their actions, and share their insights and opinions. Instead of asking, "Did you close the deal?" you might ask, "How did the meeting go? What are three things that went well? What is one thing you would change if you could do it over again?".
Take specific notes on the responses you receive and weave these items into your next conversation. Remind them of the things they’re continuing to do well and what they wished they’d done differently the last time. How did they alter their approach to achieve better results? By asking open-ended questions, you can help your direct reports discover their own strengths, learn from their mistakes, and find solutions to their problems.
5. Provide Effective Feedback
Feedback is essential in coaching. The best coaches actively participate in a team’s day-to-day actions and interactions. Getting out in the field, observing what’s really happening, and providing timely feedback is a difference maker. This is why you witness it happening during every sporting event.
Focus your feedback on positive behaviors. It’s much more helpful for someone to know what’s right, not what’s wrong. Letting someone know what they’re doing right and giving them feedback on those behaviors encourages them to repeat the behaviors. Instead of saying, “Great job,” share exactly what it was you witnessed that helped lead to success. It’s also important to provide your feedback as close to in-the-moment as possible, while the event is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
6. Share Your Vision
Last but certainly not least, effective coaches have a solid vision that gives people a sense of direction and the motivation to continue working hard. Where are you heading, how are you going to get there, and what important role does each person play?
Frequently remind your team why every play matters and provide appropriate recognition when they’ve taken a stride in the right direction. Each person is an individual contributor to the overall success of the team.
Bill Belichick once said, “Good players can’t overcome bad coaching.” Coaching isn’t easy, but it is something you can continually strive to improve upon.
Remember, coaching helps your team members by boosting their confidence, improving their performance, and helping them see things they’re unable to see – they’re too busy selling!