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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

How to Set the Right Expectations When Coaching Salespeople

How_to_Set_the_Right_Expectations_When_Coaching_SalespeopleI knew it was going to be a bad day when my alarm clock didn’t go off (I’d set it for p.m. instead of a.m. the night before). Then I forgot my toast in the toaster oven, and it caught fire. I put out the flame right away, and no damage was done, but the house smelled terrible.

I should have just stayed in bed because we all know that when you go into a situation knowing it’s going to go south, it usually does.

Luckily, the reverse holds true as well. Just yesterday, I woke up early, got the kids dressed and off to school on time, and made it to the gym before work. I knew it was it was going to be a good day, and it was. We each prove the whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing every day, don’t we?

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
-Henry Ford

When you go into a situation believing you will do well, chances are you probably will. And if you go in believing you will fail, you’re probably right about that, too.

As a manager you have the power to change someone’s performance by changing your and their expectations. Your actions toward your salespeople influence their belief in themselves, and ultimately their behavior.

You may not even realize it, but you are setting expectations all the time, in everything you do and don’t do. It’s an amazing power to have because you can have a positive impact on the lives of each person you manage.

The secret to setting the right expectations for people starts with talent. Each individual brings a unique set of talents to the table, and what you expect of them should be based on their strengths. 

Set expectations around talent. You can expect America’s sweetheart snowboarder Kaitlyn Farrington to bring home a gold medal in the Winter Olympics because she has the talent. She’s a natural on a snowboard! If you set that expectation for me, it would be devastating because I will never be able to achieve it. I’m terrible on a snowboard and I’m afraid of heights, so there’s no way I’m flipping around in the air!  Did I mention I also really don’t like being cold? To set the right expectation, you have to get to know the talents of each person on your team. What are their strengths? What comes naturally to them? By identifying talent—what’s easy for them, what’s reachable for them, what’s just not—you know when to challenge them, push them, and expect more from them.

3 Steps for Turning Expectation into Reality

Create the right mood.

You communicate expectations (both verbally and non-verbally!) in the office. Think about the mood you are creating and the message you are sending through your tone of voice, eye contact, and body language. When you smile more, look people in the eye, and have open body posture, you communicate your confidence in their ability to perform, and they believe they can achieve their goals. Uncross your arms, maintain eye contact, and give that person your full attention when you are talking with them. 

Establish an educational environment.

Teach, train, and coach your salespeople. Provide plenty of information and resources so they feel informed, like they have an edge in the market and never feel out of the loop. Conduct role-playing exercises during sales meetings, schedule brainstorming sessions, and encourage everyone to share ideas, opinions, and success stories. The more you invest in your team, the more they will want to perform for you.

Provide feedback on performance.

Recognizing their big accomplishments and celebrating their wins is crucial, but it’s not enough. Remember to praise your salespeople often, and let them know what they are doing right each step of the way, not just when they cross the finish line. When you give frequent, consistent, specific, and positive feedback on performance, you set the expectation that you believe in them, they are on the right track, and you want them to succeed.

If you expect someone on your team to consistently grow in an area of weakness, they will likely feel discouraged and defeated… and your expectations will be dashed. Try not to focus on weaknesses and what people cannot do, but instead set expectations around strengths.  You will propel them to reach new heights and become the catalyst for their greater achievements. You might be amazed by what you see, and you will definitely have a positive impact on performance.

Learn more about coaching salespeople! Download "30 Ways to turn talent into performance" below.

Download  30 Ways to Turn Talent into Performance