Sales coaching – critique vs. performance correction

Sales Coaching - Critique vs. Correction

Sales coaching – it’s easy to mistake critique for correction.  Sales coaching is all about helping sales people improve their performance skills.  Therefore, it is not just a matter of someone “knowing” something – it is about someone “doing” something.

Let’s sharpen the difference by listening in on a sales coaching session between a sales manager and their sales rep that’s following a sales call.  The sales manager correctly first listen to what the sales rep thought about the call and then said the following:

“Lee, great call and a good self-analysis.  I just have one build.  I noticed you did a lot of talking during the call.  My sense is we need to get the customer talking more.  One way to get at that is to ask more questions.  Let me put together some tips about that and we can review them when we are together tomorrow.”

Fair enough.  But the test is what happens after they review the tips.  Selling is a complex skill set.  Improving any skill requires knowing some things about the behavior but, more importantly, one needs to put that knowledge to work – practice and feedback are required.

So what should our sales coach do next?  For some guidance let’s turn to the world of sports.  If you were a basketball coach helping a young player get better at their foul shots, a first step would be some tips on important things like stance and their wrist action – the fundamentals.  The next step would be watching the player try 100 foul shots and giving feedback along the way.

Our sales coach could follow that example.  They could follow up the review of the tips on the asking questions by going out on two or there calls and just observe Lee using questions during the call and then provide her some feedback on how Lee did.

The point of our story is sales reps are not going to get better at a complex sales skill like asking questions by being told what to do, or by reading a book, regardless of how good that book is, or by watching others.  Are these steps helpful, sure?  But just knowing what the right things look like is not sufficient for doing things right.

Here are some additional blogs on sales coaching you might find helpful:

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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