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Performance Coaching – Just Like Selling A Deal

There are several different types of techniques when it comes to coaching. When you hear the words "performance coaching," you either jump for joy or cringe. Chances are it's the latter. This conversation isn't easy for either party involved, but it is one of the biggest misses for a leader. So here's how you can have a constructive performance coaching discussion. 

What is Performance Coaching?

Performance coaching is when a leader gives someone the tools, resources, and empowerment to help them reach their goals. It also involves coaching your salesperson’s behavior, setting clear expectations, and addressing issues when you see them instead of waiting for them to fester. When you use effective performance coaching, your team unlocks their potential to maximize their performance.

The Benefit of Performance Coaching

According to the Institute of Coaching, "Over 70% of individuals who receive coaching benefited from improved work performance, relationships and more effective communication skills." Other benefits could include: 

  • Empowering individuals and encouraging them to take responsibility
  • Increasing employee engagement
  • Improving individual and team performance
  • Helping identify both organizational and individual strengths and development opportunities
  • Addressing behavioral issues in a constructive and timely manner

The Controversy Around Performance Coaching

One common problem is that the sales leader may avoid having a constructive conversation or wait too long to have it. Many leaders go straight to a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). PIPs should be the last resort vs. the first one.

You want to give people opportunities to be successful and let them know where and how to improve. Many salespeople can be dismissed because sales leaders don't know how to have the conversation.

Often, performance coaching turns into deal coaching, an annual review, or an attack on the salesperson. Again, this stems from a lack of guidance and structure.

There are a few common reasons why people dislike performance coaching:

Infrequent Feedback

According to PwC, "60% of employees want feedback on a daily or weekly basis – for employees under 30, that figure stands at 72%." However, too often the leader, or sales leader in this case, doesn't provide their team with frequent enough coaching.

Lack of Follow-up

According to Forbes, "Day-to-day failure to follow through is costing managers long-term credibility with their employees." For example, a salesperson may have received some coaching in specific areas, but there was little follow-up. Following up with your team reinforces excellent performance and behavior and provides necessary feedback.

Vague Coaching

Leaders may make casual suggestions throughout the year, such as "that call didn't go well" or "you need to get your activity up." These are vague phrases that don't give clear direction on what the salesperson could actually improve on. This could also be the leader's attempt to soften their coaching or to avoid confrontation.

Performance coaching is an important part of being a leader, preparing for the conversation will help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make.

Structure the Conversation

The best way to have a conversation on performance is to ask questions to guide them through the understanding and impact before discussing options and planning to execute the right course of action.

Treat it Like a Sale

You would never have a salesperson start a deal with "this new gadget has this cool feature, and it does this, and it can do that, etc." Instead, you have your salesperson start with discovery.

Great discovery occurs when salespeople introduce conditions that the potential customer might not have thought about and tie those needs to a business impact.

Like good discovery, ask your salesperson good questions and listen. Uncover what is really happening. Help them to find a solution that works.

Here are some example questions you can ask:

What are you currently doing?

Take the individual back to the agreed-upon goals and activities. Make sure they understand what is expected of them and agree that they know it. Help them see and agree upon the goal of what they should be doing.

How are you doing it?

Understand why underperformance is happening. There are many reasons a salesperson could be underperforming, and simply telling them that you need them to do better will not help in most cases.

What is the impact?

Discuss the impact their underperformance will have on them, the team, and the company.

What can you do differently?

Discuss different alternatives that they can do to improve performance and meet goals. Have them generate ideas first to see what options they come up with. Be prepared to add to them if needed.

What will you do going forward?

Agree on which alternative(s) they will take, how they will execute them, and a timeline. 

Asking these questions will allow your salespeople to understand areas they need to strengthen. It also holds them accountable and sets them up for success with a plan.

In The End

Being prepared and staying positive when doing performance coaching with your salesperson is especially important if the individual is underperforming. It may be hard to stay positive if they are not meeting goals. It would be easy to ignore the issue or become negative, but neither is a good solution. So structure your conversations as you would doing good discovery and you’ll have a far better time understanding and helping your salesperson.

Do you need to have a difficult conversation with someone on your team? Call us and we will help you prepare and build out this framework to have a constructive and productive conversation.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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