In my opinion, coaching is one of the best ways to tap into the potential of your team members.
If you have coached teams or individuals before, you’ll know the value of devoting time and effort to improving someone’s performance and allowing them to find their ‘best self’ when experiencing something from which they can grow.
If you haven’t coached before, you’ll find it easy to gain momentum and drive in people when you start advocating personal and professional development through coaching. Having Sales Coaching tips and techniques at your disposal will certainly help when you are considering the performance of your sales teams or individuals
An introduction into sales coaching models
If you have studied coaching before, you will no doubt have seen and come across effective coaching models that have stood the test of time and been successful to greater or lesser degrees.
The model most coaches have heard of and utilised was the GROW model, which has become the heavyweight champion of the world when it comes to coaching models, but there are a few others.
The purpose of this blog is to also look at other types of coaching models and techniques and see if they resonate more with you. The actual model you use could depend on a number of factors, for example:
How many people you are coaching (individual or team)
The circumstances people are facing when you are coaching them
Whether the people have experienced coaching before or not
How competent people are in the skillsets you are coaching
How competent you are in the subject matter you are coaching
The relationship you have with the people you coach
How much time you have to coach people
How you are going to measure the results of any coaching
The acceptance people have of a particular model
Different types of coaching models will get better results than others, depending on the type of person you are coaching and what results you are expecting. We will discuss sales coaching models and include tips for sales coaching that you can use when appropriate.
First, there was GROW…
As mentioned above, we can’t cover any blog on sales coaching models without covering GROW. If you haven’t heard of it, it had its origins in sports coaching, which seems pretty obvious when you think of coaching’s origins in the business world.
Tim Gallwey’s book ‘The Inner Game of Tennis’ published in 1974, developed the notion that coaching was less of the coach ‘telling’ the person how to play, and more on the idea of creating a clear vision and structure for the player to adopt, and getting them to come up with the answers themselves through skilful questioningtechniques.
Sir John Whitmore saw the value of the coaching technique and applying it in a business setting, in his seminal book ‘Coaching for Performance’, published in 1992.
Whitmore and Graham Alexander developed the concept and it can be inaugurated into many sales coaching situations, with the technique lending itself to most people’s understanding of progress and development.
Different types of coaching models to use…
GROW is certainly a sales coaching model and technique that gets mentioned many times in Sales Courses. The acronym GROW stands for:
GOAL: The measurable end result that the person is aiming for
An example might be ‘Achieve 110% of sales target by the end of the next quarter, while maintaining a net profit of above X%’
The goal needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and with a time-bound component.
REALITY: The current position the person or team is experiencing
This tells you where they are now, so the gap can be measured appropriately, and plans can be made to achieve the end goa
An example might be ‘After 5 weeks of this quarter, we are at 80% of sales target, and bringing in net profit of Y%’
OBSTACLES/OPTIONS: Either 1) The obstacles faced in achieving the goal; or 2) The options that can be utilised to achieve the goal
You can either develop techniques and skills to overcome any obstacles faced on the journey to the end goal, or discuss the options that will enable you to build momentum in going forward.
WAY FORWARD: Actions the coachee will carry out to achieve the end goal
An example might be: ‘Increase prospect calls from 2 every day to 6 every day, follow up on interest within 30 minutes of the email or call coming in, make contact with 10 ex-customers who haven’t bought for over two years’, etc, etc.
As a sales coaching technique, the GROW model is well established and has been used in various settings within sales and other business units, mainly because of its simplicity and application in various settings
The GROW Coaching Model – Whitmore and Alexander 1992
German psychologist Gabriele Oettingen developed a coaching theory based on how people are impacted by cognition, emotion and behaviour.
Her model can be used as a sales coaching technique, as it looks primarily at creating ‘cognitive dissonance’ with the coachee, by focusing on what she terms ‘mental contrasting’
In the WOOP model, the coach concentrates on the mental contrast between where the coachee is now and where they want to be to achieve future goals. This dissonance is the prime motivator for the person building momentum to achieve the goal(s).
WOOP is an acronym for:
What the person hopes to achieve in the future
The measurable goals that will be achieved when the ‘wish’ is obtained
What the person has to overcome to achieve the end goals
The route to be taken to achieve the end goals
There are similarities to the GROW model, but Oettingen’s model concentrates more on looking at people’s career wishes and then identifying the support mechanisms that can build the route to success
“WOOP: a scientific strategy to find and fulfil wishes”. Gabriele Oettingen. July 2014.
Developed by Peter Hawkins in the 1980’s, his acronym centres on a five-point strategy that develops areas where GROW falls short. This sales coaching model consists of:
CONTRACTING: Sounding more formal than it actually is, this stage opens up discussions, identifying how the coach and coachee will work together to achieve goals
LISTENING: Active and empathetic listening plays a vital part in any coaching sessions, and a coach must throw off all judgement and listen deeply and intensely to what’s being said (and not said) in the discussions
EXPLORATION: By listening actively, the coach uncovers many areas that can be built upon. As a coach, you can help the coachee explore what options they can find to get from point A to point B, and also look at what the effect any changes may have on the performance of the salesperson themselves.
ACTION: Similar to GROW’s ‘Way Forward’, this part discusses what opportunities the salesperson may take on the journey to achieving the end goals. It can start with the big picture and then narrow down to the specific steps they will take
REVIEW: This can be done after each session, and also at the end of the performance period. The review, like all stages of this specific sales coaching technique, should centre around what the salesperson themselves hoped to achieve and get their response and feedback on what they could do better and how they can develop.
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4) SOLUTION-FOCUSED MODEL
As you might expect, this sales coaching model concentrates on discussing solutions with the salesperson, rather than emphasising the problems currently being encountered.
The premise is that, if an end destination can be clearly envisaged, the journey can then be constructed. The discussion process carried out by the coach utilises ‘present-tense’ language that assumes the goal has already been achieved, and ‘past-tense’ language when the discussion centres on any problems. Hence, the brain is ‘tricked’ into thinking the solution has already been achieved, and the review is looking back at what had to happen to get there.
This sales coaching technique concentrates on three main components:
a) SYSTEMIC QUESTIONS: These emphasise the differences that will have been noticed when achieving the goals. You could concentrate on the actions taken to achieve success (What did you actually do to get the goal?) or the resources needed to get there (What did you need from me to achieve the goal?).
The purpose is to get the salesperson to look backwards, as if the goal had already been obtained. This backwards-facing initiative helps them build confidence in the actions they are taking.
b) SCALING: Here, you analyse where the person is now, differentiating it with where they want to be.
The purpose is to measure the different states they will be in when the goals have been achieved, compared to how they would measure themselves now.
An example would be:
Coach: On a scale of 1-10, where would you consider you are capable of being in your prospecting skills?
Salesperson: I’d like to get to a ‘9’
Coach: OK, and what would you be experiencing when you get to a ‘9’? What would it look like?
Salesperson: I would be preparing for every call, getting all the background knowledge available of the company and person I am calling, then I would have the confidence to make the call and deal with any objection that comes my way, along with having real value to the prospect on every call, so the obvious next step for the buyer is to go to the next step with us.
Coach: Sounds good! So, on that same scale of 1-10, where do you consider yourself now, and why?
Salesperson: I would say I’m at a ‘4’ because I don’t plan well enough and I don’t know how to deal with all the negatives that might come back when I make prospecting calls.
Coach: Right. So, let’s look at what we can do to go from a ‘4’ to a ‘9’.
This ‘scaling’ helps the salesperson to identify the differences between the ‘now’ state and the ‘future’ state, and the coach can formulate systemic questions to help the salesperson determine the route to get from here to there.
c) IMAGINATION: Most sales coaching models allow the salesperson to think of options and possibilities to achieve the end goals. The Solution focused model actually includes it as a step in the process.
Here, the coach uses quality questioning technique to get the salesperson to identify what would be different if the goal was achieved. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Miracle’ stage, the coach asks the salesperson to imagine everything is now achieved.
Questions that elicit this state of mind can include:
“What will you notice is different about things?”
“What would your reaction be to achieving those goals?”
“Who else would be affected?”
“What would their response be?”
“How will you measure the success of the project?”
You’ll notice that these questions ask the salesperson to think ahead and use their imagination to answer them. The point is that the person’s mindset has to be in the positive frame, referencing what has happened ‘as if’ it already had.
This process enables the brain to use its creative flow, as we cannot tell the difference between that which is actually experienced and that which is graphically and clearly imagined.
What this means is the brain can tap into its resources to creatively and imaginatively determine what steps need to be taken to achieve the goal. It can then be rapidly applied in real life, with plans created to set the journey in motion.
How will we know we are utilising this sales coaching model to the best effect? Well, you’ll find the coach starts to ask more questions like “How can we change things to make us more effective?”, instead of “What have we been doing wrong?”. We’ll be asking “How can we offer more value to our customers in the next quarter?” rather than “What discounts have been offering to get the business?”
These solution-focused questions get salespeople to look at ideas from different perspectives, and it creates less judgement and more creative alliances, as we work together to build effective results.
Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Centre, (Steve De Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, Yvonne Dolan, 1978)
5) AOR Model
This sales coaching technique is different from previously discussed ones, in that it doesn’t rely on predetermined goals to kick it off, and often depends on a trial and error approach. The letters stand for:
ACTIVITIES OBJECTIVES RESULTS
It works well when you know what activities the salesperson has previously carried out and what results they have been achieving.
You can then identify where time needs to be spent and if those activities need to be evolved or adapted to check out the new markets that may be emerging for you.
Activities may include: Cold calling by phone, analysis of LinkedIn accounts, Facebook ads, Instagram posts, email campaigns, focus on repeat business from existing clients, etc.
Objectives may include: 50 cold calls per day, 10 LinkedIn accounts contacted daily, 1000 ads opened per week on Facebook, 3 extra orders per week from existing clients, etc.
Results may include: Higher referral rates, higher profits per sale, greater margins, quicker turnarounds, lower rates of deferred payments, increasing revenues, higher sales per customer, etc.
The interesting thing about this sales coaching model is it can be seen as a continuous and frequent process, rather than once a month or less often. You can use this as a competitive process throughout the team, allowing members to check out how they are doing in their activities versus their team mates, along with a quick-fire measurement of results as they are attained.
Pacesetting coaches tend to like this model, as they can adapt and evolve it as necessary when they want their team to change activities or alter objectives. It lends itself to ‘in-the-moment’ coaching and allows for fast turnarounds when necessary.
6) FUEL Coaching model
Another useful addition to the list of sales coaching models is the ‘Fuel’ model.
Again an acronym, this one stands for:
FRAME the Conversation UNDERSTAND the Current State EXPLORE the Desired state LAY OUT a Success Plan
This model enables the coach to ask non-leading and deep-thinking questions of the salesperson, letting them think through the situations, assess their own solutions to the issues encountered and take full responsibility for taking the actions to achieve the goals.
a) In Framing the conversation, the coach sets the scene and the layout of what’s going to be discussed. The purpose is agreed, and the whole timeframe is determined for what’s going to happen.
Ideas like “What I’d like to accomplish here is…” and “What we can achieve in the next half hour is….” would be examples of framing the conversation
b) Understanding the current state is similar to the ‘reality’ part of the GROW model, in that it assesses the position the salesperson is at the moment, possibly creating some dissonance between current state and future state.
Ideas like ‘How do you see what’s happening at the moment?’ and ‘Where do you think improvements can be made?’ are examples of understanding the current state.
c) When we Explore the Desired State, we get the salesperson to identify the preferred situation in the future. They need to show imagination, mixed with reality of expectation, to decide what they would like to achieve, so your questions would be similar to:
‘How will you know you’ve achieved the end goal?’
‘What might be some of the obstacles you will face?’
‘What resources will you need to get the results you want?’
d) Layout a Success Plan involves taking the results of the discussions from the previous three stages and identifying the routes that could be taken to achieve them.
The salesperson will start taking responsibility for the next stages as they come up with ideas that will enable them to start and continue the journey.
Assisting them will be questions like ‘What time frames will you be working to?’ and ‘How will you measure your successes on the journey?’
Different dimensions are encountered in each of the four steps of FUEL, and you can ask deeper questions to get the salesperson to think at deeper levels and start accepting that responsibility to evolve their skillsets.
“The Extraordinary Coach: How the best leaders help others to grow”
John Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett
Useful sales coaching books
Here’s a selection of sales coaching books that we feel would be useful additions to your library. If you can’t attend any Sales Management Training to improve your skills then these resources will be useful back up for you.
Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions: A Tactical Playbook for Managers and Executives, by Keith Rosen
A free-flowing book that looks to turn your team into champions
Coaching Winning Sales Teams: Insights from the World of Sport and Business
by Tim Chapman, Lynn Pickford, et al
The Ultimate Sales Manager Playbook: Becoming a Successful Sales Leader
by Bill Zipp
Leaders Build Business: Effectively Mentor & Coach Your Sales Team
by Adella Pasos
Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-In
by Brett Bartholomew
Which sales coaching model should you use?
Let’s take a look back at some of the models we have discussed and determine the pros and cons of each. You can then decide which sales coaching model would be most effective for you to use with your sales team.
Good framework to follow – stops any session becoming an aimless chat
Can be used for both individual and team coaching sessions
Flexible discussion points, allowing for good interpersonal session
Easy structure to follow
Easy to measure results
Sticking rigidly to the format may cause you to miss specific areas of concern for the coachee
There may not be any specific action the salesperson can take, so the session may peter out
May seem too structured for many, not allowing for open discussion
Sometimes it needs to start with current reality rather than setting goals, so can appear to be mis-aligned with reality
Straightforward and easy to follow in discussions
Can formulate plans along with the stages and steps to follow
The Wish stage is often overlooked in other models
The planning stage can help salespeople to work on what they can control
Not as structured as some coaches require
Possible some salespeople won’t know the answers to some of the stages
Not specific enough for some sales managers to enable measured achievement
The model is clear and can be adjusted to suit the personalities of many salespeople
By accentuating listening skills, the model allows for adaptation and variability of many sessions, driven by the whole concept of progress and development
The exploration stage creates opportunities for salespeople to take control and personal responsibility for results
Some may feel that ‘contracting’ is not necessary and may hold back if there are issues that need to be covered
Coach needs active listening skills, which can be the Achilles heel for some
The whole process may be too time consuming to elicit good results
Discussions are actively centred around solutions, rather than focusing on problems
Goal oriented and short-term discussions can save time and effort
The salesperson becomes the problem-solver
The speed of response sometimes means salespeople gloss over obstacles and issues, in favour of finding solutions
Sometimes, the solution oriented discussions may miss some of the issues that would cause underlying issues to be missed
It’s activity based, so it emphasises the actions that need to take place
The objectives can be personalised to every salesperson, so it is specifically modelled to deal with issues encountered individually
Results can be easily measured and specifically focused upon
The main goals may be missed or misconstrued, as it’s prime aim is to focus on action
Other models are more formalised, and the lack of formality here may cause some to miss specific goals
Good framework that allows step-by-step approach
Framing the conversation provides clarity and purpose for discussions and longer-term projects
The exploration stage allows for deeper discussions and personalisation of processes for the individual concerned
Takes time to carry out completely so doesn’t lend itself to short-term or ‘in-the-moment’ discussions
Some salespeople may need a more structural approach
A formalised approach lessens the evolving interaction with salespeople, as coaches may stick obtrusively to the steps being taken
The sales coaching models and techniques we’ve discussed can create a great deal of camaraderie between sales teams and their managers, as the time taken for discussions can bring them closer together in the working relationship and allow for growth and development to be shared among all.
Which sales coaching model is chosen will depend on a number of factors, as discussed in the first section. Other factors you need to consider will be how deeply you want the salesperson to be involved in the coaching process and how confident you feel in developing your coaching prowess.
Remember that the whole purpose of coaching your team or team member is to help them take responsibility for the results they will achieve, so the main skillsets you need to develop are quality questioning and deep listening.
When you’ve established a close relationship with your team and decided which sales coaching model would be the most appropriate, you are then in a strong position to assist them in growing their skills, building a firm foundation for them taking personal responsibility and accountability for results and laying down a keen desire for them to learn from the coaching experience they will enjoy with you.
We wish you every success in coaching your sales team members to improved performance.