Selling Power Magazine Article

Play to Score
Heather Baldwin
Sales professionals are inundated with goals: quarterly sales goals, cold-calling targets, customer acquisition objectives – the list is endless. And that's a problem when it comes to coaching. There are so many targets to reach and sales skills to master that coaching conversations can very easily become diffused and consequently ineffective if coaches don't know how to zero in on the one or two things that truly matter to reps.

The relationship between goal setting and coaching is close. Both are essential to sales success, and both are most effective when the other is firmly in place; however, the skills required to set and achieve a personal goal and the skills required to coach others through that challenge are very different. That's why many managers are not as effective as they could be at guiding team members toward their individual goals.

"Coaching is the number one management activity that drives sales performance, and most managers are poor coaches," says Steven Rosen, a performance coach and founder of STAR Results, a sales-leadership coaching, training, and consulting organization dedicated to leadership development. The reason, he says, is that very few managers had great coaching role models when they were sales reps. As leaders, they now fall into a number of common traps when it comes to helping their teams set and attain performance goals. To avoid the pitfalls, follow these recommendations from Rosen for coaching your reps to achieve their goals.

Put the rep in the driver's seat. How likely would you be to put 100 percent effort toward achieving another person's goal? Not very likely, right? The same is true for sales reps; they are not going to give it their all if they are working toward their managers' goals, rather than their own. Your job as a coach isn't to set your reps' goals, but rather to facilitate the reps' setting their own goals and plans for achieving them. This is the only way to get buy in from your reps.

What if a rep sets a goal to improve an aspect of his or her performance that you don't think is really that important? That's OK, says Rosen. Support your rep anyway. As he or she achieves successes, over time that rep will hit on the major items that will measurably change his or her performance.

Less is more. Reps should be working toward no more than one or two goals at a time. Any more than that and their focus will become so scattered that they likely will not make progress on any of them. Think about it this way: if someone handed you five balls and told you to shoot them into five different baskets simultaneously, your chances of getting even one in is slim. If you had just one ball and one basket, however, all your attention would be focused in a single direction, exponentially increasing your likelihood of success.

Too often, managers finish a coaching session by leaving their reps with five or six things to work on and then are disappointed when little change happens. "If a rep can develop in one area and goes from a four out of ten to a nine in that area, you've done a great job as coach," says Rosen.

Keep the goal front and center. When a rep first sets a goal, motivation to achieve it is usually high. As time passes, however, the busyness of keeping up with daily tasks can overshadow that goal, and the rep's focus on it can slide. The same is true for busy managers who too often coach to the moment: they see a problem with a presentation and tell the rep how to do it better next time. Or they listen in on a cold call and tell the rep how he or she needs to improve.

While certainly there will be non-goal-related issues that crop up and need attention, always make sure that the goal is central to your coaching efforts, Rosen says. "Every time you are interacting [with your reps], you want to go back to the goals," he explains. "Ask them, 'What are your challenges? What successes have you had?' Keep reminding them that this is important." This kind of attention on goals will ensure that reps stay focused on them, prioritize them and, ultimately, achieve them.

Demand accountability and celebrate success. If your coaching conversations are anchored in discussions about goal progress, you will know when your reps are on track to meet goals and when they aren't. For reps whose progress is lagging, hold them accountable to the plan they developed. "Say to them, 'You haven't done this; when do you think you'll do it?'" says Rosen. Get a commitment and hold them to it.

Conversely, when a rep reaches a goal, be certain to celebrate it. One of the most meaningful things you can do as a leader, says Rosen, is to (continued on page 2)
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