When most sales managers think of coaching, they think about mentoring their reps to higher skill and performance levels. In today’s tough selling environment, the same skills you use to nudge your employees to better results can be used to boost sales. Tim Ursiny and Gary DeMoss, authors of Coaching the Sale point out that a good coach is not the one who strategizes; rather, he or she “acts as a powerful focusing lens to help the client solve his or her own problem.” Similarly, your reps should approach each sales opportunity as a coach whose goal is not to solve a problem, but to lead the prospect on a process of self-discovery in which they learn and realize for themselves that yours is the right solution. The way to do this is by using the following structured coaching model, called “3-D”:
Phase 1: Discover. When you meet with a client, your first step should be to discover his or her needs, motivations, and viewpoints so you can match the sale to their needs. You do this by asking powerful questions. “Sales professionals who believe in coaching their prospects and clients know that the right question can lead people to the best buying decision,” say Ursiny and DeMoss. “When you aid individuals in finding out the best path for themselves, you create loyal and enthusiastic advocates!” Transition from small talk to business with something like: “I’m prepared to talk with you about X, but first I want to make sure we are on the same page and that this really is the best solution for your particular needs. So I wanted to ask you” After each question, open your mind, close your mouth, write down any important information, and reflect the key information and feelings back to the speaker.
Phase 2: Discuss. Once you complete the Discovery process, you can begin introducing the benefits of your product or service as they relate to the client’s goals. Do this using the share/pause/agree model – share a benefit and end with a question; pause to listen to the answer; agree on the benefit to the client; then move on to a second “share point.” For instance, your first share point might be: “Our software offers an automated expense report feature so you can see at a glance where your biggest cost buckets are and how expenses compare from year to year. You mentioned you are frustrated by the time it takes to manually sift through paper expense reports to find this kind of information. How much time do you estimate you could save if you could find the data you need at the click of a mouse?” Then pause and listen to the answer and establish agreement that your solution addresses the prospect’s point of frustration.
Phase 3: Decide. This is the easiest phase because all the work has been done to connect the benefits of your product to the client’s need. Once you have guided them to this point, you need to stop trying to convince them to buy your solution. This doesn’t mean being complacent; it simply means giving people time and space to think. Instead of using a traditional closing line like, “So can I get this order started for you?” try: “What else can we talk about to help you make a decision about your choice of?” Or, “Given what we have discussed, what makes sense to you at this point?” These questions still move a prospect toward a buying decision, but they’re more collaborative than aggressive or assumptive. If you get a “no” at this point, move back to Discovery with a question such as: “Obviously I missed something and I really want to understand your view on this. What is holding you back from moving ahead?” When you get an answer, probe for details and address the concerns.