Improve Your Sales Coaching with Two Simple Steps – Part 1


Coaching & Fashion – Models Abound

There are many solid models for generalized sales coaching and sales rep development. Most of these models address how to coach – meaning, how to conduct an effective, interactive coaching session. Appropriately, these models usually include some sort of Socratic, dialogue-based, facilitative approach, similar to effective selling, interactive classroom training, or good, two-way human communication, in general. They center on engaging the rep, asking before telling, drawing out the rep’s experience and opinions and gaining his or her commitment, buy-in and motivation to develop and execute action plans.

Just Do It. Well.

The focus on coaching is correct. Just doing it isn’t enough, however. Quality matters. According to CEB research, noted below, rep percentage to goal is greatly impacted by the quality of coaching received. No surprise, right?SEC Coaching Effectiveness

This post will assume you already have the basics in place and can conduct an effective coaching session. While I don’t believe these existing coaching models and skills are used as frequently as they should be, and other studies suggest the same, my point remains that there are many good models. And research shows that coaching makes a difference.

Common Coaching Model Gaps

What’s often missing in these coaching models, though, is a focus on the diagnostic elements, to ensure the coaching need is accurately identified, and the effective selection of solutions, that tie to the specific type of need identified. I call this Addressing the Right Issues and Addressing the Issues Right.

Ensuring these steps occur, and are done well, is one way to radically improve the effectiveness of your coaching, without changing models. Assuming your current model is valid, of course, you can use what you have in place today or implement whatever effective, interactive models you choose.

In my past, when implementing a sales training program, I’ve often written very specific coaching programs and support materials to help managers coach to the very specific skills being taught to the reps. As I mentioned, I believe the diagnostics and solution match are often a missing element, and while I’d like to assume that the average person or even above-average sales coach always connects these dots on their own, reality has taught me that is a poor and risky assumption.

Summary: Addressing the Right Issues

  • Generally, I teach managers to use reports, metrics, and past knowledge of the rep’s behaviors and patterns to form hypotheses about current performance and then to use dialogue/conversations and direct observation to prove, disprove or shape those hypotheses.
  • This works with mindset, knowledge or skill gaps, and can often be based on what reps were recently taught, when reinforcing training, but can be done independently of specific training reinforcement.
  • The key outcome is a clearly identified mindset, knowledge or skill gap, or some combination.

Summary: Addressing the Issues Right

  • Based on the type of gap identified, the manager can then work with the rep to select an appropriate intervention.
  • The manager may need to facilitate the rep to their own aha moment, train, re-train, reinforce, coach, remove an obstacle, provide feedback, provide resources, remove or provide rewards or punishment, set clearer expectations, or simply manage the rep’s performance (meaning: hold them accountable for doing what they’ve proved they “know” and “can do,” if they choose).

In Part 2 of this series, I’ll discuss Addressing the Right Issues and Addressing the Issues Right in more detail, as well as provide some resources and tools to help you.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, be safe out there, and by all means, let’s continue to elevate our sales profession.



Mike Kunkle

Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>


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  1. This is my take on the right way of Coaching Selling SKILLS [or Golf]
    its quick to learn, easy to do, and it works! Not a bad combination!

    Make 2013 the year of the Sales Manager.

    • Sure, that makes sense, for skills coaching. In my experience, though, even in that case, modeling can be limited by the rep’s acceptance of the solution if they’re not engaged more in it’s creation, unless they are a new trainee. Also, while golf and selling both involve skill and behavior, the muscle memory of a golf swing and the verbal skills of human communication do differ, at least somewhat. Word choice, content, intonation, and body language make it sort of a 3-D golf. In any case, I get it. I do think that strategy coaching (which club to choose, how to play the hole) mindset coaching (Inner Game of Golf) still have a place, as well.

  2. Mike, you are quite right, its a Skills model only. Strategy Coaching, that rarest of beasts is quite different. There I use Sit Lead II as the model. Based on the Salespersons Sales Strategy development level, ie their Competence and Confidence.

    That coaching usually begins with the Question “What do you know about “Sales Strategy?” Dick Ruff and I were also talking about The role of Coach as ‘Counseller’, which is more to do with what has been called ‘life coaching.’


  1. […] the first post in this series, I wrote that there are many good coaching models for having an open, engaging discussion with a […]

  2. […] other thoughts here, here, here and here on sales coaching, if […]

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