Improve Your Sales Coaching with Two Simple Steps – Part 2

Coaching2In the first post in this series, I wrote that there are many good coaching models for having an open, engaging discussion with a rep, but not as many that focus on rigorous diagnosis and the application of the best solution, based on that diagnosis. Which, this time, leads us right into some details about how to:

  • Address the Right Issues (in Part 2, this post)
  • Address the Issues Right (in Part 3, the next final post)

ADDRESS THE RIGHT ISSUES

To get to the root cause and eventually solve the problem, I favor a scientific approach, using a personal situation analysis. This is also sometimes called a coaching analysis, since “situation analysis” is technically a strategic marketing analysis that is related to SWOT analysis and usually conducted at an organizational level. This is a similar thing, just aimed at a personal level, to assess the circumstances and situation with the sales rep.

Situation Analysis: To conduct a personal situation analysis, you identify the rep’s mindset, knowledge, judgment, skill, or behavior, and/or the environmental factors or constraints, that are producing the current results. To do that, you explore what is the sales rep doing, how often, to what degree of effectiveness, at what times, to get their current result. In performance coaching, it’s useful to have a baseline or benchmark of effective behaviors to compare and contrast, but for now, you are gathering facts.

  • To form some hypotheses, you…
    • Use reporting, metrics, lead indicators, lag indicators, and past experiences with the sales rep to form hypotheses to test.
  • To begin to confirm the hypotheses, you…
    • Dialogue with the rep about the situation (the facts, their perceptions, your perceptions)
    • Observe the rep work or interact, in situations where the issues in question will likely arise (may require purposeful scheduling)
    • Discuss again after observation to further explore the hypotheses and agree on this situation analysis, if possible (the goal is to determine objectively, “What Is”)

Situation Analysis: Forming the Hypotheses

If you’ve done a study internally of top-producer practices < see: Part 1 | Part 2>, it’s helpful. This provides a benchmark to which you can compare your rep’s mindset, knowledge, judgment, skills, and behaviors, to determine what is holding the rep back from being more successful. While it’s likely that your rep works in the same environment as your top producers, it’s possible that there are certain environmental factors that could be impacting your rep’s performance, but not the top reps’, so at least remain open to exploring that possibility.

If you haven’t done top-producer research, it’s somewhat more of a guessing game, but in that case, you can use the content from your rep’s sales training or your own experience as the backdrop and foundation for your gap analysis.

Looking at the organizational reporting, metrics, measures, lead indicators, lag indicators and overall results for your rep compared to others, is a good place to start. While you must remain open to change, you can begin to form some hypotheses to test with closer analysis.

Sometimes, the answer is painfully clear. Other times, less so. But usually, you’ll have some ideas where to start digging in deeper. For example, imagine that your rep’s pipeline conversation ratios are far above average in the latter part of their pipeline stages. (When a deal is in the pipeline and the client has an interest, it seems as if the rep does a great job shaping and closing the opportunity). By contrast, the rep has a far lower-than-average number of deals in the pipeline with earlier-stage conversation ratios being lower-than-average as well. (Perhaps indicating some challenges identifying the right prospects or approaching them effectively, to create opportunity.) This at least gives you an indication of where to start looking deeper and allows you to form some opinions to test. (As it also would, if that problem were reversed.)

Next you’ll want to confirm your suspicions.

Situation Analysis: Confirming the Hypotheses

  • To confirm your hypotheses…
    • Have an open dialogue with the rep about the situation (the facts, their actions, their results, their perceptions)
    • Observe the rep work or interact in situations where the issues in question will likely arise (requires purposeful rather than random scheduling)
    • Discuss with the rep after observation to further explore hypotheses and agree on the situation analysis, if possible

Having an authentic, non-threatening, and open dialogue with the rep is the best place to start. To help with this, start by positioning yourself as a helpful resource and asking more questions (rather than initially providing answers or solutions). Discuss the immutable facts first, then dig into what’s behind them, and why. Use the Five Ws and One H + the Five Whys, to truly understand what is happening. Explore the rep’s  perceptions and opinions, as well as your own. Do not attempt to solve the problem, at this point. This is about clearly identifying the problem(s), and at this stage, is mostly about finding some areas to test more closely.

Next, schedule some times to observe the rep when he or she will be able to do some of the work in question. This is a more purposeful approach than just “dropping in” on reps or having them cherry-pick accounts where things are going well, for you to observe. It also takes a different level of commitment, planning and flexibility. The benefits, however, are worth it. It’s often said that you want to coach to retain your top 20% of producers and coach to improve (if possible) or remove (more likely) your bottom 20% producers. But with the vast number of reps in the middle 60%, you have an opportunity to move the needle on their performance greatly, with this more targeted approach. So, this is your opportunity for the greatest organizational performance lift. My point in sharing that? Make the extra scheduling effort.

After observing the rep in action, wrap up this section with a discussion about what happened, using your typical coaching model frameworks… their perceptions, yours, agreeing on the diagnosis of what is happening and why – or at least agreeing on the possible diagnosis, at this point, with a willingness to explore solutions.

NEXT TIME: ADDRESS THE ISSUES RIGHT

Now, finally, with the analysis, hypotheses, dialogue and observation behind us, it’s time to start addressing the issues. In the next and final post in this series, I’ll cover how to Address the Issues Right and get the maximum impact from this coaching investment.

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

Mike

_____________________________________________________

Mike Kunkle

Transforming Sales Results with Clear Insight & Focused Execution

Contact:
214.494.9950
<mike at mikekunkle dotcom>

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Comments

  1. Hi Mike,
    Well done on your series, its Comprehensive and useful as a step by step guide for any Sales Manager.
    I am one of those who suggest Coaching the Top 20% and minimising effort into the bottom 20%. The other 60% are best divided into three groups Top, Middle and Bottom. I suggest, that the effort [and more importantly the time invested] should be split 70, 20, 10.

    Further, that Salesperson involvement in dialogue should split on those percentages as well. i.e. becoming increasingly ‘Directive’. There is pretty good evidence that this approach is closer to optimal, than treating everybody the same.

    I look forward to your next posting!

    • Thanks Brian. I appreciate the kind comments. I struggled with this series so far, because the level of detail seems woefully inadequate and it could use a lot more examples, but if I did that, I’d be back to publishing enormous posts or 7-part series, and I debated that with myself, and went with what you see. Anyway, thanks, and good additions.

      Yes, I didn’t mean to ignore the top 20% in terms of coaching, but in looking back to my retention comment, I probably need to clarify that. Often, a 1% improvement from someone in this group can outweigh a 10% improvement elsewhere. More often than not, however, these players are ignored which can create a retention risk if something upsets them.

      On the bottom 20%, I usually find a few worth saving, or who are newer, which is why they are there in the first place. I try to weed them out from the rest and give them what they need, and hopefully manage the rest out or find a better home for them in the organization, if one exists.

      I didn’t split the hair that finely on the middle in the post, either, but also (and especially) agree with the segmentation concept for them. I do this when I do my initial sales performer analysis (I segment the top 20%, the middle 60%, much as you describe, and also break out the bottom 2 deciles.)

      Question: When you say 70/20/10 in terms of time split, do you mean as a coach, you spend 70% of your time with the middle, 20% with the top, and 10% with the bottom? Or something else?

So, what do YOU think?

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