When the other side scores in a hockey game, the TV cameras quickly pan over to the home team coach’s face. And usually, apart from looking a little unhappy, that coach wears an expression that shows he or she is already thinking of how they can help turn things around.

Sales coaching works much the same way. When quotas aren’t being met or customers start defecting to the competition, smart organizations take the time and effort to understand where the weak spots are and how to build on the strengths of individual team members.

With the best coaching, sales professionals will not only hone their personal or “soft skills,” they will also be better able to make use of tools like CRM to turn customer data into a competitive advantage.

These Canadian sales coaches, agree on a few things when it comes to sales coaching best practices:

Coaching Is About People, Not Products And Services

Rich Grof, a sales coach based in Innisfil, Ont., leads a regular series of sessions called Unstoppable Sales which is designed to help sales professionals land more proposals and client wins. In a free video series, he explains how companies need to recognize that investing in coaching skills and education is about developing talent over the long haul, rather than short-term results.

“As a coach, I went to a lot of classes -- all kinds of different courses,” he said. “It didn’t make me any better at the sales process, but it made me a better coach. You’ve got to know that this is separate from the sales process itself.”

In other words, coaching works best when it focuses on an individual, rather than the bottom line, even if it’s being driven by bottom-line pressures.

Coaching Is About Asking The Right Questions

Tom Stoyan and Peri Shawn are co-founders of the Coaching and Sales Institute based in Woodbridge, Ont. In a recent blog post, they suggest sales coaches can start by focusing on the information sales professionals are using to make decisions. Key questions include: How do we know this is accurate? Where could we check? Does this change the accuracy of what we thought?

“By asking your team members questions about where to find the accurate information, you ensure that next time they are in a similar situation they can find the information they need easily,” they write. “You also will discover what your team members know and don’t know so you can better help them fill any knowledge gaps.”

Filling in the gaps, in fact, may be another way of describing what good sales coaches do.

Coaching Can Benefit Anyone (Even Your Best Reps)

Colleen Francis, a coach with Engage Selling based in Ottawa, gets the same question all the time: If an organization has some real top performers on their sales teams, they don’t need to focus on coaching them, right?

“Wrong,” she says in a recent video post. “Top performers need coaching as much as your mid or bottom performances. In fact, you might even consider coaching them more, because that might raise the bar on the overall team’s performance.”

Francis says sales coaches shouldn’t necessarily look for things to correct in top performers. Instead, ask them where they think they could improve. Discuss what they think they’re doing well and identify ways to help them do more of those things, or share their best techniques to others.

“Use them to coach others,” she adds. “Top performers love to use their knowledge.”

In other words, under the right circumstances and with the right encouragement, there may be a little sales coach in all of us.

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