The Application Of Coaching To Sales
John O Gorman – a founding partner in the ASG Group and sales performance management practice lead – has completed a professional Coaching programme over the past 10 months. With the programme over we interviewed him about what he learned and why he embarked on it in the first place.
Q.1: What prompted you to complete the professional coaching programme?
‘We were beginning to hear a lot about sales coaching and I wanted to see what the best practice models executive and business coaching could be brought to sales
I felt the B2B sales team we worked with needed more support at both a technical skills level and a behavioural level.
The challenges our clients faced implementing change made me question why behavioural changes were not sticking and how to link a change in behaviour to a hard nosed business result.
According to Objective Management Group, “only 15% of all sales managers spend as much as 25% of their time coaching and the time they do spend is generally ineffective” (Kunkle, July 3rd 2013). Indeed the executive sales leaders I have worked with in my business have very limited understanding of what coaching means.
I was hoping the course would help us embed the principles of change into how my business works with clients. And in turn ensure our Sales Performance Technology (called SellerNAV™) would help sales managers develop process and people change.’
Q.2: What are the main things you learned from the programme?
‘· Real learning needs to happen from the inside out not the outside in. What I mean by that is we need to be willing to take learning to a deeper level and see the purpose behind the learning for us as individuals.
· I learned a heck of a lot about myself and the requirement to dig deep to see what really matters.
· Learned why change is so complex
· Learned that there different types of challenges: With technical challenges the skill set necessary, e.g. the routines and processes, are known. However adaptive challenges require more than a new skill set. “They can only be met by transforming ones mind-set, by advancing to a more sophisticated stage of development” (Kegan and Lahey, 2009, P. 29)
· The paradoxical theory of change is a crucial perspective for every coach and sales leader. People have the ability to be their own “expert”, they don’t need a coach to transfer their views onto the situation. They need a coach to actively support their journey.
· According the philosopher Heraclitus (500 BC) “nothing endures but change, no one, can step into the same river twice”. As sales leaders we need to pay attention to this wise philosopher, no sales person, sales team or buyer can step into the same river twice.’
Q.3: How has the academic perspective on coaching influenced the work you do at The ASG Group?
‘The executive sales leaders we work with have tough jobs. We are embedding the principles of coaching and change from the programme into how we work with clients teams. This is ensuring our Sales Performance Technology can help sales managers develop their people and hopefully improve the statistics from Objective Management Group. For an intervention to be effective it needs to be supported by a coaching contract.’
Q.4: Has the programme changed your views of the importance of coaching to sales teams?
‘Yes managers can’t continue to manage just by numbers. They must look to coach and I mean really coach and develop their people. If a manager wants high performance and to unlock a sales team’s potential they are going to have to look beyond the traditional interventions. They must help their teams see how behaviour changes can deliver results. This won’t happen in one coaching session and by throwing technical solutions at adaptive challenges, it requires more than that.
Managers must also learn to ask not tell their teams what to do. Experienced sales people can solve their own problems.
It is worth looking at the make-up of the sales team. Each manager should in fact ask themselves have they really have a cohesive and effective team or just an information sharing working group of people who get together every so often. Also what work is actually done in the sales team meeting? Food for thought there indeed.’
Q.5: What advice would you offer to managers in coaching their sales teams?
‘The advice would be to listen, ask questions and consider the complexity that your sales people face daily. They are part of an ecosystem that is more complex than we often think.
Develop your thinking around the challenges each person faces because they definitely have them. You may see your role as a team manager, but each individual must be treated as an individual with their own set of performance, process and development goals.
As sales managers we will hear a lot more about performance mgt and talent mgt. At the intersection there is a key performance gain to be achieved. How to unlock this overlap will take a behavioural change for most managers.’
Q.6: Would you recommend sales managers and directors to pursue a professional qualification in coaching?
To unlock the potential of your sales team you need to understand the principles of coaching and have several models and tools in your bad.
Models like Gestalt, Prochaska and the Immunity to Change can only help a sales manager.
To coach you must have been coached, on this programme we had the privilege to be coached on every module. After a programme like this you know what it is like to be coached and you realize that maximizing the performance of people is complex.’