Great coaching makes it easy for your sales team to execute on sales process and methodology. It supports skills growth and reinforces the right behaviors at the right times. It also improves ramp-up times and reduces excessive turnover.
Along with the right mindset, one of the most important qualities of a great coach is the ability to ask good questions. Rather than just teaching or managing, a great coach uses effective questioning to help the salesperson understand for themselves what needs to happen next.
One way to help coaches improve their question-asking skills, is to provide them with sample questions for various common scenarios. We pulled together a list of coaching categories, and associated each one with key coaching questions in the chart below, as a starting point.
Let’s take a closer look at how to use these questions.
Sometimes, a salesperson needs help understanding the big picture. They may have lost track of how they fit in the organization, or perhaps they aren’t showing strong motivation. They may be stuck in “busy-ness,” simply trying to work hard without any clear direction for their work.
Strategy questions can help lift a salesperson out of the weeds and into a stronger sense of purpose and drive. These questions will be high-level and open-ended, and may include:
These questions guide the salesperson to gaining their own sense of purpose, and directing their efforts to support both their own strategic goals and those of the organization.
When a salesperson’s success is hindered by a lack of skills or attitude, it’s the coach’s job to guide them to an awareness of what they lack, while simultaneously inspiring a desire to remedy the gap.
This can be challenging when egos get in the way. Using questions rather than attacks can help ease the conversation and motivate the salesperson to take responsibility for improvement. Here are some useful skills and attitude questions:
By letting the salesperson provide their own answers, coaches help salespeople take ownership of the problem. They can then point them at resources to help close the gaps they identify together.
When the salesperson’s strategy, skills, and attitude are lined up well, sometimes they can still have problems keeping their pipeline filled with quality opportunities. When this is the case, pipeline coaching can help get them back on track.
Here are some questions coaches can use to get this conversation started:
The answers to these questions can help salespeople and coaches identify together what the salesperson can do differently, as well as what the management can provide more effectively, to achieve their goals.
Salespeople are notoriously optimistic when it comes to opportunities. They have to be, in order to stay motivated in this tough business. It’s the coach’s job to make sure that salespeople are approaching their opportunities realistically, understanding the challenges, and taking the actions that will move those opportunities toward a sale.
Again, using questions during opportunity and account coaching helps salespeople to understand the issues more clearly, and to take ownership of the solutions. Here are some questions to start with.
These can help clarify for both the salesperson and the coach how best to approach each opportunity and account, and identify any weaknesses so they can be addressed proactively.
The perfect opportunity can be blown with a badly planned or executed call. This is especially true in complex sales where trust and relationship are critical. Poor call planning can also lead to stalled deals, in which nothing happens and the customer never moves forward.
Coaches can help salespeople get ready for a call by asking questions that guide them to make good choices during the call. For instance:
Obviously, these categories and questions are only a small sampling of what is possible. We address the issue of coaching questions, and much more, in our white paper, How to Build an Effective Coaching System, which you can download for free.
What about you? What questions would you add to the list? What questions do you find to be most effective with your teams? We want to hear from you!
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn