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    Why self-coaching may be the next big thing for sales departments

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    A few weeks ago, my workout trainer suggested that I start hanging from a bar five minutes every day - a “passive” exercise. This would straighten my spine, strengthen my grip and provide some additional health benefits. I listened with every intention of doing exactly as he suggested, but when it came down to it, I didn’t actually do it.

    When I went back the next week for another coaching session, I was surprised that he didn’t ask me about it. I had come prepared with excuses and apologies that I never had to use...

    This got me to thinking about sales coaching. In my experience, the same thing happens in sales departments all the time. A well-meaning sales manager brings a salesperson in for a coaching session, discusses future outcomes and listens carefully to the salesperson’s plans about how to reach the outcomes by taking a number of actions each day. The salesperson has the best of intentions, but, once back in the field, doesn’t actually do those things. Or, they do them one day, but then not the next.

    All too often, sales managers fail to follow up to ensure the planned activities were done, which is a shame, because science tells us that we’re much more likely to engage in a positive behavior if we know we’ll be held accountable for it later.

    Why does this happen, and is there anything we can do about it? Let’s take a look at the first question.

    Why aren’t managers holding salespeople accountable?

    We don’t like to be uncomfortable, and holding someone accountable is uncomfortable.
    George Brontén

    It’s easy to demonize either the salespeople for not following through or managers for not following up, but the fact is that blame doesn’t solve the problem. To solve it, we have to understand it, and the understanding lies in human nature.

    We don’t like to change our behavior, and keeping promises made in a coaching session, often means changing our behavior.

    We also don’t like to be uncomfortable, and holding someone accountable is uncomfortable. If I tell you to do something, and you say you will, then I ask you about it next week, you’re going to feel like I’m accusing you of going back on your word. Worse, if you didn’t do it, then you have to explain yourself or apologize, and I have to nod along and either get disappointed, upset or tell you everything’s okay, whether it is or not. Awkward.

    To complicate matters, as a rule our industry doesn’t equip managers well for the coaching work we ask them to do. Yes, we often send them to training, where they learn how to coach. What we don’t do is help them know when to coach, or how much, or even whom to coach.

    We put them in the position of having to decide whether to follow up a lot, and risk becoming a “micromanager” or not follow up enough, and risk being too “hands-off.” We simply don’t give them good tools to know when a salesperson genuinely needs their help, and when they don’t.

    How can we help them do a better job?

    Now that we understand some of the reasons why managers aren’t doing a better job of coaching, here are four ways we can help them do better.

    1. Give them visibility into when salespeople need their help

      In many sales departments, managers know about problems in specific deals only if the salesperson asks or if a sale is going south. Often, they find out later rather than sooner - often too late to save the deal and do the most good.

      The right opportunity management tools give managers insight into how salespeople are progressing on a daily basis, and proactively flag any problems as they arise. This helps managers know when to coach, avoiding the trap of micromanaging or under-managing.
    2. Give the visibility into what salespeople need help with

      The right sales analytics tools allow managers to quickly see where each salesperson excels, and where each salesperson struggles, so they can address the right things with each one.
    3. Provide automatic accountability

      Rather than forcing managers and salespeople to have awkward “did you do it?” conversations, let’s build accountability into the technology platforms they’re using, so that accountability conversations only have to happen when the salesperson is not doing what they should. This also allows managers to have “kudos” conversations when the salesperson is performing well.
    4. Enable the salespeople to coach themselves

      While good managers are critical, there are many aspects of coaching that can be automated and provided on a self-serve model. For instance, training materials, content, and feedback can be built into the salesperson’s daily workflow, right inside the CRM or effectiveness platform, to provide access to information and reinforcement on an as-needed basis. Likewise, the system can be designed to track and reinforce daily activities and behaviors to provide instant feedback and accountability.

    Why self-coaching may be the next big thing

    Automating training, reinforcement, and accountability inside a salesperson’s daily workflow releases managers from having to do the awkward grunt work of management, and frees them to engage more fully in the creative aspects of coaching for which they are trained, and which they find most gratifying.

    The tools for this level of coaching and self-coaching are available now, and less complicated to implement than you probably think. I hope that unleashing the power of self-coaching will be one of the big trending conversations for 2017. What’s your prediction?

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    George Brontén
    Published January 25, 2017
    By George Brontén

    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