Coaching sales reps to shelve their poor practices


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Recently we published a blog framed around the idea that if you wanted to get coaching right, three fundamental questions need to be answered – what to coach, how to coach, and who to coach. In that blog we focused on the “who to coach” question. This time around we thought spending a little time on the “what to coach” part of the equation might be useful.

Heretofore, when we designed sales coaching programs for our clients, we have customized the “what to coach” portion of the program around the core selling skills and best practices relevant for that individual client.

Destructive behavior study. The other day we reviewed an article in the McKinsey Quarterly that made us pause and think that in addition to core skills and best practices, a third perspective might warrant attention in the “what to coach” portion of the program.

The McKinsey article was based on a survey conducted with 1,200 decision makers who are responsible for buying high-tech products and services. One aspect of the survey addressed the issue of destructive behaviors that is, things sales reps do that drive buyers to be dissatisfied.

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So, what behavior do you think made it to the top of the list? Coming in at number one was: Too much contact (in person, by phone or via e-mail). Thirty five (35) percent of the decision makers rated too much contact as the most destructive sales rep behavior.

Now, from a sales perspective the most interesting aspect of this finding is how many of the suppliers who call on these buyers would have anticipated that response? Our guess is – not many. Certainly it is not a good idea to generalize this specific finding to all audiences. However, it is worth generalizing that a lot of companies might be very surprised with the answers if they asked the same question about destructive behavior.

Implications for sales coaching. When planning a coaching initiative there is a set of questions around this idea of destructive behavior that are probably worth asking. The questions need to be asked using formal survey methodology. So, time and effort are required. But, the effort seems worthwhile since the answers provide front-line managers a more robust sense about what constitutes sales excellence and hence provide insight on “what to coach.”

Final note. There is no single activity that can have a greater impact on improving sales performance than great coaching. But, like a lot of things that work really well, great coaching is hard to do. With that challenge in mind, any perspective with potential to improve one component of the “what to coach, how to coach, and who to coach” construct is worth exploring.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC


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