Group Coaching

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Group Coaching
The What, Where, How and Who

What is Group Coaching? Well, in many respects it’s simply the sales manager running a training session. However, as the sales manager, you need to do a much better job of having your team internalize the message that may be too much of a “Tell them” approach of training.

So, what does group coaching really look like?

The first thing you need to do is determine the topic, or the “What” of a group coaching session. What is there currently on the plate where you would like your entire team to “up” their game? What’s new? Is there an area of development that could benefit from the sharing of information or ideas?

Many times, a Group Coaching session is a good springboard for your leadership to help the team to learn how to rely on each other. One of your team goals, and a goal related to creating a high performance sales team, is to help the team learn how to rely on each other. To learn how to leverage different skills and knowledge that someone else might have on the team. For me, it was often competitive knowledge. I would kick off a session about competition, and ask people to share who they have been competing with lately, and what they have learned. I usually did this by understanding a current or past opportunity where a rep had done an excellent job of competitive info, and I wanted the team to learn what this person did. This way, I am not teaching, but I can make sure all the right stuff gets out and discussed and each rep can see that it is something another rep did on their team. The more subjects where any rep on my team has done an excellent job, the more topics I have for Group Coaching.

Let’s use an example. Typically a sales team gets trained on NPI’s, or New Product Introductions once or twice per year. Maybe more? The company has put a lot of money and time into these new products and they want to make sure it gets a great launch and visibility to the market. It comes with marketing plans, and training for the sales force. What can you do to support this plan, as well as supporting your team? I’m sure you have come up with a number of good ideas. One of them might be to hold a group coaching session on the subject of the new product about 6 weeks later. Why 6 weeks? Because that is the average time it takes for a rep to forget what they were trained. UNLESS, they used the knowledge in a sales cycle, or had reinforcement on the product knowledge between kick-off and today.

So, now the question is how can you make sure those things happen without just “telling” them to do those things.

1) Why not ask them after the training, that during the next forecast meeting with you, you would like to see where they might be proposing this for a new solution? Maybe, the right thing to do is to ask them for a plan on how to change current forecasts into forecasts of the newest product?

2) Typically the sales training even does a presentation, but it’s oriented at “informing,” or “Transferring knowledge,” and not very useful for all sales presentations. So, let’s ask some of the team to prepare “2 minute” responses to present this new solution. Maybe one rep does the why they should look at this new product vs. what they were looking at. Maybe someone else does a specific brief presentation on the advantages of these new products vs. a competitive solution someone was looking at. Finally, ask your team what they would like to see, and get an outside resource if you need to. The bottom line is with these exercises, everyone learns, everyone gets ideas on how they would do it better, and you can encourage different ways of presenting the ideas.

The Where!?

This is not as easy as it used to be. Particularly for outside or geographically dispersed teams. Maybe it works better for inside sales teams, but the process of calling a “team” meeting where we all sit in the room is just not as easy to do. This is particularly a challenge for short sessions. So, what’s the goal? More full day meetings? What is the lost opportunity cost of that kind of get together? Clearly, there are other choices. You could choose not to hold meetings unless you can get everyone together or do everything individually. You could choose to hold telephone conference calls. That brings up another skill you need to develop or improve, and that’s how to effectively run a “con-call.” Have you spent any time on a bad con-call? Have you ever run a team video call? There are lots of ways to do that, and we will discuss them at a future time.

The bottom line on the “Where,” is you may have to learn or develop new skills to allow your team to learn about new skills and/or knowledge.

Going back to the NPI, reps may have to learn how to do a brief presentation using a web service. On a con-call, you may have to ask everyone to be prepared with a 2 minute verbal presentation. Don’t look at the difficulty of what you are asking, look for an opportunity to practice it the way they may have to present it to the prospect.

The How!

We have answered this already, but as a reminder, have them practice the way they will deliver it. Even if they will be presenting face to face, they can use a webcam to give you and the team the “Virtual Presentation.” If you are not aware of all of the web tools, then do your homework, ask your peers, and watch webinars to see, feel and experience different web solutions.

Finally, the who!? 99% of the time, you will run one of these sessions with just your team. A primary reason for this is simply because you want to share ideas amongst each other. However, don’t forget there are other people who can help with answers that you have noticed, no one, on the team can answer yet. For example, what are the specific features and benefits we could use to beat xyz competitor? Is there any concern on delivery? Is there an exclusive advantage this product provides and that I can build into an RFP? Use resources as a positive experience; don’t choose someone that the reps want to rip apart!

Just remember, that Group Coaching is a way to share best practices without you “Telling” all the time. Do your homework by listening to your team and then asking the right people to help with the discussion. If you have great people, but they don’t share their ideas, you have a totally different problem to discuss in a one on one.

Your job is NOT to tell. Learning is not as effective that way. Your job is to create an opportunity for open discussion, but like any good leader, or defense lawyer, don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer.

Good Coaching!

Coach Hughes

Sales Leadership Consulting

Republished with author's permission from original post.

James Hughes
A 30 year veteran of running sales teams from 7 to 110 people. Have led efforts of training sales reps on skills, Account Planning, certified "Power Base Sales " trainer and led the Worldwide Sales Management Education program for a Fortune 50. Today, I use my experience and learning's to help sales managers become better coaches of their sales people and increase the yield of their team.

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