How to Incorporate Sales Coaching into the Review Process

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Editor’s note: This is the seventh post in a new series devoted to helping new sales managers survive and thrive in their new role. For more essential tips and tactics, sign up for our free email course, The First 90 Days: A Sales Manager Survival Course.  

Over the past few weeks Mike and I have been hammering you on the importance of sales coaching and integrating coaching into your daily routines. And reviews provide the perfect avenue. Just think of all the different reviews you conduct on a regular basis to keep an eye on the progress of your business. There are deal and pipeline reviews as well as call, territory, account and prospecting reviews. And each review provides you with an opportunity to integrate high impact, very focused coaching into your everyday activities.

If we really want to sharpen a person’s ability to develop and execute strong deal and opportunity strategies, what better way to do this than by leveraging the deal review process? Similarly, if we want sales team members to get the most out of every sales call, why not debrief the call — coaching our team on how they might stretch even further and achieve more.

Reviews are powerful tools that allow managers to both keep on eye on the success of the team while also developing the capabilities of team members. Now, let’s take a look at how we can get the most out of each and every review we conduct.

Understand that the Objectives of Each Review Type are Different

Before you even begin to incorporate coaching into the review process, it’s important to understand that the objectives of each review type are different.

In a deal review, for example, we aim to achieve three things. First, we want to help the salesperson develop and execute a strategy that maximizes their ability to win. Second, we want to explore how we can compress the sales/buying cycle. And third, we want to maximize our value creation so we can also maximize deal value and margins.

By contrast, in a pipeline review we want to make sure we have a high integrity pipeline — in other words, we want to get all the crap out of the pipeline. Once we have a high integrity pipeline, we want to make sure we have sufficient volume (enough deals to make our numbers), and good velocity through the pipeline (deals are flowing and not getting stuck).

As you look at each review type, you begin to understand that the objectives for each are very different. So if we want to maximize our impact for each, we can’t mix them.

Keeping reviews separate also allows you to have more impact when you coach. By focusing intently on one set of skills or capabilities, we don’t confuse the salesperson by trying to coach and comment on too many things at once.

By integrating coaching into the review process, we also improve the timeliness of coaching, vitally important because after all, the sooner you can provide feedback the more likely your people will correct and improve their behavior.

How to Coach in a Review

While the objectives of each review type differ, the process of coaching in a review is the same regardless of review type. There are four critical components and to maximize our impact we must do all four each and every time.

1. Preparing for the Review

Have you ever noticed how much time you waste in a review just by rehashing background information? If a typical review is 30 minutes long, it’s not uncommon to spend the first 20 updating each participant on background and current status, leaving only 10 minutes to actually discuss what we should be doing, any next steps and action items.

Wouldn’t the review be more impactful if we reversed those numbers, spending no more than 10 minutes on background and the remainder on exploring alternative strategies and ideas to move things forward?

Preparation is critical. Ahead of a review, spend a few minutes looking at the CRM records for the opportunity you’re about to discuss. Look at what’s happened, where it is in the sales process, who the competition is and so forth (assuming your team is keeping your CRM up to date, hint hint).

From just five minutes of preparation, you gain a general idea of what’s going on and can start to develop some questions and areas that you’d like to explore with your team.

2. Conducting the Review Meeting

Your salespeople need to prepare as well. The review shouldn’t be the salesperson telling you what has happened and then you dictating what they should do next. Instead, reviews should function like discussions. They should be explorations of alternatives. To get the ball rolling, you might want to start with questions like, “Why do you think this…”, “What might happen if you tried this…” and “Have you considered…”

Great coaching happens when salespeople think and evaluate what, how and why they’re doing certain things. It continues with them thinking about what could be done differently and coming up with new ideas and approaches on their own. You’re there to guide them, helping them improve how they’re approaching the situation.

3. Agreeing on Next Steps and Action Items

Once you’ve gone through the review, it’s critical to go over next steps and action items. These should be documented by the salesperson ideally in your CRM so neither of you forget what comes next.

Next steps should be very specific. For example, they should include the actions that need to be conducted, who needs to be involved, by what date and for what purpose. Without documented and specific action items, it’s very difficult to move forward in a focused, proactive and productive manner.

4. Following Up

It seems simple, but this where most managers fail. You might go through the first three steps well, but without follow up, you never close the loop. It’s critical to follow-up to see what happens and discuss what was learned and any possible next steps.

Final Thoughts

This might seem like a lot, but by slowly incorporating the above into your everyday, you’ll begin to see steady improvement from your team. And the more often you conduct reviews in this manner, the better not only you, but your sales team will be at wading through the unimportant and uncovering what truly matters.

More Tips for New Sales Managers

Get caught up by reading any previous posts in the series you may have missed:

  1. How (and How Not) to Coach Sales Reps: An Inclusive Guide to Sales Coaching
  2. A Double-Dog Dare to Relook at Your Sales Roles
  3. “A” Players Only: The Secret to Never Settling on a Bad Sales Hire Again
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