Coaching to Close the Gaps in Performance

No sales process is perfect. In fact, they aren’t supposed to be. The sales process is a road map that can be followed, marking the milestones that need to be accomplished on the way to a deal. Regardless of the process, the sales organization still needs to be passionately engaged in advancing the sale. This means coaching the individual sales opportunities.

Identifying the Gaps

The first step to improving performance is to identify the gaps. Coaching opportunities allows the salesperson and her sales manager to identify gaps. These gaps fall into two categories, sales process gaps and sales performance gaps.

Is it a process gap?

Sales processes, like any other business process, need an expiration date. From time to time, you need to take a look at your process, identify areas that are not effective, work to understand why they are no longer effective, and make changes that will allow your sales process to generate better results.

Coaching to the opportunities in the sales pipeline can help reveal these gaps in the sales process. Looking at the individual opportunities can help discover the sticking points that exist for multiple reps, regardless of their performance. If the best performing reps are struggling to move opportunities from one specific stage to the next, it may indicate a process problem.

But more often than not, the gaps in performance are not process gaps. Most of the time, the gaps are in our performance as salespeople.

Coaching to Close the Gaps

1. Closing the Performance Gap

Coaching the individual opportunities in the pipeline often reveal gaps in our performance as salespeople. Most of the time, these gaps occur because we simply fail to execute the fundamentals required to sell successfully, regardless of the process.

When coaching the salesperson on their opportunities in real time, it is easy to discover that they are calling on prospects that are not qualified, that they haven’t developed the right team needed to form the consensus necessary to move a deal forward, that they have failed to do an effective needs-analysis that reveals the dissatisfaction necessary to change, that they haven’t created enough value on each call to justify a commitment to move forward, and that they have failed to ask for or obtain the commitments necessary to move forward.

Coaching on the sales performance here builds the salesperson’s competency, as well as their situational knowledge. It builds a framework around how and what to think about their performance.

2. Closing the Qualification Gap

Coaching the salesperson’s opportunities provides a way to review the previous stages of the deal, and in some cases to disqualify the prospect when it is clear that you cannot create the value necessary to win the deal, or when the prospect doesn’t meet your qualifying conditions.

Eliminating these prospects allows the salesperson to focus their time and their attention on deals with a greater likelihood of closing. It moves their attention to deals where real value can be created.

3. Closing the Value Creation Gap

Coaching provides an opportunity to identify ways to move from one stage to the next and when the outcome doesn’t meet the prospect’s needs and when enough value hasn’t been created.

Sometimes the client’s situation is unique enough that what is normally effective in creating value isn’t enough for the client to justify moving forward in the process. Coaching to the opportunity allows the coach and the salesperson to exercise the creative resourcefulness (that all sales organizations need to succeed) by creating interactions with their clients that create enough value to move the deal forward.

The role of leadership in any organization is to remove the obstacles and barriers to success. In more cases than not, the resources, the ideas, the customizations, and the changes that create enough value to move the deal forward can be discovered and modifications can be made.

Conclusion

There is a difference between coaching and managing. Coaching provides the opportunity to build the salesperson’s competence and their situational knowledge. Coaching the salesperson’s opportunities is an effective way to close the sales performance gaps.

Questions

1. What are the differences between managing and coaching?

2. Are the gaps in your sales performance sales process gaps, or sales performance gaps?

3. Can you identify the gaps as a certain failure of a fundamental of sales performance?

4. When coaching, can you develop new ways to create value for your prospects on every call and, by doing so, make it easier to obtain commitments?

5. How can you use coaching to improve your ability to master the sales process, the sales fundamentals, and to build you (or your team’s) situational knowledge?

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

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