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Effective Sales Coaching–Closing The Loop

by David Brock on April 3rd, 2011

Great coaching is one of the highest impact activities a sales manager can undertake.  A key element of the sales manager’s job is developing each person on their team to perform at the highest levels.

We struggle with coaching–finding the time, doing it effectively and consistently, developing our own skills in coaching.  Even though we can always improve, increasingly I see managers stepping up to coaching and improving their coaching skills.  However, there’s one piece I see consistently lacking what most sales managers do–it’s follow-up. 

Follow up is one of the most important, yet most often not done aspects of coaching.  Imagine this situation, we’ve spend time coaching a person on their sales strategy for a specific opportunity.  We agree on the strategy, the next steps the sales person is going to take, and when those steps will be taken.  The sales person feels pretty happy with the coaching session, we’re proud of ourselves.

But what happens next?  Does the sales person execute the agreed upon plan?  What were the outcomes of those activities?  Did they achieve the desired results?  Does the strategy need to be adjusted?  Can we use the outcomes of these activities to provide feedback to the sales person, further reinforcing the coaching we provided in the original coaching session?

Unless we follow-up and close the loop, we never know.  We miss an opportunity to reinforce the original coaching.  We don’t provide feedback to the sales person on the results.  We don’t get to connect the dots between what we agreed upon, what was executed, the outcomes, and what it means in terms of the sales person and whether they are improving.

The problems can get worse.  The press of every day business diverts the sales person as well as us.  Sometimes the sales person doesn’t execute the plan we agreed upon, they forget, they get diverted.  Then the coaching session didn’t have it’s full impact.  They haven’t tried to the things that were established in the meeting.  Their development and progress is slowed significantly.  No progress is being made–a lot of time is being spent i coaching, but nothing happens as a result.

In every coaching session we agree on certain next steps, activities and actions.  Follow-up is critical, managers need to make sure they follow up and close the loop.  There are many ways to do this–my favorite is scheduling a follow up email with delayed delivery.  It’s a simple thing to do, it keeps me from having to remember things–and it keeps the people I coach on top of executing the plan we agreed upon.

Here’s how it works, as we finish a meeting, I immediately do all my follow-ups.  For example, if we have agreed the sales person should do something by a certain date, immediately afterwards, I write a short follow up email—How did it go?  Did you achieve the results you hoped?  Should we get together and talk about it?  I schedule the delivery of the email for a day or two following the target date.  It’s amazing how effective it is.  It creates great habits and discipline.  It forces me to follow up and close the coaching loop with the person.  The person knows they are being held accountable and are reminded of it when they see the follow up.  Over time, it changes their behavior–they know, 100% of the time I follow up.  It’s simple, powerful, and I don’t have to remember to follow up, I leverage the system to do it for me, providing a reminder to the person and myself.

There are other things, scheduling a to-do, scheduling a follow up meeting.  Each of these are very powerful–do them immediately at the conclusion of the meeting–or even as you and the sales person are agreeing to the action plan.

The impact of you coaching will be magnified tremendously just through the simple act of following up.  Don’t lose the opportunity to close the loop and help the people you are coaching achieve the goals we have agreed upon.

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