Skiing analogies. Mind-blowing sales tips. And, most importantly, no B.S.
That’s right: Keenan was in the (virtual) house at our inaugural MOMENTUM sales conference.
Keenan, self-proclaimed “sales guy” and author of Gap Selling and Not Taught, dropped some knowledge during his keynote session titled “Coach the Coach: Helping Sales Managers Be Inspiring Leaders that Drive Results.”
Here are some of the key tips he offered during his presentation:
- Coaching is hard, so don’t expect it to be easy (most people don’t actually coach well)
- Coaching is about paying attention more than anything
- Coaching requires an outcome, not just haphazard work
- Coaching isn’t a performance review
Read on for a summary of Keenan’s sales training session and learn more about how to help your sales team improve their selling practices.
For the full experience, including Q&A with Keenan, click here to access the full video.
Coaching is hard.
Coaching isn’t about you. It’s about the salesperson that you’re serving.
“It’s sort of like giving a Christmas present,” said Keenan. “If you do a really good job with Christmas presents, then it’s about giving to that person and you’re focused on them. And the more focused you are on that person, you strengthen the relationship.”
So at the end of the day, sales coaching is a giving exercise, not a taking exercise:
- You’re focusing on their development and growth
- You’re helping them expand their skill sets and capabilities
- You’re helping them improve their self-awareness in selling
“When you sit down and think about coaching,” Keenan said, “It’s not just about ‘Can I get the numbers up?’ or ‘Can I get them to sell more?’ It’s also ‘Am I helping them improve, and grow in their talent?’”
In order to do that, you have to put your people at the center. Your role as the sales coach is to build a process around them: what they need, what they want, and how all of that fits within their goals.
But this is sometimes easier said than done. “When it comes to working with salespeople,” Keenan said, “We’re not very good at this. Oddly enough, I think maybe — other than lawyers — I think one of the hardest things in sales is trust. Selling is so competitive, so it can be cutthroat at times.”
In order to build that trust, you have to get your reps to believe that you truly have their best interests at heart, and give them the space to make mistakes and be vulnerable.
This is incredibly difficult. But if you can pull it off, your reps will start to see improvements in their sales success.
Coaching is paying attention.
Keenan calls it like he sees it, and this talk was certainly no exception. During his talk, he made a point to call out some of the things the sales coach often gets wrong.
“One of the things I just don’t see enough of when it comes to sales coaching: I really don’t think you guys pay enough attention.”
Managers are busy, so it can be difficult to watch your sales team and see what each individual sales person is doing. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that most of the world is working remotely right now.
That’s why Keenan provides a simple, actionable tip for the sales leader to better see what their reps are doing. He said to find repeatable moments where you can observe how your reps think and act.
One example is a pipeline meeting. If you know you’re going to be working with a particular rep one week, pay attention to what that person does in the pipeline meetings:
- How do they respond to questions?
- How much do they know about the deal?
- What kind of deal strategy have they built?
- What information have they gathered on that account?
- How well are they connected to the decision makers?
- Do they have a clear idea of next steps to keep the sales cycle moving forward?
- Do they have a deep enough knowledge of the sales process?
When you’re in a meeting environment, it’s a great opportunity to observe and take note of things so you can help them improve their overall selling effectiveness.
But this can go beyond just meetings. If you want to see how a rep does with cold calling, set up a regular time to listen in on those calls. Alternatively, you could use conversation intelligence software to automate the observation process. That way, you can see more of your reps’ activities, behaviors, and skill gaps than if you observed them manually.
Coaching requires an outcome.
Before you start one of your coaching sessions, ask yourself the following question: what’s the outcome? Be very clear and specific as to what you expect from the session:
- Do you want to keep prospects from going dark?
- Are you trying to improve discovery calls?
- Do the reps need to position the product and company better?
- Do you want better conversion rates?
Whatever the case may be, try to pick one or two outcomes you’re trying to achieve, but no more than that.
“You can’t just be all over the place,” Keenan said, “You’ve got to be structured with it — you’ve got to really help the people feel like there’s something they can get out of it and it’s moving toward something.”
The next step is to know why you’re targeting a particular skill. There are a million different selling skills you could work on. But you can’t fix them all, so you should focus on the ones that generate the greatest return or provide the greatest value in pushing your sales strategy forward.
Finally, find the root cause. Typically, this is going to be some skill that the salesperson isn’t executing well, or that they simply don’t have. So by changing those root causes, you can help the rep get new outcomes.
You want to help the sales rep understand how these things connect — how the action connects to the outcome.
Coaching is not a performance review.
We all do performance reviews once per year. But coaching sessions aren’t the same as performance reviews.
When you coach throughout the year, you should be focusing on all the areas that are traditionally covered in a performance review:
- Personal development
- Blind spots
- Tactical selling skills
- Planning and executing tactics
- Complex thinking skills
So if you’re doing a good job in your coaching sessions, then the annual performance review should be a cakewalk.
There’s another factor to consider as well. “Performance reviews are really judgmental: you’re either doing a good job, or not doing a good job,” said Keenan, “By its very nature, it’s detached.”
Coaching, on the other hand, is not about performance. It’s about figuring out how to improve the skills that drive that performance. In order for that to happen, it has to feel safe. Performance reviews aren’t meant to be safe.
Q&A with Keenan
Throughout the presentation, MOMENTUM attendees had the chance to ask Keenan sales coaching questions and get his on-the-fly responses. Here are some of the big ones:
- Should you set aside a time, maybe a week out of the month, and dedicate it primarily to coaching?
- How do you help coaches keep from moving on to coaching a new skill set too quickly?
- How do you temper speed in coaching when others are pushing for immediate results?
- As you progress, should you ask your reps to self-assess or self-prescribe?
- Should you plan your sessions to be one-on-one, or as a whole sales team?
- What are some key points to hit in your first session with a new rep?
If you want to hear the full presentation, including the Q&A, click here to access it.