64831945-coach bullhornMost sales managers recognize how important sales coaching is for helping their salespeople achieve high levels of performance and sustain good results. They want to know what they can do so that they can become more effective sales coaches. Here are four “best practice” tips I give them.

1. Set standards BEYOND minimum acceptable levels. Many companies set a minimum standard for a salesperson to produce to keep his or her job. But the message that sends is, “All I expect is mediocrity.” Instead, communicate to everyone on your team what the best sales people on your team are doing in terms of unique skills, knowledge and attitudes. Use those best practices to start documenting a “team success profile” and discuss that profile openly and regularly with your team. That way, every sales person will understand that you expect excellence and what they personally need to do to get better.

2. Ask better questions of your salespeople so they get better at asking questions of customers. How confident are you that your salespeople can delve into a customer’s or prospect’s thinking — and then use that information to win a sale? You can help your team improve their sales process by drilling into a rep’s sales process at every step along the way. For example…

Before, they make a first presentation, say, “Tell me about the customer’s 1st and 2nd needs.” If they can’t name a second need, they haven’t done a good job of probing.

As the opportunity progresses, ask, “Are there any decision-makers who may be opposed to us? Why would they be opposed?” If the salesperson can’t answer the question, they probably haven’t done enough to diagnose the politics of the purchasing process with the client.

Before they submit a proposal, ask “What do you need to do to win? Who are the strongest competitors and where are they better than us? Where are they weaker?” If the salesperson can’t answer these questions, they are going to fall down in the final step—where they need to convince the customer that your company is their best choice!

3. Stack rank your sales team on a quarterly basis. Grade each salesperson on skill and attitude on a quarterly basis, and create a GPA of your team. This ranking will help you figure out what kinds of coaching each sales rep needs. Do they just not have the skill or knowledge to do a better job, or do they know what to do but lack the will or attitude to make them successful? Have they improved in the last few months or are they stagnating?

Also, by ranking your salespeople, what you’ve really done is given yourself a grade in terms of YOUR effectiveness as a sales coach. If there are common problems across the team, what do you have to get better at so that your team can get better?

4. Coach someone before noon every day. Most sales managers have great intentions to coach their salespeople. But as soon as they step into the office (and maybe even before that), they get bombarded with problems, interruptions, requests, and other distractions. Don’t let yourself fall into that kind of reactive-management trap. The best way to maintain a balance of priorities and sales coaching responsibilities is to set an unbreakable appointment to coach a sales rep every day before noon.