Sink or Swim – Coaching Comes First

Sink or Swim – Coaching Comes First

So, I’m on this boat and I look over the edge and see another passenger who has just fallen in and looks to be drowning.  Like most people in this situation I have a decision to make……and, this looks like a good time to do a performance review on their ability to swim.

Of course, this is just an example with no actual event supporting it – but, it does sound like what happens with a lot of salespeople.  They get thrown out in the water to sink or swim.  Before you throw your next salesperson into the water make sure they can swim.  When a salesperson is hired that is the best time to have swimming lessons – also known as on-boarding.

On-boarding is more than just going over the HR policies and a quick review of the product line.  For salespeople there is a need to thoroughly know what they should do and how they will be paid for doing it.  Your Standards of Performance document will show them the metrics (number of sales calls, appointments, presentations and contract signings) that is necessary to be successful.  From the Compensation Plan they will learn how much of what to sell and how much they will make when they do.

Your SoP (Standards of Performance) and Comp Plan should support each other.  The SoP should state that if you have 40 new customer appointments, deliver 20 proposals, have 10 final meetings you will sign 2 contracts – and that you will need to sign 4 contracts a month to make quota.  OK, there’s the basic formula – some will be successful by doing less and some by doing more, but that gives all new salespeople a guideline for success.  The Comp Plan should support this effort by paying fairly for the results produced.

It’s important to know what you are supposed to do and how you will be paid once you perform.

The next step is to coach them through the process.  The easy 3 step process is: You do it they watch, next they do it and you watch, and third, they do it on their own with you still coaching the results.  Your mission at this point is to eliminate anyone saying, “oh, I wish you had told me this 2 months ago”.

Sales training and coaching is more than giving someone a product and price list, showing them a territory map, and telling them not come back until they make a sale.  Here’s one of many secrets of coaching – if you ask someone to do something and they don’t know how to do it then it’s your fault not theirs.  The Sales Manager should know the skill set of every salesperson and coach individually for their success.

Progress reviews are just one component to ensure that your salespeople are successful.  When doing a weekly review go beyond the numbers.  When someone is struggling with one aspect (or several) then take the time to go into the field with them to do some “windshield coaching”.  Sit with them while they cold call, go on appointments with them, then review each step and provide coaching for better results.

Just like teaching someone to swim – don’t do a work review while they are drowning – jump in the water, pull them out, and then go back and do more coaching.

Here’s the action item – if you would like coaching on any part of this process reach out to Hastings Growth Team /


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