We’ve preached repeatedly that coaching is one of the most effective ways to develop a sales rep. But while there’s plenty of advice here and elsewhere for how sales managers and leaders should coach, there’s far less discussion about how sales reps should respond to the coaching they receive and what they should seek to get from the coaching experience. So that’s what we’ll be discussing today – how reps of various experience levels (both in terms of overall career and in tenure with a specific company) can get the most out of coaching.
As a New Career Sales Rep or a More Experienced Rep with a New Employer
If you’re a totally new sales rep, congratulations and welcome to the exciting world of sales. Your primary objective is to ask questions and learn as much as you can – not only in any onboarding process, but in meetings and coaching sessions with your sales manager.
Be humble enough to recognize that you have a lot to learn and consider yourself a student. Along those lines, one thing you might want to do is ask your manager for sales books they recommend you read. It’s a good way to demonstrate your enthusiasm and the manager is likely to recommend titles that will align with the company’s sales process.
For more experienced reps with new employment, stay humble there, too – even if it’s within the same vertical. While you have a wealth of knowledge and skills you’ve acquired over the years, every business has their own sales process and methodology. The strategies and tactics you used before might not match your new employer’s approach, so you may need to relearn some things. It’s a good idea to also ask questions – to really understand the organization’s selling philosophy and get in sync with it.
If you’re shifting to an entirely new vertical, or to a company with a different target market within your previous industry, then you’ll want to ask to be coached to dealing with the new sales landscape you find yourself in. Paired with your pre-existing abilities, that’ll help you get to quota faster.
As a Mid-Career Sales Rep with an Average Amount of Company Tenure
You’ve been in the game for a while now, all with the same company. You know the company, the product, the process, and have a stable of clients. The tendency might be to think you don’t need coaching, but even probable future Hall of Famer quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs a coach.
In your position, coaching is about refining your skills on the margins, finding that little extra edge that takes you from an average sales rep to a good one, or a good one to a great one. You might also have some deals that are more complicated or proving more difficult to land than your usual fare, so asking for help is a smart strategy.
As a Tenured Sales Rep with Extensive Company Experience
You’ve had a long, successful career with your current company. You’ve learned a lot and are on top of the game enough to still seek out best practice tips from other sales reps and your sales manager. You believe in ABL – Always Be Learning. What does coaching have to offer you, who has accomplished so much?
This is the time when you perhaps start thinking about a more senior role in your organization’s hierarchy – maybe you’re eyeing a transition to manager or feel like you could help the company by mentoring junior reps. Hence, while you’ll still seek out coaching on specific deals like a mid-career rep, it’s a good idea to be coached on leadership and mentoring. Even if you don’t formally move to a manager position, these skills will prove useful in working with less experienced reps and allow you to pass on your knowledge to the next generation.
General Advice for All Sales Reps
The single most important thing to remember when receiving coaching is to keep in mind the quote from The Godfather: “It’s not personal. It’s strictly business.” Coaching is not a personal criticism of you – it’s suggestion for improvement in your working life – which is a business function and not about your personal character or worth.
Coaching is ideally a collaborative exercise – sales manager and rep exchanging information and brainstorming ways about how to help the rep become better at what they do – whether it’s a general practice or the tactical approach to a single deal. If sales reps accept the coaching in the right way, and take ownership of what they’re looking for in coaching using the ideas we’ve described here as an outline of what to seek, it will be a successful project – both for the sales rep and the organization as a whole.