Sales leaders often tell us that coaching is one of the most important developmental tools they have for helping sales reps improve performance. Good sales coaching can have a direct impact on motivation, commitment and goal attainment. But many organizations aren’t realizing those benefits.
One reason? Too many sales managers are being put into coaching roles without a workable game plan.
In the sales world, coaching and development strategies often focus on behaviors, specifically, changing behavior. And behaviors are important. But the problem is, this approach tends to ignore the thinking that drives behavior. How someone behaves is situational and can be affected by many external factors—just consider all the variables and external pressures a salesperson can have to deal with on a daily basis.
How they think, on the other hand, is at the heart of who your salespeople are. It’s the one constant, and it affects everything: how they process information, what motivates them, how they react under pressure, what sales tools and apps work best for them (and which ones they’ll struggle with), and how they prefer to communicate and learn.
By the same token, how a sales manager thinks affects how they’ll approach coaching and interacting with different salespeople. When you get down to it, there’s possibly nothing more pivotal to the success of a coaching relationship and the ultimate results it creates. But too often the coaching process skips right over it.
The good news is, you don’t have to throw out your coaching game plan and start all over. There are some easy ways to integrate thinking into any coaching practices you’re already doing and quickly make an impact. And once you do, you’ll see why it’s a winning strategy.
How to Incorporate Thinking into Your Coaching Game Plan
Think back to some of the most effective coaches you’ve had throughout your career. One of the first things you may have noticed was that they just seemed to “get” you. They understood what you cared about (and what you didn’t) and how you worked best. They were on your wavelength and connected with you right away. You spoke the same language.
The two of you probably shared similar thinking preferences. This is something that can be clarified and explored together using a validated assessment like the HBDI®, and it’s a great way to kick off a coaching engagement.
A coach and coachee don’t have to be a perfect thinking match for the relationship to work, however. After all, you have access to your whole brain, even if you tend to “default” to certain thinking processes over others. The key is to go into it knowing what those defaults are, for the coach as well as the coachee.
Once you have that foundation, sales coaches can use some simple “Whole Brain®” strategies to quickly connect, cut through the noise and “get through” in a way that works most effectively for the person they’re coaching to drive the desired behaviors. They can also pinpoint the performance support tools that will be most likely to help them break through plateaus or stretch to new responsibilities.
There is no right or wrong thinking preference, and all add value to the coaching process. That’s why a smart coaching game plan incorporates strategies from all thinking quadrants.
Here’s a Whole Brain® checklist to get you started:
Regardless of their own thinking preferences, successful sales coaches know how to move beyond their comfort zones to meet their coachees where they think. So before you kick off that next coaching conversation, ask yourself:
- How do my thinking preferences influence my coaching approach?
- What steps can I take to better align my coaching with the thinking demands of the sales job? Tip: Ask those you coach (and anyone who coaches you) what they need most for effective results.
- How is my thinking aligning with the needs of each of my coachees? Create a checklist together to ensure both your and your salesperson’s needs are getting met in future sessions.
Understanding the thinking that drives sales behavior, both for sales professionals AND their targets, could be your new secret weapon.