Developing Salespeople with Effective Coaching

Developing salespeople doesn’t happen automatically. Many sales manager never invest the time and attention to do so and end up paying the price in turnover and poor sales. Developing salespeople requires you to understand and apply a simple yet powerful coaching process.  This process involves three steps. They are:developing salespeople

1.    Recognize coachable moments. Coachable mo­ments are specific opportunities where coaching is most likely to make an impact. Coachable mo­ments fall into three ar­eas:

  • When sales­people perform well;
  • When sales­people fail to per­form; and
  • When salespeople seek help.

2.    Engage. This means taking the coach­-able mo­ments and turning them into performance discus­sions. These performance discus­sions should be brief, very fo­cused, and viewed as helpful by salespeople. These are great  opportunities for developing salespeople.

3.    Mobilize. To effect change, man­agers must con­vert the perfor­mance discussions into actions. These actions can be comprehen­sive (e.g., devel­op­ing a key ac­count plan) or focused (e.g., use visuals during a presentation). Developing salespeople requires that you monitor your salespeople’s progress with the actions you assign.

Coachable Moments

In order to get peak performance from your salespeople you have to use every opportunity to develop their effectiveness. You as a coach must recognize and respond to coaching opportunities as they present themselves. This means using a different approach with each coachable moment. We’ll discuss each one separately.

When salespeople perform well.  Your objective in this situation is to reinforce the salesperson’s positive behavior. This coachable moment is often overlooked because many managers feel that salespeo­ple don’t need positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, this is a faulty assumption. Reinforcing positive behavior increases the frequency of the behavior. If you fail to reinforce positive behavior, it will occur less often.

When you want to reinforce or praise the perfor­mance of a salesperson, use the BIT Model.

B= Behavior Describe what the salesperson is doing that is positive.

I= Impact Describe why the salesperson’s perfor­mance is important and how it contributes to the organiza­tion.

T= Thank You Deliver a specific expression of appreciation.

An example of giving a BIT would be: “Making those extra calls this month has really paid off. Your 20 percent over budget really helped us get over the top this month. I really appreciate the extra effort you’ve put in. Keep up the great work!

When salespeople fail to perform. Your objective for this coachable moment is to give feedback and help salespeople improve a specific area of their performance. Giving negative feedback is not always easy, but it is necessary for improvement. To mini­mize the potential of causing salespeople to become defensive and not motivated, make sure your feedback is specific, focuses on behavior, and helpful. Using the BIEC Model should help you do so effectively.

B=  Behavior-Describe what his/her behavior is doing or not doing that needs improvement.

I= Impact-Describe how the behavior is impact­ing performance.

E=  Expectation-Explain what you expect the salesperson to do or not do to change.

C=Consequence-Explain what will happen if the salesperson changes or the consequences if the behav­ior continues.

He­re’s an exam­ple of the BIEC Model:  “Mary, this is the fourth time this month you’ve submitted sales orders with incomplete or inaccurate informa­tion. When you do this, the order has to be re-written and reprocessed. This adds to our costs and delays the order from being pro­cessed. Delays in orders can lead to lost sales and dissatisfied custom­ers. From now on, I expect your orders to be submit­ted with all the information complete and accurate. Doing so will make it easier to process your orders and keep your customers happy. Also, we can’t afford to jeopardize business because of poor paper­work. If there are future prob­lems, we’ll have to review your account list”.

When your salespeople seek help in solving a problem or maximizing an opportunity. Too often, managers solve their people’s problem instead of managing the problem-solving process. Managers take this approach because it seems the most expedient. In the short run, it probably is. But in the long run, the approach creates salespeople who are dependent on their managers. If you want to develop salespeople who take initiative, accept responsibility, and hold themselves accountable, then remember, the goal of this coachable moment is to support their efforts, not solve their problems.

Using the CEAC Model will help you draw your salespeople out and identify how you can best support their efforts.

C= Clarify the problem or opportunity.

E= Engage in a discussion of what options are available to address the issue.

A= Agree on actions to be taken with deadlines (What, by when and by whom).

C= Commit your support to the initiative.


Developing salespeople with effective coaching is an investment that requires both time and effort. A few minutes before and after a sales call or while a salesperson is developing a proposal can pay huge dividends.  Therefore,you must view coachable moments as opportunities to make a difference, not a distraction from your job.  Remember, sales managers who are constantly looking for oppor­tunities to make a difference, generally do. So, don’t let your coachable moments go unful­filled.