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Athletes train activities and fine-tune behaviours, you should too!


Clear and challenging goals boost performance 

Studies show that by setting clear, challenging, meaningful and agreed objectives for ourselves, our productivity increase 10-15 percent. When the goals are followed up though structured feedback methods, the positive effects are approximately doubled (!!)  (“A little book on Goals”, Christopher Svensson & Stefan Söderfjäll 2020)


Performance (Activity) and Learning objectives are not micro management


Setting and working with objectives on all levels is enormously effective and will almost certainly guarantee you a new boost to your growth. You as the teams manager need to become very good at using different types of objectives in combinations, often adapted to the capacities and experience of each individual.


Most companies we work with have sales targets for sales personnel, in the form of quota letters, with or without financial rewards attached to them (bonuses). These are pure Result Goals, and the problem is that we cannot coach or improve results – they already happened! (See our article on Leading and Lagging Indicators)


Our focus must move to Performance/Activity and Learning. The Activity, how well we perform it, and which customer we prioritise, explain a good part of the productivity increase, the rest is explained by the increased motivation through the intrinsic sensation of empowerment and control of your own situation. 

  • The first part, how well we do customer work, depend on competence and skills, and improvement happen through Learning
  • The second part – prioritising the right customers and contacts in the right moment, improves through pro-active calendar planning and careful selection of where we invest out time. 


When you define tactical 1-2 month objectives, plan the month together, and move focus to almost exclusively discuss the activity, not the result. Set goals for the activity, who to visit, where to present, contacts to prioritise. While the overall Result objectives may stay the same for a year, your road there – the choices you make, the visits you plan, the trade fairs you attend, the calls you make – will be constantly adapted, revised and changed! 


Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.

Richard Branson 


As the manager, your principal goal is make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, spend more time with prio customers, and eventually having a better life, more time with family.  This is important to understand, the wish to excel must be present, and rooted inside our rep. As with all change management, the desire to perform must be there before you can introduce new ways of setting goals. Otherwise you risk being perceived as “micro managing”. (See ADKAR model, prosci.com on Desire in change management )



The swim coach and you


You can compare the methodology to coaching Athletes. The Athlete and his/her coach set up a common goal. “I shall win the World Championship in 200-meter Medley”. None of us would expect a Coach to just give the Athlete the Result Objective of winning the championship and then walk away wishing him/her luck. Right? Yet this is what we often do as Sales Managers/Directors.


What does the coach do? The coach follows the Athlete through training, identifies weaknesses, uses strengths for tactics, build individual training programs and coaches and helps the Athlete to push him/herself to the limit, and cross it.


In Medley, the three strokes are carefully studied, and optimal individual training programs are planned and executed. Just like we need to balance our Platform in Sales, the swimmer need to balance training in Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. And it is the coach ́s job to cut the Total Time of the 200m distance down to a minimum. (as it is our job to maximise Revenue)


The training and exercise program that the coach build is everything to the success of the Athlete. And it is Activity Based – the Result objective of winning championships is there at the horizon, but the daily challenge revolve around movement and behaviour – Activity. The coach looks at every movement in the water. Should the left hand be a little more angled during the stroke? Is the position good in the water?


The same way, we can only help our Salesrep if we know where in the process he/she tend to get stuck, where he/she spend too much time, if he/she is talking to the right people, is saying the right things, making the right questions. Our job as Sales Directors is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow up, coach our Sales Rep to excellence! 


Sales Call Coaching – getting the most out of every sales minute


Sales Call Coaching – going together to customers is a great coaching tool

Sales Calls Coaching, means visiting customers together with the purpose of receiving feedback and improve sales skills. They  are on-the-job-training for all of us, regardless of position or role. It is a vital part of the continuous development for the whole sales organisation. It is a tool for sales professionals to learn, develop and at the same time get to know each other better, sharing knowledge and experiences.

As a Sales Manager you need to sharpen your coaching skills to do this well, but when done well, it is an invaluable input for later on when you hold more global  performance evaluations. Do this live kn customer situations, and not by interviewing the sales person. Discussing and coaching on activities and quality of work  is not realistic nor trustworthy without continuously observing and studying behaviours in real live situations.


Sales Call Coaching is your best tool to get first hand feel for sales behaviour. You should consider doing this with all customer facing personnel, Inside sales, Product Specialists as well as Account Managers. We all need to develop a self-awareness and understanding of how our behaviours affect the outcome in customer situations.



Why should all managers Coach on Sales Calls?


The first line sales organization aims to provide increased customer value. To ensure Sales Reps can perform in line with this and provide this increased customer value, also Sales Management needs to change and provide added value for Reps. Sales Call Coaching is a key tool to achieve this.


Doing Sales Calls with reps will help managers to:

  • Continuous improvement – towards a world class sales team!
  • Benchmark successful behaviors
  • train and ensure product knowledge among Sales Reps and other customer facing team members
  • help develop sales skills in all staff
  • find out about Sales Reps spend their time
  • obtain good ideas for Benchmarking and Best practice
  • ensure Value Sales is applied professionally
  • gather information from the market
  • practice and improve yourself in difficult negotiations, meeting key customers etc
  • get to know staff better and further improve teamwork


Download - How To: Sales Call Coaching


Evaluating and giving feedback on different customer interactions in the sales process require different skillsets of the manager. Sometimes we may even need to work on multiple roles at the same time, in complex multirole meetings selling as a team.


Sales Directors and higher management should also make an effort to find the natural opportunities to visit customers together with their sales reps and managers in order to help them become better at what they do – for the manager, this is coaching the reps.


The Sales Manager should spend at least 2 working days per week in the field. Some of the visits can of course be virtual, just make sure you apply a mix of different types of meetings and situations so that you coach and support all phases of the sales process.

Sharpen your skills evaluating reps in, and coaching for all situations!

If planned and executed well this work should not take more than half our week.


Download - Sales Call Evaluation template


What to look for


You should pay attention to basic sales process situations, and how different tools and sales situations and parts of the meeting (see example below) are applied.


Different steps of the Pipeline sales process require different skills. See the evaluation template for inspiration. Adapt the template depending on what type of meeting it is that you coach. How is the Sales Rep performing in different situations? E.g. When they for instance are:

  • attempting to open new parts of the business with a focus/growth customer
  • cross selling on higher levels of the management of key accounts
  • applying Value Selling to increase share of wallet in already well established accounts

… etc. etc. –  the examples are infinite, select the situations to train and coach according to your tactical needs and go for it! 


The GROW model

The GROW Model is a simple sequential coaching model that allow executives to simplify the complex realities to reach the right conclusion on directions to take and decision to make. It is often used by executive coaches all over the world as a framework to hold on to in the sessions and in their work. 

As a manager you are wise to learn how to use it in your 1-on-1s for mentoring and coaching your team members. 


GROW is an acronym that stands for:

  • Goal (establish objectives for the session)
  • Reality (how things are going right now)
  • Options (possibilities to consider)
  • Way Forward (agreement and commitment going forward)


Needless to say, an open and fluent coaching session doesn’t necessarily follow a clean 4 step sequence, but it is a great tool for us as new managers to hold on to and use as guidance for our conversations. 


As you gain experience and confidence with the model, it becomes a natural flow for your 1-on-1s and you allow the conversation to move a bit back and forth throughout the structure. 


Similar to many sales techniques such as SPIN and Solution selling, the key to using the GROW model and to coaching in general lies in asking the right question. This is central, because here we are not telling people what to do — good coaching is about helping them to find their own answers by asking the right question – at the right time.

Below you find the GROW framework, and some questions that can serve as inspiration for each step in the process. 




Coaching starts with establishing a goal. This enables us to focus on one specific thing to try to solve in the session, here its helpful to consider what goals can actually be:

·      Result or achievement goals

·      Activity or performance

·      Learning and development goals

·      Process, Problem solving, decisions to make 


Formulating objectives is not easy either, to get more productive sessions (and for many other discussions as well) you may want to train and practice target setting with the SMART model. 


All well formulated objectives are:

  • Specific (concrete, that you understand)
  • Measurable (can be determined if we achieve or not)
  • Attainable (within our realistic reach)
  • Relevant (matters – of real importance for us)
  • Timebound (agree by when it should happen)



To set the goals/objectives for the session you may want to ask:


  • What do you want to achieve from this coaching session?
  • What goal/objectives do you want/try to achieve?
  • What would the benefits be if you achieved this goal?
  • What would you like that [someone/thing] did?
  • What outcome/result would be ideal?
  • What do you want to change?





Here we are trying to gain awareness of the reality, what is the real current situation? How far off are we from the ideal? What is going on, and how good /bad is it?


Use your soft skills and go easy with your questions. Plan the question and let the person reflect on the answer. Listen, and avoid jumping to suggestions or sharing your own opinions and experiences in this stage. Here we are defining the context and reality, not finding the answers and solution, not just yet. 


Here are some questions you may find inspiration in:


  • So what’s the status now (who, when, and how often)? Where are you now in relation to your goal?
  • Have you already taken any steps towards your goal? (What have you already tried?)
  • How would you describe what you did?  What was the effect so far?
  • On a scale of one to 10, what progress did you make?
    • What things worked out the best? 
    • What could you do better this time?
    • What is working well right now?
  • Why haven’t you reached that goal already? What do you think is stopping you?
  • On a scale of one to 10, how bad/urgent is the situation?



Obstacles and Options 


Only when you have agreed, established, the current situation, you can move on to the solution. Start by evaluating obstacles to success, and then the available options, let the employee lead, guided by your questions. 


Here are a few samples you may find helpful: 


  • What is the hardest/most challenging part of that for you?
  • What do you think would happen if someone else did/said that?
  • What is the best case? what could make that happen? What would the worst case? What should you avoid for that not to happen?
  • What do you think you need to do next? Which option do you have?
  • What do you think you need to do to get to your goal?
  • Could you find help in anyone, anywhere?
  • What has worked for you already? How could you do more of that?
  • What would happen if you did that?
  • What options do you feel are the lowest hanging fruit?
  • How have you tackled the same situation before?
  • If there were no limitations at all, what would be the best way forward? 



Way Forward 


Similar to the Accept phases in sales techniques, we probe for acceptance and commitment to the actions. When accepted, we establish a clear path to the  

Finally, again, here you have a list of questions that will help you guide your coachee to commit to the right actions to achieve the goal. 


  • So, what should you do to start? What do you need to do right now?
  • Tell me how you’re going to do that.
  • How will you know when you have done it?
  • Doing that, what is the likelihood of your plan succeeding? (use a “on a scale 1 to 10” if you like). – Subsequently – What would it take to make it a 10?
  • What hinders do you expect, roadblocks that require planning?
  • What else do you need? Is there anything missing? What support do you need to get that done?
  • When will you start? Tell me at least two things you can get started with and done already this week? 
  • How motivated do you feel to get this done now?
  • What would happen if you don’t get this done? What would the consequences be? 

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