1-on-1_CoachingIt’s every Sales Manager’s worst nightmare.  The exit of an A-player is painful.  The impact reverberates across the sales team.  Your boss questions your ability to manage.  Your team questions your ability to lead.  Customers are left wondering what happened.


How do you ensure you don’t lose your top performers?  There are three things A-players care about:


  1. Their Boss – It’s essential your top performers respect and trust you.  They need to believe you add value and that you’ll help them succeed. Step up your game.
  2. Their Territory – Is their patch well-defined?  Is success clearly possible?  Top reps drive for success.  If you place them in an impossible territory, you will lose them.  Put your best reps in your best territories and watch it rain.
  3. Their Compensation – No one likes uncertainty around their comp plan.  A-players want to clearly know how they gets paid.  The comp plan must be both fair and achievable. And stop changing it constantly.  Here’s a rule of thumb… if a rep cannot explain the comp plan is less than a minute, there’s a problem.  Keep it simple, fair and consistent.


In this post I’ll cover how to invest in the success of your top reps: Excel at 1-on-1’s.  Sounds simple, right?  It is; but most sales managers aren’t very good at them.


Stop losing your best talent.  Get serious about coaching your team and download the A-Player Coaching Guide here.


Most sales managers make the critical mistake of limiting coaching time with top performers.  Here’s the rational: My best reps don’t need me.  They’ll reach out if they need something.   Sound familiar?  Best practice is to dedicate 80% of your coaching time on top performers. Most Sales Managers do the opposite. They spend 80% of their coaching time on bottom performers.  Focus on A-players and reps that can become A-players in less than 18 months with dedicated coaching.


1-on-1’s aren’t rocket science, but there are some keys to success.  Here are a three…



1-on-1 coaching sessions shouldn’t be ad hoc.  Both Sales Manager and Rep should prepare in advance for them. If a rep doesn’t prepare it’s a signal they don’t want to improve.  If it continues, spend less time with them until they get serious about their coaching. 


Items for preparation should be consistent from one coaching session to another. 


Sales Rep Preparation Should Include:


  • Opportunity Review
  • Call Plan(s) for the next major customer interaction(s)
  • Review of items from their Individual Development Plan
  • Review of action items from last coaching session
  • Thoughts on coaching progress
  • Items for desired focus


Sales Manager Preparation Should Include:


  • How the Sales Rep is tracking to quota
  • Planned coaching focus for the day (skills development, performance issues, career progression)
  • Sales Manager action items from last session
  • Sales Rep action items from last session
  • Observations on coaching progress
  • Company initiatives for discussion


Listen and Observe:

Good coaching is based on observation.  Follow these three steps to get it right:


  1. Actively Listen – Avoid pontificating.  Listen and hear more than just the words.  Body language is 97% of our communication.
  2. Observe without stepping in – Especially when ride-along on a sales call is part of the 1-on-1. Avoid the urge to help even if the rep is faltering. As a coach, it is your job to observe for the coaching discussion.
  3. Document – after the sales engagement, take a few minutes to document what you saw.  Include specifics as these will be topics of discussion for the coaching conversation.  You don’t have to write a book, but solid notes are imperative.


Debrief and Coach:

Debriefing is an art form.  There’s a tendency to just say “good call” or spew a multitude of improvement points.  Neither is effective.  Let the sales rep go first and assess the call and outcome. Then pick 2-3 major themes from there to discuss.  Follow-up by a couple of action items tops.


Call to Action: Have you recently lost an A-player?  Is there flight risk for some top performers?  Don’t go through unnecessary pain.  Spend time with your top performers.  Commit time to their ongoing success.  Download the A-Player Coaching Guide and get the most out of your 1-on-1’s.