Customers are self-directing their buying behavior in new ways.  This requires different coaching techniques.  Gone are the days riding with a rep on numerous calls to one customer.  77% of all Sales Managers reported fewer sales calls in 2012.  This means customer interactions are at a premium.  They need to be cherished.


(Download the Sales Manager Situational Coaching Tool to immediately change your coaching.)


Understanding how to train today’s managers to coach requires understanding how your customers buy.  Mapping your sales process to a buyer process is the foundation for better coaching.  Your buyer will know more about your product, competition and marketplace than your rep.  This requires different coaching techniques with sales reps then yesterday.


But what is coaching and which ways to coach need this change?


ways to be a sales coach


These ways to coach require changes. They all are centered on customer interactions.  And when you do coach in these ways, they require 3 new methods:


1. Understand the Needs of your Sales Rep: Your reps fall into 4 major ‘buckets’ of situational coaching development.  Identifying what ‘bucket’ they are in and coaching to those attributes is critical.  But modifying the coaching to the customers buying process is required today.   Good Situational Coaching* is:


  • Defining and identifying each sales rep into a situational coaching ’bucket’
  • Maximizing methods to coach each sales rep through your customer’s buying process map
  • Developing and guiding your sales rep through the situational coaching process



2. Prepare for the Customer Interaction:  Since buying is becoming self-directed, the buyer doesn’t think they need to meet.


“Why would I need to meet a sales rep to identify my problem?  I know I need to upgrade my ERP system.   I just need the sales person to negotiate a price and deliver the software.” Said one customer we recently interviewed.


Our research shows customers hate ‘discovery’ meetings.  They want to get to ‘the demo’ as soon as possible.  But we all know how important these initial meetings are.  Influencing their requirements during these early stages reduces the commoditization of your product. Proper preparation is learning to ‘win’ micro-decisions with them. Learn what questions the buyer asks themselves. Today’s sales manager can then understand the answers to these questions.  They can coach the rep to pull the customer through their buying process. This type of prep goes way beyond just writing a call plan. It truly maps a selling process to a buying process.


3. Plot where the Buyer is in their Journey: The new sales rep must learn where the buyer is in their journey.  Today’s sales manager must coach their sales person to identify where the buyer is.  A sales manager can’t be everywhere.  This coaching will enable your reps to do this when you aren’t there. Identifying where the buyer is will help pull the customer through their process quicker and more frequently.


These focus methods when coaching is emerging as differentiators for the best sales managers.  Take Courtney McKlveen.  She is a sales manager at one of our current customers.  Spending time with her revealed how she is adapting coaching to the changing buyer. She identified the proper ‘buckets’ for her sales people. Coaching on call preparation is helping her be successful.  Focusing on where the buyer is in their journey has her winning more business. Moving them through the situational coaching framework is developing them. She is successful today as she was 3 years ago.  But she is changing the way she coaches.  And this is showing in her results.


develop and coach sales reps


Call to Action:

Nail the buying process mapping. This requires identifying all persona’s that are involved in the decision. You must then go through the stages of the buying process map and then sync to your sales process.


  • Identify each sales rep on the team to their proper developmental area.  Coach them through their development with the new methods identified.  Below is the Courtney’s Team first and then later mapped on the situational coaching process. Notice the movement from some reps while others are no longer with the company.


  • Plot and Prepare: Coach your reps to plot where buyers are in their journey.  Prepare for your customer interactions with actions that force ‘micro-decisions’ to move the customer. These critical coaching techniques have enabled best in class sales managers to be successful today.


Send us an email directly if you have further coaching suggestions. Today’s buyer is changing rapidly. Coaching is becoming more and more critical for sales managers to be successful today.


*Situational Leadership was created by The Ken Blanchard Companies