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Sales Coaching Strategy: Observe, Describe, Prescribe

September 2, 2023

The Sales Coaching Partnership

This is a common mistake I see in the sales world. So many people are constantly searching for others to handle things for them. I’ve always believed in the power of coaching, particularly sales coaching. Sales coaching is not just about pushing salespeople to hit their numbers, it’s about investing time to make them better and improving sales team performance across the board.

Some coaches out there, they’ve got it all wrong. They think it’s all on the salesperson, that they should take 80% or 100% of the responsibility for their own development. That’s not the way to create a winning sales team. We, as coaches, play a crucial role in shaping success of both our salespeople and the sales team as a whole.

Having said that, on the flip side, it’s a two-way street. I’ve noticed that salespeople too often rely on their coach or someone else on the team to do the heavy lifting, to show them exactly how to do something. They seek guidance, and that’s a good thing. But, we’ve gotta face the truth here: the coach can’t do it all for you. It’s a shared responsibility. Each party has a distinct role to play on this journey towards enhancing sales performance. You need to find the balance and sales coaching strategies where both sides contribute to the path forward.

Sales Coaching Playbook: Observe

I’ll break down how I see it. From the coach’s perspective, it’s a three step process I like to call “observe, describe, prescribe.” Our primary duty as coaches is to keenly observe, monitor, and thoroughly assess what our salespeople are doing, thus improving sales team performance. That means dedicating as much time as possible to watching them in action, listening to their interactions, and diving deep into their call recordings, all crucial steps in coaching sales reps effectively. Coaches need to be a detective in a sales setting, carefully scrutinizing how their reps conduct their sales, how they manage their team, how they collaborate with the team, their deal strategy, pipeline management, etc.



Once we’ve gathered all this information it’s time for the describe period. We’re not here to point fingers or tell them what they’re doing wrong. That’s not an effective coaching method. We’re here to provide precise descriptions. It’s more “hey, when I watched you during that close, I noticed you did this” or “during our chat about your pipeline and deal strategy, I saw you approached it this way” and less “this approach is wrong and it should be this.” It’s about painting a clear picture for them, helping them understand their actions.



Finally, wrap it up with the “prescription.” As coaches, our job is to offer alternative routes, different methods, and suggest better options. We’re the navigators, guiding the salespeople to additional information, fresh ideas, different perspectives, and refined approaches to help them improve. That’s the role of sales coaching – observe, describe, prescribe.

The Sales Rep’s Role: Absorb, Adapt, Achieve

Shifting gears, from the salesperson’s side, it’s your duty to be a sponge. What I mean by that is, when your coach provides you with insights, don’t push back with “I don’t like this” or “that doesn’t make sense.” It’s not about arguing or disputing their words. Instead, absorb it all, let it sink in. Take it as valuable input and ask yourself, “how can I apply this?”

Here’s the deal, when your coach points out something you believe you’re already doing, that’s a good thing! If you’re not doing it, that’s okay too. Accept it, add it to your toolkit, and incorporate it into your approach. The key is to be receptive and ready to implement these insights for your own growth and success. It should be a straight forward process of absorbing and applying, fundamental aspects of one on one sales coaching.


Uncovering Blind Spots

This is why this is so important. If you haven’t heard of Johari’s Window, go take a minute and look it up. In the theory, there’s something called the blind spot. The blind spot is that hidden part of yourself that you’re oblivious to, but everyone else around you sees crystal clearly. It’s what they know about you that you don’t know about yourself. That blind spot can be a real killer in the sales world.

This is where top-notch corporate sales coaching comes in. If they’re good at what they do, they’ll help you shine a light on those blind spots and work on eliminating them. Once you’ve been clued in on what they are, they’re no longer a blind spot. That’s the magic of effective sales coaching. Now that you’re aware, it’s on you to take that awareness and put in the effort to improve.


Practice Makes Sales Perfect

But, a key piece in this, it’s not just about applying it once and calling it a day. It’s about the relentless repetition and practice that hones your skills, crucial for enhancing sales performance. Think of it like playing tennis – if your coach tells you your backhand is terrible and you tend to undercut (I don’t know anything about tennis, maybe this isn’t an actual problem, just go with it), well, you’re on the right track.

It’s not just applying that feedback once though; it’s about consistent practice that turn that weak backhand into a killer. It’s the same principle with your sales discoveries, you deal strategy, or whatever else you’re being coached on. It’s the constant, deliberate practice that makes you better.


Sales Coaching Mission: Eradicate Blind Spots

So bottom line, coaches, your job is all about rolling up your sleeves and diving into observation mode. You’ve got to be relentless in this. Your mission: eradicate those pesky blind spots. Your weapon is feedback. But here’s the thing, it’s not just about pointing out what’s wrong. You’ve got to be a master of description, painting a clear picture of what you see. Your prescription pad should be ready to roll, filled with fresh ideas and innovative thoughts.

Your goal, above all else, is to expand to expand their awareness. You’re the guiding light that helps them navigate through the fog of their limitations. It’s a multifaceted role – observe, eliminate blind spots, provide detailed feedback, and prescribe new avenues of thought. This how you nurture growth in your sales teams.


Own Your Growth

Salespeople, your role is just as vital. It starts with absorbing any feedback, learning and truly understanding it, and then applying it daily. It’s not solely your coach’s responsibility. I challenge you, as individuals to invest in your own self development. Don’t sit around and wait for the coach to point things out. Conduct your own observations. Take a good look in the mirror and provide your own honest self-description. Don’t shy away from prescribing your own path to improvement.

Both sides of this equation, both the coach and the coachee, have to commit to this journey. When you bring it all together that’s when the sky becomes the limit. The possibilities are endless when both parties are all-in.

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