How to Coach Your Sales Team to Achieve Outstanding Results
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As 2019 might be a year full of challenges, many companies we know tend to have a stronger focus on training their sales team to get more customers and generate more sales.  However, in order to enable the sales team to sell more, sales managers will have to coach their teams, in addition to  upskilling them to sell better.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. How to Coach Your Sales Team to Achieve Outstanding Results; and

  2. A Simple Agile Technique that Every Learning & Development Manager can Use

This issue's main article is on "How to Coach Your Sales Team to Achieve Outstanding Results ", and here are some simple yet practical coaching techniques that sales managers can use get optimal results from their sales people.


In brief:

  • Why coaching is needed for getting better sales results?

  • What are some ineffective things that "old-school" sales managers do that merely add stress and cause sales people to leave?

  • How to make sales people accountable to their actions using coaching?   Read on... ...

To read the rest of this newsletter, pls. click here ( 

How to Coach Your Sales Team to Achieve Outstanding Results

by c.j. Ng

In many of the feedback that sales managers give their sales teams, most of which tend to sound very much like the following:

Sales Manager:    So what are your numbers currently?

Sales Person:    Boss, it’s xxx

Sales Manager:    That’s way behind your target!  Go and go make some numbers!

Sales Person:    Yes Boss!And the same scenario keeps on playing over again and again.  Unfortunately, doing so is not productive.  Here are the reasons why:
  • The sales figures are the results of the actions that the sales person had taken.  Hence if you want to get better results, you don’t chase the numbers.  You explore how the sales person needs to change this/ her behaviours.
  • By focusing on the “numbers”, nether the sales manager nor the sales person knows what is preventing them to achieve better results.  A conversation needs to be conducted to find out what were the actions taken, and what kinds of actions need to be taken next.

Of course, there will be sales managers who will order the sales person exactly what to do, which could sound like:

While these could be the right actions to take depending on the situation, the reality is that only the sales person has the first-hand information on what’s going on, and might have a clearer perspective on what needs to be done.  Who knows if the sales person had already done what the sales manager had asked, but to no avail and would need help and support to devise better sales strategies.

Some “old school” sales managers will say that you don’t want to “pamper” sales people, or they will be lazy and not be motivated to do work.  In other words, their belief was that one would need to add lots of pressure on sales people in order to motivate them to deliver results.

Personally, I take a different view.  The sales job is already a job that forces people to be motivated.  In most cases, sales people will be asked to leave the company if they don’t deliver results after some time, and the sales people are very much aware of that.  Hence, most sales people come motivated to want to deliver results.  It is unlikely that the lack of such motivation that is the cause of poor or unsatisfactory results.  There could be deeper underlying reasons that require further probing and discovery to uncover the path to great performances.

Enter the Sales Coach

  • “Go make more calls!”
  • “Go chase after the customer!”
  •  “Go push the (higher priced) product!”
Just as the old adage “Selling ain’t Telling” implies, developing a sales person’s abilities is not simply telling the sales person what to do.  In many instances, the sales person might have some ideas how to do their jobs, and might be making some headway in their work.  However, the results they get may not be coming fast enough to meet sales targets.

So as managers, the coaching will be to find out:

  • What the sales person could be thinking;
  • What will be the goal that the sales person want to achieve
  • What have they been doing
  • What they need to do next
Jack is a new sales person who works hard.  He makes many customer visits consistently everyday.  Yet, despite all his hard work, he is unable to close many sales.  Of the sales he closed, most are small amounts at low prices.  As such, he does not meet his targets.

A typical sales manager would have told Jack:
  • You need to target better customers;
  • You need to sell bigger or higher value;
  • You need to withstand price pressures, etc.
Now these are sensible advice for the sales person.  However, that does not take into consideration if Jack:

  • Has tried out those ideas but did not seem to work
  • Has hit some obstacles and did not know how to overcome them
  • Is at a loss what should be an effective next step
This is when the sales manager needs to use a different approach, i.e. coaching.

The Sales Coaching Process

The Sales Manager can approach Jack and start by framing the Topic and gaining agreement:

“I see that you are behind your sales targets.  Is there something we can discuss to see how to improve those numbers?”

In most circumstances, Jack is going to say yes and agree.  The Sales Manager can then ask for an Outcome that is achieveable and will lead to concrete actions

“So what would be an Outcome that you would like to achieve today?”

To which Jack could address a specific area that he would like to seek help, or an improvement he would want to work on.  These areas could be:
  • How to gain appointments with the right people;
  • How do you know if the customer is worth pursuing;
  • How to overcome initial objections such as “no need” or “too expensive” etc.
Whatever is the case, it’s important that the Sales Manager NOT give any advice yet.  Instead, the Sales Manager could Explore Possibilities by asking powerful questions such as:
  • “So what have you done so far?”
  •  “What do you think will make the customer want to see you?”
  •  “What do you think the customer mean when they say that?”
  •  “What else could be a different response to that?”
  •  “How would you gauge the level of their interest?” etc

The key thing is to make the sales person reflect and gain clarity over what has been done (or not done).  As the old adage goes, “teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.  If the sales person could gain some insights on what could be done better, that sales person has gotten better in his selling skills.


While exploring possibilities, it is also important for the Sales Manager to:
  • Show empathy and validate whatever strengths the sales person has demonstrated, or things that he has done right, e.g. “I see that you have been following your leads rigorously”
  • Share your observations of the sales person, including their feelings and emotions, e.g. “I sense that you are feeling frustrated with the customer’s responses.  Do you feel frustrated at times?”
  • Create awareness by asking the sales person what insights he has gained, or what he has learnt from the conversation
Based on the insights gained above, the Sales Manager can then work together with the sales person to map out what Actions to take.  It would be even better if the Sales Manager could ask “so what will be some follow up actions that you need to take?”.  When the sales person provides the action steps, they are more likely to be accountable for the results.

Actions can be a wide variety of things, as long as it helps the sales person achieves his outcome, e.g.::

  • “I need to re-organize the way I approach customers”
  • “I need training in conducting price negotiations”
  • “I need to bring our engineer to see the customer”, etc 

Some actions might need to have a due date, while others can be assumed that the sales person will adjust his behaviours in the next sales situation.  In any case, the Sales Manager will hold the sales person accountable in future meetings or coaching sessions.

Finally, the Sales Manager could ask for some Feedback from the sales person about how the session has been helpful, and if there could be any ways to make future sessions more effective.

Getting Ready to Coach

Some traditional sales managers might feel that coaching might be a too “soft” approach to getting results from sales people.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Although coaching allows for the sales person a lot of space to express themselves, eventually the sales person will still have to be accountable for results.

In other words, by allowing the sales person to reflect on their situation and explore his own options and actions, coaching is merely a more effective way to get your sales team achieve outstanding results! 

Need help to develop your sales managers to be effective sales coaches?  Simply e-mail or call +86-21-6219 0021 or WeChat: cydj001 and arrange to have a deeper discussion.

Half-Day Workshop 28 Mar 2019:
How to Coach Your Sales Team to Achieve Outstanding Results

  • What is Coaching
  • When to coach and when not to coach?
  • Evaluative vs. Developmental Feedback
  • GROW/ TOEAF coaching model
  • Questioning skills in coaching
  • Case Study: You have a sales team member who used to perform well and meet targets.  6 months ago, one of his key accounts restructured and had to stop buying from the sales person. As a result, your sales team member had struggled to meet targets since then. What would you do?

VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Thursday, 28 Mar 2019

TIME: 13:30 p.m. - 17:30 p.m.


To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations too

Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

A Simple Agile Technique that Every Learning & Development Manager can Use

by c.j. Ng

A while ago, I got a call from a friend, Mike, who was asking if I could give advice on a training programme design.  The company he works for has created a training programme that all of their 1,000+ sales people globally, and it will be conducted by sales directors and managers for their respective teams.

The issue that Mike had was how the programme is being designed.  Some of the key characteristics of the programme were:
  • It will be conducted in 1 day;
  • It will cover 17 key learning points;
  • It has more than 100 PPT slides
  • It will be conducted by internal managers who will go through a TTT (Train-the-Trainer) to learn how to conduct the trainngs based on the materials
Obviously, doing more than 100 PPT slides in 1 day is not going to be effective.  While Mike understood that, he also was concerned about how he could cover the 17 key learning points with less materials.

So I shared with Mike a simple and often overlooked Agile technique called MoSCow (or MuSCow) that could help him streamline the programme.  MosCow stands for:
  • Must have
  • Should have
  • Could have
  • Won't have
So I asked Mike, based on the target participants' current performance and skills levels, what would be some of the critical learning points or content that the programme MUST have?  That is, if the programme did not feature these elements, it will fail.

Next, I asked Mike in adition to the core content, what are some of the additional learning points that the programme SHOULD have, so that participants could fully grasp the subject matter.  If these were not incorporated into the programme, the programme will not be a failure, alhough it will be a lot less effectivetive as well.

If there was going to be more resources available for the programme, such has having 2-days rather than 1, or having some eLearning to supplement the face-to-face workshop, then perhaps Mike could sort out the COULD haves.  While the "could haves" would definitely make the programme better, not having them would not be too detrimental either.

Lastly, I asked Mike to filter out the parts that looked great, but are actually off-topic or did not serve to achieve the programe's goals.  These are the WON'T haves, which would need to be excluded.

Besides the training content, I also asked Mike to look into how the training needs to be conducted.  Would role plays and discussions form part of "must haves" in the training.  Would it also be a "must have" that the training do not go non-stop with too much lecturing?  Given the limited resources, what should be some of the "should haves" and "could haves" that will make the learning more effective.

Eventually, we re-organised the programme as per the following:
  • 4 "Must haves" learning points, where corresponding "must have" case studies for discussions and role plays are well-drilled with the participants
  • 4 "Should haves" learning points, where there are "must have" case studies and follow-up "should have" coaching by the respective managers
  • 5 "Could haves" learning points are available as "could have" self-study eLearning, where the particiants will get a small reward if they pass the eLearning assessment at the end
  • A "Must-have" pre-training proficiency test which participants will do prior to the training, of which they will get the results of immediately (a "should have" for the assessment) .
By using the MusCow technique, managers can prioritise what are some of the key components that need to be delivered, and which are those that could have a lower priority.  If managers are operating wihin certain time and resource constraint, it will be very helpful in allocating te scarce time and resources to achieve goals.

In case you are wondering, MusCow is a technique that is part of the Dynamic systems development method (DSDM), which is an agile project delivery framework, initially used in software development.  Its main purpose is to help engineers deliver working prototypes when resources and time are limited.  It is also a tool to precent over-engineering.

Beyond software development, I personally find MusCow to be useful in many aspects of business, leadership and life.

Need help in streamlining your work using Agile?  Simply e-mail
or call +86-21-6219 0021 or WeChat: cydj001 and arrange to have a deeper discussion. 

Directions Management Consulting

Directions Management Consulting was founded in 2007 to help companies address real issues and challenges at work, and then formulate practical solutions to deliver results.  So far we have the honour to work with companies such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Aptiv, Schaeffler, Schindler, Graco, Heraeus, and many more.


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