When coaching is mentioned people often think of ‘life coaching’, or scheduled one to one sessions in a private environment with action plans and follow up. This is the case for many coaching interventions, however we can address a variety of situations and interactions with a ‘coaching approach’. A conversation using a coaching approach involves thought provoking questions and plenty of listening to hear, rather than listening to respond. This means that we are totally present with what the other person is saying, with no agenda of our own. Any questions we ask are generated from the answers we hear. Such conversations build trust, increase credibility and enable influence. Three key ingredients for a successful salesperson!
It is a given that we must believe in, and have a passion for, the product and/or service that we are offering, and rarely is this enough on its own. Unless we are able to connect with the customer then we are unlikely to engage them into the buying process. Eliciting needs is a critical part of any sales process, but often sales people will go in with their own agenda dominating their approach, rather than having a genuine curiosity around what might be going on for the customer. By engaging in a coaching approach we are asking great questions, truly listening and therefore showing an interest. By doing this not only are we more likely to elicit needs, it is also a sure way for the customer to feel important and valued, which means that they are more likely to connect with you. When we connect we trust, when we trust we are more likely to buy!
Customers that present many objections can feel intimidating to be around, and there are some that we may not want to challenge through fear of ‘damaging’ the relationship that we already have, even though they might not be following through on any sales! Using a coaching approach can be a powerful way to overcome both of these. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it rarely kills a connection. Instead of focusing on what we believe a customer thinks about us, find out what is really going on for them by asking. Being more curious when dealt an objection is much more powerful (and thought provoking for the customer) than getting into justification or backing off. Using coaching questions is a safe and supportive way of challenging, especially when the relationship is already established.
Learning the skills required to adopt a coaching approach builds self-awareness and self-belief, with amazing results. We have worked extensively with sales teams, and as part of the personal development solution we invite them to present their learning at the end of the programme. The brief is simple; to share the impact that the learning has had on them personally, their team, and therefore the business. Time after time we see a strong correlation between the increase in their sales graphs and the programme timeline.
A coaching approach isn’t a guaranteed way of making every sale, we know for example that sometimes price/budget are genuinely the issue, and customer hands are tied. However if you want to drive sales by identifying what’s really going on in the world of your customers, and connecting with them in a credible and supportive way, then this approach is a certain way to do just that.