RZPostSales coaching expert Keith Rosen explains why managers should coach to win.

Your manager compliments you on a sales call or for nailing a big contract. You want to bask in your glory for a few moments, but you know the next sentence out of your manager’s mouth will start with but—as in, “But why didn’t you do X?” or “But next time, be sure to do Y.”

We’ve all been there … waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That’s why I resonated with Keith Rosen’s refreshing post about what sales leaders must do to develop their teams. This is not pie in the sky. Keith gives specific coaching questions to reinforce what salespeople do right. The outcome? These questions open up productive dialogues and promote success, rather than shutting people down.

Here’s Keith’s advice:

“I love asking managers to list all the critical conversations they need to have throughout their careers. Their lists are always relevant, yet practically every response focuses on handling challenges or fixing problems. Consequently, managers consistently fail to recognize the most powerful coaching moments right in front of them.

You Just Missed the Train to Coaching Success

Since the majority of managers focus on what’s not working, or what needs to change in order to achieve aggressive goals and business objectives, they act like heat-seeking missiles. Managers are conditioned to search for, identify, and eradicate any problems in their paths to greater success. They love to fix things because they believe that’s the value they bring to their teams.

The problem here is that managers miss out on opportunities to coach people around wins or other positive behaviors that need to be reinforced. They focus on failures, rather than successes. And it’s no surprise why. They receive the exact same kind of pressure from their bosses, and that pressure—which is modeled from the top—continues to roll downhill.

Here’s a common example: A salesperson has just closed a big deal. He’s excited and can’t wait to share this win with his manager. When he does, the manager’s first response is, ‘Great job! But what about the other deals in your pipeline that aren’t closing this quarter? Let’s focus on the deals you’re struggling to close.’

While the manager’s intentions might be to help the direct report, herein lies a defining moment for any manager. In this instance, the manager missed out on a powerful coaching opportunity to further develop the rep’s talents and to reinforce the best practices, thinking, and strategies that made him successful!

If you’re always focused on what’s not working, how will your team recognize the things they do that are working? Think about how this affects the disposition, morale, and focus of your team. If you’re focusing on the negative, what are you modeling for your team? Consequently, what do you think your people will focus on when speaking with you, their peers, or your customers?

Shift Your Questions to Focus on What’s Right

The only way you’ll be able to reinforce the positive behaviors you want your direct reports to continually practice and refine is to place these behaviors in your line of vision.

A Global VP of Sales recently told me about an issue he was having with a struggling sales manager. The exec immediately went into all the things this manager needed help on. It was evident she felt discouraged and overwhelmed, and that she was seriously questioning her ability to effectively manage and lead her team to victory.

After a little coaching around how to better handle this conversation, the VP sat down with the manager and asked her the following questions:

  • Let’s take a step back for a moment. Tell me what’s going well right now.
  • What are some of the things you have achieved this week?
  • What are you most proud of accomplishing over the last month?
  • Can you share with me just one win you’ve observed amongst your team?

These questions took the manager off guard. She wasn’t expecting to talk about what she was doing well, especially in the face of a looming problem that needed to be addressed. But this shift in focus resulted in one of the most productive and positive conversations these two leaders ever had. The manager walked out of the meeting with an action plan to help her achieve what she wanted most. She understood what needed to be done and had confidence it could actually be accomplished—especially now that she had the support of her leader.

Reinforce Best Practices by Coaching the Win

Here’s an example of what a conversation would sound like when coaching a win:

  • Congratulations on that sale you just made. Great work here. Before we discuss the next item on our meeting agenda, I’d love to hear more about it. Can you walk me through what happened when you met with that prospect initially?
  • You mentioned the prospect initially pushed back pretty hard. How did you turn that around? What did you do differently this time?
  • What did you do really well that you’re proud of?
  • What questions did you ask that you might not have typically asked before?
  • How was your disposition and state of mind at the time?
  • What best practices—conversations, questions, activities, etc.—can we identify and embed into your sales process to ensure you use them during every customer interaction to consistently achieve the results you want?
  • How did you acknowledge yourself for a job well done?

To build a world-class sales team and reinforce positive behaviors, turn your binoculars around and start magnifying and focusing on what they’re doing right more often than what they’re doing wrong. In every conversation and interaction you have, you are either building trust and confidence, or you’re eroding it. The choice is yours.”

(Note: The original version of this blog post appeared on Keith’s website.)

KRosenAbout the Author

Keith Rosen, MCC, is the CEO of Profit Builders—which has been named one of the “Best Sales Training and Coaching Companies” worldwide for the last four consecutive years. Keith has delivered his sales leadership programs to hundreds of thousands of managers and salespeople in practically every industry, on five continents. and in more than 50 countries. Keith is the author of several bestselling books, including the globally acclaimed, Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, winner of five International Best Book Awards and the #1 sales management coaching book on Amazon. Get Keith’s ebooks, articles, and videos at www.KeithRosen.com.