Shattering the Myth of Remote Sales Coaching

Not only is it okay to coach from a distance, there are benefits to doing so.

Whether you are coaching face to face or remotely, the same tools, strategy and coaching framework apply. Learn how to be a powerful coach regardless of whether or not you work out of the same office or country.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith RosenWith more business conducted across online communication platforms and more sales teams operating in a virtual environment, many sales managers question how proficient they can be at coaching their team at a distance—especially if they have never been shown how to do so effectively.

While you may not always be in the same room as the person you are coaching, you can schedule regular coaching sessions over the telephone, or using an online application for videoconferencing, such as Skype.

But I Can’t See Them!

Now, I’m certainly not disputing the value of coaching someone face to face and the additional things that can be observed when doing so. However, a large majority of managers do not often have the luxury of calling a face-to-face meeting and instead find themselves supporting, coaching, and managing their people over the telephone. As such, developing and strengthening your telephone coaching skills becomes essential to leveraging every coaching opportunity you have with your team.

More and more, remote coaching is quickly becoming the norm and not the exception. In my 25 plus years of coaching thousands of managers and salespeople, at least 95% of all the coaching I have done has been over the telephone. Not only has remote coaching been proven to be incredibly effective but it is also highly efficient. If delivered effectively, coaching at a distance can save you a considerable amount of time as it relates to scheduling limitations as well as travel time. Managers also have the opportunity to do more impromptu coaching and have check in calls with their team, whether it’s to build accountability, reinforce a message, handle a timely challenge or even to celebrate a win. This ‘just in time’ coaching can now be delivered when your people need it most.

Some managers may think they are at a disadvantage coaching remotely, and as a result, don’t put forth the effort and attempt to coach at a distance. They feel they are unable to ‘observe’ their team in the field if they are not physically present with them.

However, there are just as many managers who feel remote coaching works better for a variety of reasons. After all, the focus needs to be on the message and many managers feel that when coaching remotely, they don’t have any other visual distractions that can take away from listening purely to the spoken word.

Remote Observation Is Powerful and Efficient

In addition, you actually do have the opportunity to observe your team ‘in the field.’ Granted, your direct report may not be next to you when they’re delivering a presentation or a pitch but you can schedule a conference call with the salesperson and listen in while that person makes follow up calls to prospects or customers or when they’re cold calling, should cold calling be part of that person’s responsibility.

And even though you’re not physically present, you can observe other things as well that go beyond simply what you’re hearing. For example, whether you’ve scheduled a time for a coaching session or a time to observe them over the telephone, are they prepared for their meeting with you? Are they efficient and organized? Do they have their notes, call list, objectives and expectations clearly mapped out? Are they focused or distracted?

In many cases, if the telephone is the main communication tool for your salespeople, whether they are presenting, following up, handling a customer issue or prospecting, it only makes sense to observe and coach them using the same communication platform. This will give you more of a realistic sense of what they are doing, what they are saying and how they come across. After all, if the telephone is predominantly what your salespeople are using when communicating with your prospects and customers, it only makes sense for you to listen to them and what they sound like over the same medium. In this case, conducting skill practice scenarios and role plays face to face rather than on the phone is actually more of a simulated environment than a realistic one!

So, what else can you observe at a distance? If you’re on the phone listening to one of your salespeople make cold calls or follow up calls to your prospects or customers, are you observing not only what they’re saying but what they are not saying? Are you being mindful of their tone, pacing, resonance and the confidence they exude through the phone? By knowing what to listen for during a remote coaching session or observation session, you’ll find that you will be able to uncover many valuable coaching opportunities, without having to be physically present with your team.

Selling is a Language

Since selling is really a language, top performers communicate more powerfully than lower performers. They listen at a deeper level and certainly ask the ‘tougher,’ more precision based questions that get to the core of that person’s known and unknown needs, concerns, buying process and priorities. As such, this is your chance to not only uncover more coaching moments and developmental opportunities but to assess best practices around the behavior you want all of your people to engage in, including what is said, how it is said and what is better off left unsaid.

Since your direct reports are also interacting via email with their prospects and customers, reviewing their written email and the message they’re sending in written form will provide you with invaluable insight and uncover many opportunities for continued improvement and growth. You will be shockingly surprised!

And if you’re a global manager, where some of your direct reports are calling on companies in certain regions of the world where you may not speak their language, do not despair! You can still observe them! What can you observe? Well, you can observe their tone, pace and voice inflection. You can observe whether or not they’re cutting the customer off when speaking with them. You can also observe if they are talking too much or if they are asking more questions and listening instead of talking.

These are things you can observe with your ears, even if you don’t speak their language. To take this a step further, you can also ask one of your peers who does speak that language to either listen in on the call with your direct report so that at the end of the call, they can share what they have heard. If it’s more convenient due to scheduling conflicts and availability, in some cases, you can record the call and share that recording with a peer who could listen to the conversation around their schedule and then provide feedback to you.

Of course, when coaching remotely, that does not mean you now have the license to check your emails, instant messages or text messages on your phone while doing so, just because your direct report can’t see you through a phone line! I guarantee, they can still tell when you are distracted by something else and as such, are not listening or fully engaged in the conversation.

Realize that whether you are coaching face to face or remotely, the same tools, strategy and coaching framework still work, are applicable and are just as effective, regardless of the environment in which you are coaching.

Photo Credit: Keith Nerdin