Most people still think of coaching as being anchored in the realm of sport.
In football, we think of Jack Gibson, Ron Barassi and Vince Lombardi. In swimming, Forbes Carlile is still held in high esteem. Some of the greatest tennis players of our age credit Tony Roche with helping them achieve their goals. And most netball players owe a debt to Joyce Brown who reshaped Australian netball, and, when inducted into Sport Australia’s Hall of Fame, was described as one Australia’s most successful sporting coaches.
Coaching as a method of performance improvement in organisations has gained great popularity over recent years. One of the leading voices in the field of performance coaching is Sir John Whitmore. After an early career in sport – Whitmore was racing car champion in his 20s – he developed an interest in performance improvement.
Together with others, including Timothy Gallwey from Inner Game, Whitmore pioneered the tools and methods which have become a staple for many of today’s executive and performance coaches. His book “Coaching for Performance” is now in its fourth edition and has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.
One of the key concepts in this valuable coaching resource is the GROW model. Whilst a personal coach can be a great asset for most salespeople and sales managers looking to get better results, simply applying some basic coaching methods will enable many to effectively coach themselves.
This article will outline the fundamental GROW model, with particular emphasis on how it can be applied in a sales context.
What is coaching?
Coaching as a practice can be described as a process where one individual – the coach – works with another individual – the “coachee” – to focus on achieving better personal outcomes for the coachee.
Coaching is about change – but change initiated by the coachee. As the old saying goes, for the process to work, the person being coached must want to change.
Coaches don’t need to be experts in the coachee’s profession for the process to work. Changes that people need to make to improve performance are often in areas around their approach to tasks, attitudes and simply stepping back to view their role in the context of their wider view of life.
A good coach will understand the psychology of change, and work with their clients to ensure they have a positive and realistic approach to what they choose to focus on. Good coaches will have a wide set of tools in their briefcase, and will also apply a process to the meetings they have with their clients.
One of the most widely used coaching models is the GROW model. It breaks conversations into four parts, allowing each session to end with a set of actions for the coachee to take in order to move toward the change they are looking to undertake.
The GROW Model.
Whitmore is at pains to stress that any approach to coaching – including the GROW model – are only of value when viewed in the context of awareness and responsibility. In other words, the person looking to change must take responsibility for their actions, and must be prepared to develop their self awareness.
But, a process is essential for good coaching, and this simple model is a good start. And don’t forget to write it down! Because, if it’s not written, it’s not coaching.
GROW is simply this four part process:
- What, when, where and by whom.
Coaching is about a positive approach to change. The first question we all need to ask is – where do we want to be? What do want to look different? These goals need to be long term as well as shorter time frames, and even what the goal is for a particular session.
Whilst it’s important to have dreams – these aren’t of themselves goals. We need to break down the steps that can be made to achieve large goals.
In sales terms, it’s great to want to be the top salesperson in the team. But what steps need to be taken to achieve this goal?
Goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART).
According to many highly regarded coaches, the key aspect is reality. Here are some questions we may need to answer objectively as we examine the reality of our goals:
- Do we have the capacity to achieve the goals we set?
- Do we have the knowledge, skills and ability required?
- Do we have the resources?
- Is the market receptive?
- Are we prepared to make any sacrifices necessary?
I’m not advocating that we don’t set stretch goals – in fact stretching ourselves is good. But it’s not helpful aiming for the unachievable.
In sales terms, here are some questions you may find helpful in assessing the reality of goals:
- Do I have the necessary clients or prospects I need?
- How do I develop more prospects?
- What is the realistic buying cycle?
- How can I innovate my sales processes and methods?
- Do I have the industry and product knowledge to gain the respect of clients and prospects?
- Do I have the presentation and communication skills I need to maximise each opportunity?
And so many more.
The key is to break down your sales process (which should reflect the buyers’ buying process) and be realistic about each step. Challenge your assumptions. Challenge your skills and ability.
Then put in place the steps to address each aspect where you could improve.
We know where we want to go, and we’ve considered the reality of the goal.
The next question is – how?
This part is where a good coach can bring some real value to the process. But even without a coach to prompt us, we can all consider ways to achieve our goals. Thinking about our sales goals, here are some questions to ask:
- Where am I having success – and how can I do more of this?
- What are the best performers in my team doing that I’m not?
- What skills or knowledge do others have that I don’t?
- How do successful salespeople in competitive organisations operate?
- What are the latest ideas and methods in professional selling?
- What events could I attend to find out ways to adapt my practice to achieve better outcomes?
If you don’t want to employ a coach, who do you know who could help as a sounding board for your ideas on options to achieve your goals? You want people who are positive and open-minded, but think if you know people who could add value to an “options” conversation. Perhaps they could come from the following areas:
- Successful performers in your team or organisation
- A senior person in your organisation – but not necessarily your manager – who understands your sales challenges
- A successful friend or colleague now in a different organisation
- A member in your industry association
- A client with whom you feel comfortable
Finding a friendly, but challenging “coach” is not easy, but you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to put in some time and give back to someone who is genuine in their desire to improve their performance and achieve better personal and professional outcomes.
When you’ve considered and talked through the great range of options that will emerge, prioritise them and select a couple that you can start working on today. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a dozen things that won’t get done. Select just one or 2 things which are achievable.
Start today with a small step.
4. What, when, where and by whom.
Without a concrete, written plan to make steps to achieve your goals, you are far less likely to succeed.
Think of yourself as a small business. Investors won’t invest and banks won’t supply loan facilities to businesses that don’t have a succinct and well considered business plan. And they don’t want to hear it – they want to see it in writing. The process of putting the plan together raises issues and helps to clarify potential misunderstandings.
If your career is important, it deserves the same treatment. Not a 25 page document, but a simple written note as to what steps you are going to take to achieve your goals. Not everything you think of will work. This is not a problem – the problem occurs when we continue to do things that are not working for longer than we need to.
So, you’ve got some options that you want to try to help achieve your goals. Write down the answers to the following questions:
- What – exactly – am I going to do?
- If it’s a number of things – what are they, and in what order? What contingencies are in place?
- What are the milestones and timeframes that apply? With dates and times.
- If others are involved – what do they need to do? By when?
This may sound pedantic – but there is now clear evidence that this systematic approach works.
Are your goals important to you?
If so – find 30 minutes and start.
If you persevere you will achieve better outcomes.
A final thought – can we coach ourselves?
The great power of coaching is that a good coach can keep their client accountable, and help them develop their self awareness. It is certainly possible, however, for all of us to apply the principles of coaching for ourselves.
Anthony Grant, head of Sydney University’s Coaching Psychology unit and author of a number of books on coaching certainly thinks so. In his book, “Coach yourself” he and co-author Jane Greene provide an outline of the coaching process – including the GROW model – and provide a framework for successful self-coaching.
We can’t all have a Jack Gibson, Joyce Brown or Vince Lombardi to coach us to success. But we can all take the personal responsibility to be accountable for the outcomes in our sales lives – and our lives more broadly.
So take the time to develop your self-awareness and, as Tony’s book’s sub-title says:
“It’s your life. What are you going to do with it?”
“Coaching for Performance” and “Coach Yourself” are both readily available at major bookstores.
Find out more about Sir John Whitmore here:
If you’re looking for a performance coach, the local arm of the International Coach Federation can put you in touch with a coach who is best suited to your needs. Use the directory on their Australasian site:
Thanks for reading this post – Paul Sparks, Sales Effectiveness Australasia.
“Taking you beyond sales training and keeping you informed about the latest ideas, trends, innovation, research & best practice in professional selling and sales management”
If you would like to connect with Paul Sparks please email paulsparks [at] saleseffectiveness.com.au