First the good news.
Time and time again, studies prove that sales coaching works. In fact, coaching just your mid-level performers, can increase performance to goal by 19%. And that’s why using a proven sales coaching framework is so important.
Now the bad news.
There are a LOT of different sales coaching models. And some of them are going to be better for your team than others.
So be like Indiana Jones (and choose wisely).
This article will walk you through the most popular sales coaching models. And provide our recommendation for the one that’s perfect for your sales team.
Here we go.
Why Use A Sales Coaching Model?
We all get that sales coaching is important. But why use a formal model? Is it even necessary?
It turns out, yes it is.
A coaching model helps sales managers use their time effectively.
Existing sales coaching models have been rigorously applied to millions of sales reps world-wide. And there’s NO point reinventing the wheel.
Importantly, the coaching model gives the sales rep and sales manager a ‘neutral’ framework to discuss and improve performance. There’s nothing personal or arbitrary in a model. It’s applied without bias, regardless of the person giving or receiving feedback.
This way the sales manager can give feedback in the context of the model. And the sales rep can accept it in the same way. This reduces the likelihood salespeople will become defensive. Or feel that the sales manager is playing favorites.
Some of the coaching models listed below were developed outside of a sales context. They are intended to facilitate a wide range of outcomes. And enable company leaders to get the best from their team.
Here are the most widely used sales coaching models.
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The GROW Sales Coaching Model
In addition to having the best sales coaching acronym, GROW is also one of the oldest sales coaching models. It was developed in the ‘80’s by business coaches Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore as a process for performance improvement.
The GROW acronym stands for:
The person being coached is expected to set a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).
In addition, the goal should be aspirational. There’s NO point working your butt off to achieve something that doesn’t have any emotional content. We work hard for things we actually WANT.
Coaches should probe the goal with leading questions. For example, does the goal further their longer term goals. Will the goal further the organization’s goals? And so on.
Goals need to be grounded in reality. Explore questions about the current situation, and whether the goal can actually be achieved. What are some of the obstacles that would prevent the goal from coming to fruition?
What resources are available to help progress the intended outcome? How can they be leveraged to better effect?
Good plans anticipate problems. And develop possible responses in advance of getting started.
The options part of GROW explores what you COULD do to achieve your objective. This process lends itself to brainstorming questions. Ideally the questions are free of constraint to elicit the most options possible. For example:
“If you had unlimited time how would you accomplish this goal?”
“If funding weren’t an issue, how would you achieve this goal quickly?”
Additionally, the Options section can explore opportunities outside the parameters of the goal. For example, “if you weren’t focused on this goal, what else would you want to achieve?”
The last section is where things get concrete. ‘Will’ refers to what you will do.
Agree upon specific actions that will be taken. They should have a set timeframe for completion. And there should be a framework to establish reporting and tracking. The coach can then keep things moving on target.
In order to be happy, human beings must feel they are continuing to grow. Clearly, we must adopt the concept of continuous improvement as a daily principle.
The OSCAR Sales Coaching Model
Like GROW, the OSCAR coaching model was created around broad leadership objectives. And it isn’t limited to sales in application. The model was designed to enhance existing coaching frameworks, specifically the GROW model.
The OSCAR acronym stands for:
This is an opportunity to explore what the intended outcome for the session will be. And also a chance to define long term goals. Coaches should explore how the intended goal fits into the sales rep’s broader life aspirations. For example, “How will achieving 3 sales per month change your personal situation?”
The purpose of this step is to explore and raise the sales rep’s understanding of their situation. And how a continuation of the current state will affect the sales rep long term. This section can also explore how other people in the sales rep’s life are affected by the way things are at present.
The Choices section of the coaching model is a way to explore all the possible ways to attain the desired outcome. Try to come up with as many possible paths to success as possible. Even if they aren’t immediately practical. Explore all possible resources that could be tapped to bring the outcome to fruition.
Now that the available options have been determined, action is required. Action should be achievable and focused on incremental improvement. Asking a sales rep to improve an activity by 1000% overnight isn’t practical. But getting them to increase by 10% a month is very achievable.
Plans need to be reviewed. The sales rep and coach will arrange specific dates to follow up on progress made. Reviews shouldn’t be left too long as they are an opportunity to re-assess the plan and actions. If the actions aren’t getting the intended result then it’s time to adapt to some new options.
The AOR Sales Coaching Model
Most of the models in this article are multi-purpose tools for moving sales reps towards their desired goals. Periodic check-ins assess whether progress is being made. And adjustments are made, as needed.
This process works well. But one complaint about these models is they aren’t sales specific. These coaching frameworks can be used to guide people to better performance in any discipline.
AOR stands for Activities – Objectives – Results.
This strategy is focused on reverse engineering the desired business result. If the company wants $1m in new revenue (Result) then 20 new sales are needed (Objective). To achieve those 20 new sales then sales reps will need to book an additional 2 meetings per week (Activity).
So why is the AOR sales coaching model so popular with sales managers?
Well, first it was designed for sales. So the nomenclature and focus is designed around achieving quota.
Second, the AOR sales model focuses on consistent action. Other coaching models rely on occasional reviews to determine progress.
AOR sets daily KPI and expects the salesperson to hit those daily targets. If you know you need to call 20 prospects per day then it’s hard to get too far off track. You either did it, or you didn’t do it.
Finally, AOR blends well with what sales managers are already doing. For example, a sales leaderboard can be converted into a ‘Calls’ leaderboard. With the focus moving away from results achieved. And instead focus on leading activities like calls made or sales meetings booked.
The WOOP Sales Coaching Model
WOOP was developed by professor Gabriele Oettingen. She summarizes her research in the book Rethinking Positive Thinking.
The idea behind WOOP is to contrast where the sales rep is currently performing. And the level where they want to be. The ‘gap’ between the two states creates the required motivation to close the gap.
The WOOP acronym stands for:
This part focuses on what the sales rep wants to achieve. What is the primary goal?
These are the quantifiable results that will be achieved. How will it feel to achieve this goal?
If the goal was easy, the sales rep would have achieved it already. What’s preventing success?
Now that you understand the obstacles, how will you overcome them? Developing a strong plan that addresses the obstacles is key to success.
Sales Coaching Models By The Dozens
While conducting research for this article we found over a dozen sales coaching models that sales managers can use to coach their sales reps to success.
The points of emphasis vary across the coaching models. But all of the models can be classified as a variation on the GROW model. All of the models we looked at share similar characteristics – Identify what you want. Identify the obstacles that will prevent you from achieving it. Make a plan to achieve it. And review progress on a regular basis.
The exception is the AOR sales coaching model described above. It’s specifically aimed at helping sales people. And the review cycle is continuous and ongoing.
If you are interested in exploring some other sales coaching models, here are a few to check out.
Scale (where are you now?)
Know-How (what do you need to know?)
Assess current situation
Initiate option generation
Valid action programme design
Contract (agree upon the scope of the coaching)
Target (goal setting)
Emotion (how to use effectively)
Perception (how does this fit in a wider context?
Plan & Pace
What Sales Coaching Model Works Best?
Companies would do well to start their sales team with the OBSTACLES step in WOOP.
And then use the AOR model to keep things on track.
Spending time on obstacles is important. We all know what we want to accomplish. But we don’t give enough thought to the things that will prevent us from accomplishing that goal. Knowing what problems may arise is key to progress. No one wants to get blind-sided by an issue that feels like it came from nowhere. But it was actually pretty foreseeable.
Results are the result of consistent action. And that’s where the AOR model shines. Sales Managers can focus on leading indicators like new business leads found or meetings booked. And with daily monitoring of those KPI, sales reps have almost no choice but to achieve their sales goals.
How about your organization? What sales coaching models have you tried?
Feel free to share your experiences with sales coaching frameworks. I’d love to hear what results you achieved or failed to achieve. And we can add your experiences to this article.
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Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.