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Five things to avoid when coaching a sales rep

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Coaching often seems intuitive. But columnist Geoffrey James, on Inc.com, says it's not that simple. He warns against five mistakes when coaching sales representatives:

Confusing coaching with evaluations: Coaching should be carried out on an ongoing basis, not confined to annual performance evaluations Coaching must also be informal and personal, while evaluations are formal and bureaucratic.

Treating coaching as a low priority: With so much on their plate, it's too easy for sales managers to postpone coaching – indefinitely.

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Finding an excuse not to coach: It's easy for managers to convince themselves they can't coach because they don't have coaching expertise, or the rep already knows how to sell, or the company lacks a coaching culture so they aren't helped or rewarded for their effort.

Providing vague feedback: The manager needs to get buy-in from the sales rep and needs to understand where he or she is on the learning curve, rather than just throw out suggestions willy-nilly.

Coaching by example: The manager joins the rep in a sales call, and then takes over when things start to go wrong, to show how it's done. "This type of coaching destroys the sales person's credibility with the customer and, worse, can easily backfire, because the manager may not know the entire situation with that customer," Mr. James warns.

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