Published by : Louis G. Larochelle
To improve the team’s sales development, a sales manager must first understand the crucial importance of team meetings and coaching and then, dedicate more than 50% of their time to these activities. Depending on the objective of the meeting, coaching can be practiced through various approaches: pre-meeting strategy, post-meeting briefing, funnel review, or even group coaching.
Though co-development is practiced as a group, it differentiates itself from coaching insofar as the knowledge doesn’t pass from the master to the pupil, but rather between each member of the group.
It isn’t meant to replace sales coaching: It’s an additional tool to develop your sales force.
By acting as both a tool for development and motivation, co-development maintains a welded sales team, determined to confront various issues.
Group coaching or co-development?
First, group coaching and co-development shouldn’t be confused. Generally, during a group coaching session, the sales manager guides the meeting, exposes their ideas and uses role-play with the group for better coaching.
Instead, co-development is defined by a consultative approach, as would be the case between a client and a team of consultants. It’s based on collective intelligence and the sharing of knowledge among all members of the group.
Co-development is more time-consuming than a coaching session, but unlike the latter, it doesn’t have to be a daily activity. It can, for example, replace a weekly meeting, perhaps once a month.
Co-development can solve what sales problems?
Like coaching, co-development targets both technical and conceptual problems. However, while coaching aims to solve a problem specific to the salesperson, co-development deals with a topic that will benefit the entire sales team.
Individual coaching is therefore generally more effective in treating a representative’s sales DNA weaknesses. On the other hand, co-development is the tool to choose if this weakness is widespread within the team.
For example, if most representatives find it difficult to talk about money, a situation recreated in a co-development session could help salespeople desensitize themselves to the subject, approaching it from the consultant’s point of view.
Here are some criteria to determine whether a situation is suitable for co-development:
- The presented case is real: a real blocked sales opportunity, a situation in which we experienced failure that we want to avoid in the future, etc.;
- The intervention may have a positive impact on all or most participants;
- The exposed situation reveals a common problem that all salespeople are likely to face.
The role of the sales manager in co-development
In co-development, the responsibility for teaching doesn’t lie solely with the sales manager, but with the whole group. As explained above, this is what improves collective skills.
That said, the sales manager still plays a key role in the success of co-development.
When introducing this new development tool within the sales teams, you rapidly observe its effectiveness in unblocking a blocked opportunity. In this sense, we find ourselves with the following issue: Given the time it takes (about 1 hour depending on the size of the salesforce) and the people that must be mobilized, a co-development session can’t be held as often as desired.
The manager must:
- Establish a schedule and enforce it;
- Sort out the subjects that the group would benefit from working on in co-development and those that should instead be treated with individual coaching;
- Prioritize issues by first choosing those likely to improve collective skills;
- Act as a mediator to facilitate relations between representatives during the meeting if needed;
- Ensure that each member of the team, at least once a year, presents a problematic so that everyone can benefit from it.
WARNING: Most sales managers aren’t good at coaching. Pushing the sales manager to offer both coaching and co-development sessions is a primary challenge of the sales leader (VP of sales, President, CEO, etc.).
How does a co-development session take place?
At the beginning of the meeting, a salesperson exposes and explains a real situation—whether past or present—to the rest of the group. The salesperson will benefit from the knowledge of the collective intelligence, the ideas, the solutions and tricks of colleagues who have become consultants for this occasion.
It’s essential that the problem be exposed in the most realistic way possible, by citing the names of the clients, referring to their words and attitudes, for example. By exchanging on a real situation, the whole group takes a lesson from it. It’s even better if the problem is recurrent, since the entire team may eventually be exposed to this situation.
One salesperson plays the role of the client, while the sales manager and other reps act as consultants. Everyone must commit to sharing his or her ideas with the group, to collaborate, and to help the salesperson who exposes the problem.
They have a responsibility to actively listen to their colleague’s presentation and ask questions to deepen their understanding of the problem. Then they will suggest solutions.
Here’s what a co-development session might look like:
- Presentation of the situation by the salesperson-client (5 min);
- Open question session to deepen representatives'/consultants' understanding of the problematic (3 to 5 min per person max.);
- Moral contract: What does the client ask the consultants? (5 min);
- Consultation: The consultants’ contribution, their advice, parallels, intuition... (3 to 5 min per person max.);
- Client reflection and expression of his or her action plan (10 min);
- Feedback from consultants: each expresses the individual lessons learned (10 to 15 min).
At the next co-development session, the representative who played the role of the client can share the evolution of the problematic situation.
An example of co-development
Although he's an experienced representative, Noah has a hard time getting in touch with the president of ABC Inc. He's constantly being blocked by a manager whom he communicated with after receiving an incoming lead. He decides to expose his problem at a co-development meeting so that his colleagues can help him find a solution.
Noah plays the role of the client. The other representatives and the sales manager act as consultants.
Noah immediately explains the situation, and then the consultants ask him questions to better understand the problem. For example:
- What’s the director’s behaviour?
- Why the shutdown?
- What questions did you ask the director?
At this point, questions are open, not closed. No solution is provided at this time.
After answering the consultants’ questions, Noah clearly states what he expected from the participants: “I am looking for a way to access the president without offending the director.”
When Noah’s expectations are known, participants give their advice and expose their solutions.
Then, Noah expresses what he thinks of the participants’ advice and presents his action plan.
Finally, the consultants say what they think of the action plan imagined by Noah and the lessons they have learned from the exercise.
Co-development makes it possible to use the collective intelligence of the sales force to explore a challenge that a salesperson faces, to discover new approaches and solutions adapted to his situation.
It doesn’t replace the need for coaching representatives one-on-one, but it’s a highly useful tool that any good manager should add to his skills development strategy for their sales force. The sales manager can then count on a more competent, motivated, and mobilized team.