Struggling with Sales Coaching? Try our PLAYBACK Model

May 20, 2021
Struggling with Sales Coaching? Try our PLAYBACK Model

If you’re a sales leader, I'd like to offer you an acronym for effective sales coaching – the PLAYBACK model.

Before you employ the PLAYBACK model, my advice would be to respect the salespersons's perspective whom you are working with. This way, the person will be more open to coaching and advice, and will respond better to any feedback you might have to offer them. When sales managers don't respect their sales people's ideas or points of view, the salespeople are likely to shut down or not be as receptive to suggestions.

In short, lead with respect. Now, what is the PLAYBACK model?

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P – Permission to coach.

Before beginning a coaching dialogue, ask permission. It might sound something like:

  • “Would it be okay to offer you some coaching?”
  • “Are you open to suggestions?”
  • “Are you interested in receiving feedback?”

Also, let them know what it is you want to coach them on. For example, the last joint sales call you both attended.

L – Listen to the other person. 

Next, demonstrate active listening.

Ask yourself: Is the person genuinely open to coaching at this time? How well might they respond to coaching? Will it help or hurt their performance at this time? (I say “at this time” because whether or not they are open to coaching can always change, especially depending on their workload, work or life circumstances, and so on.)

To effectively coach sales, you will need to appreciate their perspective throughout the coaching session. Showing that you are really listening and that you want to see them succeed can help express exactly that.

A – Ask what they think. 

In other words, give them an opportunity to describe the situation you are offering coaching on. For example, “I’d like to get your thoughts on how you did on that sales call.”

Ask if they agree to talk about the specific topics you want to discuss. For example, “I’d like to cover how you responded when the CEO asked you about our document management system,” or “why we left without agreeing to a follow-up meeting.” (This goes back to the “Permission” aspect.)

Perhaps more importantly, ask them if they’d like to cover something about this issue. The salesperson, for instance, might say, “I think I rambled on too much when I was describing our process.” You can continue this dialogue until you both agree on specific points to cover in your coaching session.

By asking their thoughts, you are giving them the chance to explain themselves. Maybe they already know what they need to work on, or have a unique explanation for why they did what they did. Either way, hear what they have to say first before jumping ahead.

Y – Your desired outcomes.

If you’re going to coach sales, have a goal in mind. Do you want to affect someone’s behavior in a positive way? Is your goal to remind them about something they forgot, like a critical step in your sales process? Do you want them to review a specific area in the company’s Sales PlayBook?

It’s a good idea for you to agree on a purpose for the coaching at the onset so you can stay on track in your conversation.

B – Back to them and their desired outcome.

Since you have just outlined what your desired outcome is for offering coaching, it’s a good idea to find out if they have one for themselves. Maybe they'd like to learn how to discuss  pricing more effectively, or improve how they speak about the company without sounding so sales-y.

You don’t have to place a limit on one outcome alone. Simply see what they have to say and hear about their desired outcomes after you've stated your thoughts.

A – Ask clarifying questions.

Don’t assume that what you heard is what they meant. Some of the best coaching I’ve witnessed is when a coach asks, “Can you clarify what you mean?”

For example, “Can you clarify what you meant by feeling like you ‘rambled too much?’”

They might say, “I rambled because I didn’t fully understand the specific feature of our product that they asked about.”

With this additional information, you have more to work with and the potential to make a bigger contribution.

C – Coach. 

Once you’ve received permission, have identified the specific areas to offer coaching, and understand how to contribute to the other person, then it is finally time to coach sales.

At this point, your suggestions will have maximum effect. Do your best to coach while standing in their shoes. More importantly, allow them to discover their “a-ha moments.”

For example, you might prompt them with questions like, “Why did you think you didn't secure the follow-up meeting?” Or “In reflecting on how the meeting went, is there anything you would have done differently?”

Once they make a discovery for themselves, you can point them in the direction of your Sales PlayBook. It's likely there is a chapter that outlines exactly what it is they were struggling with.

K – Key takeaways and agreements. 

Lastly, close out the conversation with agreements and takeaways.

So when you coach sales, find out how effective the conversation was and then agree on any follow up actions both of you will take.

  • Did the other person get value from this discussion?
  • Are either of you or both of you going to take action?
  • Should you debrief on the actions each of you took?

Perhaps you should schedule a meeting to review this. As you close out, you are serving as an example of a person who is open to feedback and takes it in stride, which contributes to a larger learning culture on your team.

The PLAYBACK acronym has helped me improve whenever I am in a position to coach sales, and I hope it helps you too!

Do you have any other ideas on how to coach sales? Tell us in the comments! Need some quick DIY sales tips? Check out our video library!

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