How to use the GROW coaching model in sales

GROW is a very popular coaching model. I first learned about it when I was moving into a technical sales engineering people leader role. My manager was the VP of sales for international markets. As part of my onboarding into this new role I attended a training course for new people managers hosted by the Irish Management Institute.

The course was excellent, with high quality content and exceptional delivery as well as a lot of participant engagement. The GROW model stuck in my mind until today! It’s such a great acronym. It always reminds me of business GROWth through people. The other thing I like about it is it’s simplicity!

Let me briefly explain the four simple steps of the model and provide an example on how you can use it in sales coaching.

G for Goal: The first step of a coaching conversation is to establish what the goal is. This may look easy at first but as a sales leader you may be facing a situation where the goal is not clear at all or is formulated as a problem or you may be tempted to be the one defining the goal.

Coaching is similar to discovery. Your role as sales leader is to guide the conversation with questions and help clarifying and possibly reframing the goal.

Let me share a real world example. A sales rep told me that he was struggling to cross-sell an additional software solution to three specific customers. These customers said that they were not interested in this additional service. A challenge, if you are a customer development rep!

When I asked why this was an issue the rep revealed that he wanted to achieve its overall target. Not a surprise being in sales! It became clear, however, that selling a specific additional service to these three customers was not the actual goal. The real goal was hitting target overall regardless which solution was sold to which customer.

R for Reality: This phase of the conversation is about discovering what the current situation is. A question I asked was: Tell me more about why these customers are not interested in the additional software solution.

It turned out that for these three specific customers due to the industry there were operating in there was no business pain to justify the additional solution!

O for Options: This is the part of the conversation where you ask your sales rep to think about different options to achieve the goal.

In this example the challenge was potentially not being able to achieve overall target due to three customers not interested in purchasing an additional specific solution.

What options do you have?

The rep realised that in order to achieve target he needed to look at some alternatives:

  • do some additional discovery with those three customers in order to provide insight into additional business pain and identify different up-sell opportunities,
  • or focus other customers where this additional software solution would provide value. This would open up new opportunities for cross-selling.

W for Way Forward: Now it is time to commit to action. This is where you would ask the sales rep what their next step is.

In the example used here the sales rep chose to focus on a different set of customers. His next step was to review his existing customer list and select three customers from a different industry. While these were smaller customers and required more cross-selling, ultimately, he exceeded his yearly target.

Action: Next time you have a one to one with your sales reps try to structure the conversation into those 4 phases. Think GROWth! Do not forget to ask the rep in the following one to one meeting how they are getting on with the first step agreed under W and continue to support your sales rep through further coaching conversations.

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