The GROW Sales Coaching Model
- A sales coaching model is a structured but flexible process to deliver effective salesperson guidance. When used correctly it delivers a repeatable process to achieve predictable results.
- A good model shifts coaching from informal and impromptu activities to intentional and purposeful execution.
- There are many branded and commercialized coaching models. Our experience shows the GROW model provides the best combination of simplicity and effectiveness.
A sales coaching model shifts manager feedback from opportunistic assistance to programmatic execution. It ensures that all salespeople benefit pursuant to a structured approach and that the salesforce benefits from the cumulative effect.
I've used many coaching models over the prior three decades but the one I find most of our clients' favor is the GROW model. It's not exclusive to salespeople but in my professional opinion it is the simplest and most effective technique for situational analysis, problem solving and goal setting.
The GROW Sales Coaching Model
GROW stands for Goal, Reality, Obstacles and Way Forward. It was developed in the late 1980s and has since become the most used model. Over the prior decade a few GROW model variants have evolved but the process remains essentially the same.
This coaching model takes managers and sellers through a four-step sequence.
The coaching session starts with a goal. Sales coaching best practices advise the goal must be sourced and owned by the salesperson and be clear, measurable and time bound. Experience shows that most goals are clear but may not be prioritized (i.e., the right goal for right now) or may need more specificity. That's where the manager adds value through a Socratic process of open-ended questioning. Below are some examples.
- What do you want to achieve?
- Why is this your most important goal right now?
- What does a successful outcome look like?
- How will you know if you are successful?
This step is complete when the salesperson's goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.)
This step clarifies the reality of the current situation. The reality step may be an assessment for a current goal such as a sale opportunity. Or it may be the result of a previously missed goal such as a rep not achieving quota or advancing their career.
This step requires candid self-assessment and undistorted reflection.
The manager's role is to help the salesperson eliminate assumptions, history and challenges that are not relevant and prioritize those factors that are.
Managers will ask investigative questions to get past symptoms and to the underlying root causes.
- Where are you now in terms of accomplishing your goal?
- How have you gotten to this point?
- What's working and not working?
- What progress and setbacks have you incurred?
This is the step where the GROW model diverges into subtle variants and uses the letter O to stand for Obstacle, Options or Opportunity.
The manager asks questions that surface the challenges that most stand in the way of achieving the goal.
- What most stands in the way of achieving your goal?
- Why is that the biggest obstacle? You need to really drill down on this question.
- What have you tried so far to eliminate the challenge?
- What other obstacles may prevent you from achieving your goal?
While the rep should take the first crack at identifying and prioritizing obstacles, my experience has been they may omit some important challenges. So, the manager must engage in brainstorming or ask probing questions about specific obstacles the rep may not have considered.
The final step is the transition to action.
Manager questioning will direct the salesperson to prescribe specific and sequenced actions to remove obstacles and make systemic progress toward the goal pursuant to a time-bound schedule.
This step should be codified in a plan that may be best kept in the CRM system as a Sales Win Plan, Strategic Account Management plan, Activity record or PIP record. This allows plan data to be integrated with sales performance data and measured in real-time. It also permits progress or deviations to be flagged with alert notifications displayed in sales coaching software dashboards.
Questions should also identify what help the rep needs for those actions.
- What has worked for you in the past?
- What are your best options to achieve your goal?
- What sequence of actions need to be taken?
- When are you going to accomplish those actions?
- How will you know if an action is fully completed?
- How will you find the time to perform those actions?
- What help do you need?
- How committed are you to this plan?
GROW Model Principals
Below are some important principals to keep in mind.
- Collaboration rather than instruction empowers staff to self-diagnose and assume ownership for their ideas and development.
- Many times, reps just need a sounding board with reflection that moves them in the right direction. Coaches don't offer unsolicited opinion, feedback or advice but instead pose open ended questions so that the rep derives ideas, answers and actions.
- When a rep lacks knowledge or is just out of options, it's okay for the manager to suggest options but then turn the discussion of those options back to the salesperson.
- For situations where the rep lacks skills or know-how, it may permissible for the manager to offer suggestions and even specific advice. However, make sure the salesperson repeats back the guidance in their own words and actions it in their own way.
- Motivation goes a long way. Celebrate small victories at every opportunity.
The GROW model helps salespeople achieve important goals, but even more importantly, it helps sellers take primary responsibility for their goals and career progress.
There is no shortage of acronym based coaching models. Consider the below alternatives if you want to continue your sales coach model exploration.
- The OSKAR model was developed in 2002 as an extension of the GROW model. OSKAR stands for Outcome, Situation, Choices, Actions and Review. I've found that companies using OSKAR tend to focus on longer-term outcomes.
- The GAINS model is more manager driven. Managers often state the goal and offer more direct instruction in how to achieve it. GAINS stands for Goal, Assessment, Ideas, Next steps and Support. I find this method can accelerate the accomplishment of goals in the short-term but fails to transfer goals accomplishment responsibility to the rep over the long-term.
- The CIGAR method is also similar to GROW but adds an additional formal step at the end for review. CIGAR stands for Current Reality, Ideal, Gaps, Action and Review.
- The CLEAR model is a five-step sequence but tends to be less structured than the others. CLEAR stands for Contracting, Listening, Exploring, Action, and Review.