Who originally developed the GROW model of coaching is debatable. Many attribute Sir John Whitmore and his colleagues in the world of sports with its creation; others say GROW was developed as a result of Tim Gallwey’s work in his role as a tennis coach; some say that one of the originators was Frank Dick who from 1979 to 1994 was the British Athletics Federation’s Director of Coaching. John Whitmore, David Whitaker (coach of the British men’s hockey squad in 1988) and David Hemery (Olympic 400m hurdles champion, 1968) ran courses in Bisham Abbey entitled The Challenge of Excellence.

Although it’s not important to know who developed GROW it is useful to understand that it was developed to improve the performance of sportspeople (specifically athletes) and that the relationship between the coach and the sportsperson was and is based upon the premise that the sportsperson wants the coach to help them identify the barriers and problems to performance improvement and how to overcome them. This is why the GROW model is widely used by Life Skills coaches where the aim is to identify what people’s life goals are and to move them towards achieving them. It’s also the reason why many businesses now use the TGROW model, where ‘T’ stands for Theme, or Topic, or Task.

I attended The Challenge of Excellence in 1991 and in 1992 wrote the first of three books on the topic of coaching using the POWER model which I developed as a more business focused coaching tool. Since this time I have researched the use of coaching in not only Sports, but also in the professions of Music, Dance, and Acting – the common factor between these professions being the emphasis on excellence in physical performance. I have used this experience to further develop the POWER model so that it specifically deals with improving performance of salespeople which has proved to be extremely effective given that if selling is anything, it also is a physical performance.

The main premise of the POWER model is that the agenda for coaching sessions should be driven by the sales coach, not the salesperson – hence the model begins with ‘P’ Purpose and Parameters: what is the purpose of the coaching session for the coach and the organisation. Only after this has been determined does the session move towards the salesperson’s Objectives and Options (‘O).

The POWER model asserts that coaching is not a voluntary process although it does eventually lead to salespeople seeking out the sales coach to help them improve. The model also does not assume that there are problems and barriers to improvement but that even if people are performing well that they can improve. Sales coaching involves continuous improvement by examining what it is that salespeople are doing and how they are behaving which produces current performance. The POWER coaching model focuses on the inputs that cause the output and the premise is that no-one is so good that they can’t get better.

The GROW model is a very good first step in acquiring basic coaching skills. The POWER model seeks to build on those basic coaching skills and to move those involved in improving the sales performance of salespeople to the next coaching level.

I have identified four possible levels of coach:

Level 1: this is the entry level to coaching; this person will probably be working with an experienced coach, learning the ropes and coaching technique. During training as a coach the focus will be on checking that formal training is being transferred to the field; that the specific work-related process is being learned and implemented; and that the person is demonstrating basic levels of skills and behaviour. It can take anywhere between 3 to 12 months to become accomplished at this level.

Level 2: After twelve months of experience at Level 1 the coach should be able to assume the role of full time coach, focussing on improving performance.

Level 3: It takes at least 24 to 36 months for a sales coach to be described as a ‘top’ coach. At this level the coach will primarily be improving the performance of sales managers.

Level 4: Specialist coaches operate almost entirely as freelance consultants, coaching and improving the performance of senior sales managers and designing and implementing organisation wide coaching cultures.

Coaches will stick at any of the levels they feel most comfortable with. It is important not to fall into the trap of many top salespeople where promotion to the next level (i.e. sales management) is seen as the goal of self-fulfilment. In the same way that good salespeople do not necessarily make good sales managers, good level 1 coaches do not necessarily make good level 2 coaches, and so on.

I believe that the headline competencies that make for a good sales coach are:

1. Constructs a sales process appropriate for the sales team, the market, and the organisation’s objectives.

2. Determines the behaviours required of the sales team in order to effectively achieve organisational sales objectives.

3. Recruits, selects and maintains a sales team in sufficient numbers, quality and competence to sell the company’s products and services.

4. Determines the basic training requirements for the sales team.

5. Ensures that the sales team is sufficiently trained to meet organisational sales objectives.

6. Designs and implements a sales coaching process which ensures that the sales team is able to competently achieve basic organisational sales aims and objectives.

7. Uses an effective and robust process of sales coaching to ensure continuous improvement of the whole sales team.

8. Instigates action to meet organisational needs to identify the next generation of sales coaches.

Specific skills include:

  • Questioning skills
  • Listening skills
  • Observation skills
  • Non-verbal skills

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