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Sales Coaching
Scenario Coaching: The Key to Call Success, Every Time!
By Jim Kasper, President & CEO, Interactive Resource Group

Like most other management functions, sales management coaching takes place at 2 levels: strategic and tactical.

Like most other management functions, sales management coaching takes place at 2 levels: strategic and tactical.  Strategic sales coaching occurs when a sales manager guides his salespeople in long-term sales skills competency self-development.  Tactical sales coaching applies to the "here and now" of day-to-day sales activities.   Scenario coaching is the most beneficial form of tactical sales coaching and quite possibly provides the easiest medium to measure skill success and return-on-investment.

Scenario coaching, like athletic coaching, has its origins in tactical military battle field planning.  If the enemy makes a certain move, their opponent has a pre-determined counter movement to insure quick and decisive action.  Sales scenario coaching can best be described as, "If they say or do this, then we'll be prepared to say or do that."  It covers the range of possibilities that history tells you may occur given certain prospect or customer market segments, demographics, behavioral patterns or particular sales cycle circumstances.  Like any other coaching function, its success relies heavily on 2 factors:
  1. The coach having learned from past experience (learn from my mistakes).

  2. The manager's ability to be situational, thereby transitioning from manager to mentor.
There is a great sports analogy for scenario planning.  Hours before every professional baseball game, each starting pitcher and catcher meet with their respective pitching coaches to discuss each batter in their opponent's line-up.  The tactical objective of this meeting is to determine the pitch sequence that will be thrown to each batter given different base runner positions or different game scenarios.  In many cases, these are actually written down and reviewed between innings by the catcher and pitching coach as the game progresses.

Your sales management team (regional level) should be holding regular scenario coaching sessions with new sales personnel and "under plan" performers.  They should be making calls with their senior representatives, but only after reviewing a written scenario plan.  Mr. Mills Snowden, Southwest Territory Sales Manager for Kaplan Early Learning Company, offers some advice about scenario coaching, "I don't care how senior or how successful the salesperson is, I always do a scenario coaching session before each day of calls with my reps.  If they're not prepared to succeed, I'm not going in with them."

So how is a scenario coaching session structured?  What actually takes place?  What is the sales manager's role?  What is the sales representative's responsibility?  The process begins with your salesperson completing a scenario plan for each call he is going to make during the day.  The plan is quite simple, but stimulates a mental rehearsal of each individual sales call, telephone or face-to-face.  Exhibit #1 is an example of a classic scenario plan.

Exhibit #1:
Customer: _________________________

Decision-maker:____________________ Influencers: __________________________________

Sales Cycle Objective (next stage in the sales cycle):                     

Benefit to customer for spending time with me:         

Open-ended questions that I will ask this prospect/customer:
OEQ. 1:
OEQ. 2:
OEQ. 3:
OEQ. 4:
OEQ. 5:

What questions do I expect to be asked by the prospect/customer?  And, how will I answer them?

Objections that I expect from this prospect/customer and my "overcome strategy:"

Closing statements that I will use to ask for commitment or recommend we move to the next stage in the sales cycle:

The "NO" game plan (what will I do if they tell me "NO"):

Once the salesperson has completed this exercise for each call, it is the responsibility of the sales manager to review each scenario plan before the calls are made, especially for new or "under performers."  Specifically, the sales manager should pay close attention to the salesperson's sales cycle objective.  The proper entry for this line should reflect the next stage in the sales cycle.  In other words, the sales manager must coach the sales representative to understand that the only real objective of the sales call is to move the sale forward, if not close it.  The sales manager's next area of coaching revolves around the benefit that the prospect or customer will derive from spending time with the salesperson.  Experience proves that the #1 reason customers won't spend time with a sales professional is that they do not perceive a benefit for doing so.  In other words, "What's in it for me?"

Rookie sales representatives, along with many veterans, tend to ask too many direct questions.  It is the sales manager's job to critique these open-ended questions to be sure that they will solicit the proper information for the respective stage of the sales cycle.  The sales manager must be sure that their salespeople understand that these questions provide a script to maintain control of the sales call and solicit important information by keeping the prospect talking.

No one likes an unpleasant surprise.  That's the exact reason that sales managers must be sure that their representatives are well coached on the next 2 sections concerning potential customer questions and objections.  This is the point where the sales manager can lend his expertise and background in building confidence that the salesperson is able to field any "off-the-wall" question or objection.  This is also a great time to verbally rehearse.

Finally, the scenario coaching session ends by rehearsing the exact words that the sales representative will use to either close the sale or recommend commitment for the next stage in the sales cycle.  The key is to prepare the rep to not only ask for commitment, but to be prepared to respond immediately if he gets a "No."  The sales manager need to coach the rep on the proper response to "No" because many sales professionals take that as the final word when in fact the sale could be saved if the salesperson would only ask one question, "Why?"  

Scenario coaching is a marvelously effective tool and can be conducted via long distance telephone.  The important factor is that it is routinely performed with new reps and "under performers" and occasionally executed with the stars.

Jim Kasper is the Founder and President of Interactive Resource Group. Mr. Kasper has over 26 years of practical experience in direct sales, sales management, sales training, and marketing. Contact him at or call 800-891-7355

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