Research sponsored by the Institute for the Development of Educational Activities has shown that kids are truly great at helping each other learn.  In the process they not only accelerate and deepen what they learn they also build friendships.  It has been my experience working with thousands of sales professionals that when they are given the chance to learn from each other the same holds true.

Peer coaching has been a topic of discussion since the 1970.  It is not surprising that peer coaching has not taken hold.  Most sales organizations are still struggling with converting sales managers into sales coaches. Data tells us that only 50% of organizations even employ coaching at any level.

As I think about the barriers and false starts around coaching in sales organizations and the need to sustain learning post training (at least a third of the learning gained from training is lost within the first month and retention goes down hill from there), it makes sense to try another route to help make coaching a way of life in an organization.

One of the most compelling reasons to execute peer coaching is that peers often know more about each other than managers.  Additionally peers are more available to one another and in most situations much less threatened by exposing a weakness.  When peers share information and experiences they enhance learning and develop collaboration skills so critical for team selling. To grow it is essential to gain an outside perspective and broaden ones thinking and that is what coaching, manager or peer, is all about.   Collaboration is one of the keys to selling today and it most often will outweigh the obstacle of competitiveness that may have been presented in the past.

The best part about peer coaching is while it certainly would be strengthened with corporate support, all it takes is two colleagues, whether two salespeople, two managers, or two colleagues willing to commit to pool their experiences and share feedback to help one another be more successful.

With the support of sales leadership peer coaching would take hold more quickly and more broadly. I most definitely am not suggesting that peer coaching replace coaching by sales managers. But the magic of peer coaching is that it can be individually driven. Sales trainers also can be instrumental in establishing peer-coaching partnerships by promoting peer coaching during training by helping participants identify a partner and make connections and commitments to coach one another.

Peer coaching can be very disappointing if it slips into evaluation.  Far from being evaluative coaching is an interactive and collaborative process.  The first step is identifying a peer to be your coaching partner and then gaining a commitment to share experiences and provide feedback to one another on a regular basis.

In peer coaching situations roles alternate between coach and player. The focus can be on issues around deal strategy, solutions, and skills … the success of peer coaching is not so much in the answers the coach provides but the questions the coach asks.  The coach is not the answer man or woman but the person who helps the player think through the issue, consider other possibilities, and who gives his or her view only to explore or enhance what the player has thought through.

Peer coaching is in a sense self-coaching because it begins with a self-analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of an activity or strategy by the player.  Ideas and feedback from the coach is in response to the player’s thinking.  It is up to the player to come up with the issue and the play.  It is the role of the coach to add to that. The conversation cascade looks like this: Player describes issue and gives his analysis, the coach asks questions and shares her thinking and checks for reaction, the player suggests solution or next steps, and the coach probes and adds to that and checks. Every conversation ends with an action step.

If you are a sales manager and you partner with another sales manager your example will be the most eloquent teacher. By sharing your peer coaching commitment and encouraging your team members to partner-up you will start something that will impact performance and build your team.  You can share peer coaching success stories to reinforce it, inspire others, and increase performance.  As an individual salesperson, with or without manager support, you can approach a colleague and without a doubt experience that two heads are better than one.  As a trainer where participants have been providing feedback to one another you can make peer coaching a part of the training wrap-up and action steps.

Peer coaching is motivational.  It adds to the joy of work.  Share this blog if you think this is something that you want to put into practice.  Include with it an invitation to a peer.