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Sales Leaders – Coaching in your 1-on-1s using the GESTALT Method

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks
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The goal of effective coaching is to help a seller make better decisions by solving problems using structured thinking. We call these ‘Eureka Moments,’ which cause future actions to either:

  • Adjust their course: what we call a “Red Flag”
  • Stay on course: what we call a “Green Flag”

Adjusted actions that are repeated consistently create habits and form new behaviors. This is your desired outcome. To transfer knowledge that will inspire others to adjust action, you have to change two habits yourself:

1. Don’t mistake working on tasks for your sellers as helping them or your team. It’s counterproductive to value creation and steals time from you in the future. Remember: You are the CEO of the market. You’re a builder. Your primary role and responsibility is to teach your sellers to work on their priorities.

2. Telling someone how to do a task or what to prioritize is also counterproductive. Since this does not transfer knowledge properly, it won’t change your sellers’ actions consistently enough to form habits. You are then stuck with dependents who lean on you to make decisions for them.

Instead, you want to manage a team of sellers that can make their own informed decisions. You can achieve this with Eureka Moments, which can be created with inspiration, the right line of questioning, and guidance. These moments plant a seed in your sellers’ minds, which will eventually take root, grow, and develop.

Remember, your goal as a leader is to get them to make their own decisions. So, how can you strengthen your ‘Coaching Moments’ in your 1-on-1s?

Strengthening Your Coaching Moments

Step 1: Know what you’ll focus on

Before your 1-on-1, isolate an inflection point: A moment in time where you believe the seller’s decision-making requires coaching. From this inflection point, map the seller’s decisions into a ‘Decision-Making Framework’.

Step 2: Use the ‘Decision-making Framework’

A Decision-Making Framework can be visualized as forks in a road. The process of creating a decision-making tree is called Structured Thinking. Basically, when the seller gets to a stage in their account where a decision had to be made, did they choose the left path or the right path, and what was the logic behind their decision?

Visualizing a decision-making tree is an extremely valuable practice that helps you and your seller pinpoint inflection points along their journey. To properly capture how decisions are made and to visualize inflection points, focus on WHAT or HOW-based inquiries and avoid questions that can be answered by ‘yes’ no ‘no’. Open-ended queries require detailed responses, which shed light on the decision-making process.

Role Play Example

Here is an example of a coaching conversation you may have. Assume that your seller decides to prioritize working heavily on a particular customer.

YOU: Why did you decide to focus on this customer? What was your decision-making process?

SELLER: I noticed two compelling triggers and signals:

  1. I saw that their IT team was consuming some of our new insights last week.
  2. I noticed that they hired a new CISO from a competitor last month.

YOU: What specifically about these compelling triggers and signals makes you believe you can grow the account?

SELLER: I think they might be interested in Cloud Migration for their new division on market insights. Their new CISO also came from a competitor that, according to our data, shifted to the cloud 18 months ago.

This would be a good conversation to have. Instead of giving them the answer, you presented to them the tools and know-how to empower their decision-making.

Step 3: Spark a Eureka Moment with Gestalt

The concept of Gestalt is leveraged by thousands of best-in-class sales leaders daily. The process is the bedrock of knowledge transfer from one leader to another, with the goal of creating Eureka Moments.

Now, when coaching your sellers, your first instinct is probably to tell them where they went wrong and what to do next. This might feel like the right thing to do today, but it will hinder their growth and steal from their future. Instead, implement Gestalt: the process of telling true stories that you or your team have experienced, with the goal of influencing a seller to reframe their decision-making process.

Expanding our Role Play Example:

SELLER: Does it matter in this customer account if the CISO has experience with this cloud computing platform?

YOU: 3 years ago, I decided to target a certain telecommunications provider using the exact same logic. There was a new CIO, the telecom industry was shifting from 4G to 5G, and it appeared that the stars were aligning in my favor. I initially reached out to the CIO, who pushed me down to the Director of IT Infrastructure. The director really liked our ideas, and he formed a committee to review our proposal. We had cross-functional meetings, and they scoped expanding workloads.

The new CIO got word of our project, but what we didn’t know is that he actually spoke at a conference for the cloud computing platform the year before, and had experience with their solution when he worked at his previous firm. He then called his old colleagues at the cloud computing platform and sidestepped our workload project.

The problem was that this deal took 18 months to materialize—wasting a huge amount of internal resources and creating a large churn gap in my portfolio.

So how will you gather competitive intelligence on a particular account or any of your key accounts in the future? What is your action plan to avoid committing similar mistakes in this account?

Conclusion

As a leader, you can implement the Gestalt method by doing the following:

  • Focusing on specific inflection points instead of general sales cycle stages or processes; and
  • Invoking deeper analysis of their structured thinking process using open-ended “what” and “how” questions.

Finally, always remember this: True inspirational Eureka moments come when your seller learns through self-realization.

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