How do you keep your coaching sessions from turning into debates or a lengthy conversations filled with sales rep excuses? How can you really coach them to higher levels of performance? It all starts with the words you use. Here are eight phrases smart sales leaders use when coaching their salespeople:

1. "Prove it."
When your sales rep makes a claim about how well an appointment went or the imminent closing of a sale, respond with "Great! Prove it." Too often salespeople can over exaggerate. You should expect facts from your salespeople, not feelings.

2. "I like what you did when you..."
When providing feedback after a sales call, highlight things your sales rep did well. These will serve as future reference points for them. This ensures that your sales rep knows to repeat that behavior again on future sales calls. Salespeople really want to know that they did well and crave a repeatable formula for making more sales.

3. "Let's try that again."
When role playing with your sales rep, don't be afraid to have them repeat the particular sales technique over and over again. Practice really can make perfect. When coaching your sales rep, offer up a simple correction and then have them "try it again". Keep going until they demonstrate good delivery consistently.

4. "That's not what I asked you. (What I asked you was...)"
Use this phrase when your sales rep answers your question by attempting to changing the subject. In many cases, they do this to avoid answering for a lost sale, not meeting quota, failure to follow the sales process, etc. Get them back on track with this phrase. Remember, accountability starts with the words you use.

5. "I would prefer it if..."
Instead of telling your sales rep what to do, make a suggestion. Otherwise you reinforce a parent/child relationship and they won't make any decisions on their own. This is a subtler form of redirecting behaviors without creating opportunity for pushback from your sales rep.

6. "That's not relevant to this conversation. (Let's stay on topic.)"
When your salesperson brings up issues unrelated to your chosen topic of conversation (usually it's their performance), use this phrase to course correct and keep the discussion focused on the specific topic at hand.

7. "Let's stick to what you can control."
If a salesperson succeeds, they want all the credit. If they fail, it's rarely ever their fault. Who can blame them? We're all like that (we're human). However, you still have to remove the excuse-making from your coaching conversation. Whether they blame the economy, competition, your pricing structure or other departmental failures, keep them focused on the behaviors they have control over.

"You go to war with the army you have; not the army you wish you had." - Donald Rumsfeld

8. "What you're doing is working well, so now I'd like you to..."
Use this phrase to advance your sales reps skills. As they conquer one skill, move them to the next one. Acknowledge their success in becoming a more skilled salesperson and then quickly move them upward. You want a perpetual state of development for every sales rep on your team.

The next time you coach your sales reps, use these phrases to keep your coaching session on track. In addition, you'll force them to think through their behaviors and, ultimately, draw out their talent.