The ability to mold their sales team into the most effective salespeople possible is one of the essential qualities of a great sales manager. While it’s certainly nice to hire reps who already demonstrate critical skills and capabilities, there is always room for improvement.
Effective sales coaching offers many benefits, leading to better results, increased revenue, and better employee retention. Today – when many teams have shifted to remote selling, and there are plenty of sales reps who may be struggling to adapt to the new model – sales coaching is a critical ongoing pursuit.
In this post, we’ll cover what sales coaching is, the key benefits that it provides, and the techniques and tactics you can use to hone your sales coaching abilities.
What is Sales Coaching?
Sales coaching is the process of providing members of your sales team (and sales leaders) with training that is personalized to each team member and focused on improving their sales skills and techniques. Some companies rely on in-house sales management to provide sales coaching, while others prefer to employ a third-party sales coaching service.
In either case, some examples of what effective sales coaching looks like include:
- Identifying positive attributes among sales reps and making an effort to reinforce those attributes
- Identifying potential weaknesses or negative attributes among sales reps and making an effort to correct those shortcomings
- Reviewing specific sales techniques and strategies
- Reviewing sales tools and training reps on how to use them
- Shadowing a rep’s call or meeting with a client to provide feedback
- Scheduling weekly meetings to discuss objectives and go over any areas of the team’s sales performance that need improvement
What Sales Coaching Isn’t
Effective sales coaching requires a specific and carefully constructed approach, and several things can negatively impact the results of your sales coaching efforts.
These things can include:
- Stepping in to close a deal for a sales rep rather than allowing them to close it for themselves and failing to follow up on the reasons why you helped, and how they can do it on their own in the future
- Failing to personalize your coaching sessions by providing each rep with the same advice or only addressing your team as a whole as opposed to working with each team member
- Always, and only telling reps precisely what to do rather than providing them with an end goal and letting them choose their approach that you can then observe and critique
Why Good Sales Coaching is so Important: Six Benefits
Effective coaching can optimize the performance and results of your sales team in several key ways.
Here are just some of the benefits that sales managers can look forward to when they employ sales coaching to its full potential:
1) Sales Coaching Speeds Up Ramp Time
Ramp time is the amount of time for a salesperson to complete their training and reach peak productivity. According to Hubspot, the average ramp time for a new sales rep is 3.2 months. Of course, the more this time can be improved, the more productive your sales team will ultimately be – and great sales coaching is one proven way to reduce the ramp time of new reps.
2) Sales Coaching Boosts Performance and Quota Attainment
According to a study published in Harvard Business Review, top-quality sales coaching can improve performance among the middle 60% of a sales team‘s performers by up to 19%. The same study also concluded that even an average improvement in sales coaching quality that a company provides to its reps could lead to a 6%-8% boost in performance among 50% of its sales force.
3) Sales Coaching Improves Rep Retention
Sales reps are much more likely to remain at their current place of employment when they feel that they are receiving the training they need to excel. A TaskDrive survey concluded that two-thirds of sales reps consider quitting their job when they report to a manager who is not a good coach.
4) Sales Coaching Gets Reps to Fully Engage
An engaged sales force is an effective sales force – and sales reps provided with clear instruction and guidance are much more likely to fully engage and buy into the goals you are giving them.
5) Sales Coaching Reinforces Team-Wide Training
Team-wide training – or training directed to your entire sales team – is undoubtedly an important aspect of providing your reps with the skills they need to excel. When team-wide training isn’t reinforced with the more personalized, one-on-one training that sales coaching provides, its effectiveness is limited.
By highlighting areas where individual reps might be struggling and providing more personalized assistance with those areas, sales coaching can serve as a powerful reinforcement to your team-wide training initiatives.
6) Sales Coaching Grows Revenue
All of the various benefits that effective sales coaching provides directly lead to an increase in revenue. Studies have shown that companies that offer quality sales coaching can achieve a 7% increase in annual revenue growth.
Proven Sales Coaching Techniques and Tactics
Sales coaching techniques can be broken down into three categories based on how frequently they are used: daily coaching activities, weekly coaching activities, and monthly/quarterly coaching activities.
To help you develop a schedule for your sales coaching that will maximize results, let’s take a look at examples of the type of activities that each category entails.
- Discuss the day’s objectives
- Address questions and concerns from your sales team
- Make an effort to inspire your team and motivate them for the day ahead
*Note to Managers: These activities don’t always have to be formal in-person daily meetings. Defer to email, Slack or other internal communication tools to ensure that each rep plans their day effectively.
- Meet one-on-one with each rep once a week to highlight and reinforce their strengths as well as provide instruction on how to improve any shortcomings they might be facing*
- Set weekly, individual goals for each rep
- Shadow a sales call or meeting with each rep and provide feedback
- Focus on a specific strategy or tool that you would like to train your reps on how to improve, maximize or utilize
- Collect training needs and ideas from your team to help inform monthly/quarterly sessions (see next section)
*Note to Managers: Meeting for a half hour or hour every week to discuss pipeline is NOT considered coaching.
- Conduct a team-wide training session*
- Instruct each rep to create an action plan for the month that includes specific goals and strategies for how to reach them
- Conduct a more extensive one-on-one meeting with each rep
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Helpful Sales Coaching Software Tools
There are many tools on the market today geared toward sales coaching, and many of them can be pretty beneficial. Some of the more valuable sales coaching software tools that we have identified over the years include tools such as:
With Gong, you can record interactions between your sales reps and customers before receiving a broad range of automated analytics designed to highlight what is working well and what isn’t.
With SmartWinnr, sales managers can design and upload core competency frameworks built to help provide sales reps with personalized training initiatives. SmartWinnr includes quizzes, worksheets, leaderboards, and contests that employ gamification to encourage healthy competition between reps and make sales training more engaging.
Revenue Grid is an application that leverages AI capabilities to highlight the winning actions that a sales team or individual rep takes. Sales managers can then reinforce the analytics on these winning actions that Revenue Grid provides as part of their sales coaching strategy.
Eight Best Practices to Make Sales Coaching Effective
The difference in results between excellent sales coaching and average sales coaching can be dramatic. To ensure that you are providing the best coaching possible to your sales team, here are eight best practices that you should follow:
1) Get Buy-In From Everyone
Great sales coaching requires a degree of resources and investment that can only be achieved when everyone in the sales organization is bought in and committed. Sales managers need the support of their leaders and the company’s executives to provide the best possible coaching, so working to sell everyone on the benefits of sales coaching and ensuring that you achieve company-wide buy-in is an important first step.
2) Have a Concrete Process
Trying to coach on the fly or make it up as you go will not be nearly as effective as developing a thorough, concrete coaching process. This process should include specific goals and objectives, sales enablement strategies for reaching those objectives, and a schedule of activities for you and your sales team to follow. It’s also a good idea to share your sales coaching process with your team upfront to know what is expected of them.
3) Set a Cadence
Many sales managers point to time management struggles as one of the key challenges of effective sales coaching. To manage your time effectively, you will want to create and stick to a set sales coaching schedule that sets aside predetermined blocks of time for one-on-one meetings with each rep in your sales team.
4) Coach Everyone
It may be tempting to limit your sales coaching efforts to only certain members of your sales team. Some sales managers choose to focus their time on coaching only their star performers, while others decide to focus on coaching the reps struggling the most. Ultimately, neither of these approaches is as effective as taking the time to coach your entire team. Providing sales coaching to each rep on your sales team may be more labor-intensive, but it is the only way to truly maximize sales coaching benefits.
5) Personalize Your Coaching Strategy
One of the biggest things that set sales coaching apart from team-wide training initiatives is that sales coaching provides reps with one-on-one training that is more personalized to their unique needs. It’s important to coach everyone, but it’s also easy to understand why the top performers on your sales team may not benefit from the same type of coaching and instruction that will help those on your team who are struggling. Likewise, everyone’s personality is different. Providing excellent sales coaching requires a sales manager to know their team members and identify the coaching strategy that will benefit each rep the most.
Tailor your approach to each rep’s strengths, weaknesses, and motivations, and create multiple ways of assessing improvement to develop the type of personalized coaching strategy that will lead to the best results for each rep.
6) Take a Data-Driven Approach
Data and analytics guide great sales coaching.
Several of the sales coaching software tools that we covered earlier can serve as excellent resources for helping you gather the data you need to highlight your sales team’s strengths and weaknesses. However, it is also possible to collect this data manually. Whichever way you go about it, metrics such as win rate, quota attainment, average revenue per rep, and deal slippage can go a long way toward helping you fine-tune your sales coaching strategy.
7) Give Feedback (And Ask For it Too)
Creating an environment where your reps are comfortable giving and receiving feedback is an essential component of developing an effective sales coaching strategy. This includes positive feedback designed to reinforce what is working well and critical feedback to correct what isn’t.
Always look for opportunities to provide your sales team with feedback, and be sure to enable them to provide feedback regarding the effectiveness of your coaching. Once this feedback loop is in place, relay any changes that you be making because of it.
8) Try Out New Techniques
The most effective sales coaching strategy is often derived through a process of trial and error. While there are plenty of great resources that explain specific coaching strategies that you should follow, never be afraid to branch out and try something new, using the feedback you receive from your team to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Every sales team is unique, and what works the best for one team may not work at all for another. Only through a process of continuous experimentation, feedback, and improvement can you determine the coaching strategy that is best suited for your team and its objectives.
What Makes a Great Sales Coach?
There are many qualities that every great sales coach exhibits. This includes qualities such as:
- They care about their reps – Great sales coaches genuinely want to see their reps excel, and this genuine passion plays a significant role in making their efforts effective. When you genuinely care about your reps, getting them to buy into what you are trying to teach them comes much more naturally.
- They balance formal and informal coaching – The best sales coaching strategy typically balances formal training initiatives with an informal, more personalized approach. Great sales coaches can balance formal, pre-determined training exercises with on-the-fly, informal instruction to create a strategy that maximizes the benefits of both methodologies.
- They commit to a standard of excellence – Being an effective sales coach requires you to set high expectations for your reps and commit yourself to do whatever is necessary to help them meet those expectations. When your team understands that you are committed to a well-defined standard of excellence, they are much more likely to commit themselves to that same standard of excellence as well.
- They receive training too – Sales training isn’t just for sales reps; it’s equally important – if not more so – for sales managers to undergo thorough sales training themselves. Teaching anything to someone else requires you to master it yourself – and sales are no exception.
Optimize Your Sales Coaching Results With Help From Sales Assembly
At Sales Assembly, we are committed to providing B2B sales managers in all industries with the high-quality sales training and development programs they need to maximize the result of their sales team.
Feel free to contact us today to learn more about our industry-leading sales training, certifications, and professional development programs.