Good sales coaching can unlock more revenue potential for your business – it can go as high as 20%. Sales coaching trains your sales reps to improve their selling skills and close more deals.
High-impact sales organizations, where more than 75% of the sales reps achieve quota, are more proficient at sales coaching than low-performing sales organizations. Investing in a coaching program can improve your rep’s performance and also help in reducing attrition.
Get expert tips on how to effectively coach your teams and improve the overall productivity of the team with this sales coaching guide.
The Importance of Sales Coaching
Designing and implementing a proper coaching program in your organization can benefit sales managers, team leaders, and reps and help provide a delightful and personalized customer experience that can improve brand loyalty.
1. Addresses Deficiencies Better With One-on-One Mentoring
Sales reps often hesitate to share failures in front of their peers. Most of the time, top sellers, in fact, take over the conversations. But in one-on-one mentoring, sales reps are given the space to share things that are bothering them or talk about their deficiency with ease and without fear of being judged. This allows the manager to provide specific feedback to improve the reps’ performance.
2. Improves Employee Retention and Builds Work Culture
For sales managers, it ensures that all team members are properly trained, and no one gets missed. Besides, studies have revealed that sales reps are willing to let go of higher salaries if they see professional development opportunities in their current organization. It motivates the employee to stay, resulting in increased retention, and also helps build strong work relationships with their team members.
3. Maximizes Your Investment In Sales Training
Sales coaching can help maximize the investment in sales training by ensuring that the knowledge and skills learned during the training are applied in real-time.
When coaching the reps, it is possible to reinforce successful sales behaviors and provide continuous support and guidance on how to use the knowledge acquired in training when talking to prospects.
4. Enhances Customer Engagement
A poorly coached sales rep talks more about the product or service they have to offer rather than understand their customers’ needs. But with coaching, sales reps are trained to listen to their customer and can have a meaningful engagement with the customers.
The best practice to enhance customer engagement is to train sales reps to listen to the customers’ needs rather than talk more about the product or service. This helps the reps personalize the engagement, and improves customer loyalty.
Common Reasons Why Sales Managers Don’t Engage in Coaching
Despite having obvious benefits of sales coaching, very few companies have a proper coaching program in place.
According to Vantage Point Performance, sales managers spend just 32% of their time managing their agents and only part of that is in coaching.
Typically, there are four reasons managers don’t spend time coaching their team:
1. They don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching
2. They aren’t sure about how to coach
3. They feel there isn’t enough time
4. They’re concerned about hurting a sales rep’s confidence
Reason #1: They don’t understand the benefits of sales coaching
Sales managers need to understand the importance of sales coaching for them to implement systematized coaching within their organizations. Clearly, industry data has failed to convince them completely.
They need to understand that coaching allows them to meet the individual needs of their reps and provide personal, ongoing support. It focuses on providing training that results in the development of their sales skills and its implementation that improves overall performance.
Coaching effectively provides tailored feedback and works together to higher, more profitable sales.
Reason #2. They aren’t sure about how to coach
It’s not necessary that every sales manager would know how to provide coaching to their teams. Some may have natural coaching skills, but not every sales manager has a coaching plan. The good news is that it can be learned. There are multiple tools and products that sales managers can use to develop successful coaching programs. Becoming a great sales coach not only benefits the business but also gives them a sense of pride when they see their reps grow.
Reason #3. They feel there isn’t enough time
Generally, a sales manager provides a single solution to their reps when they are stuck in a situation. When, in reality, they should take this opportunity to coach their staff and offer them options and discuss how to proceed.
Of course, this will take more of their time than usual. But what they don’t realize is that this will empower their reps in the long run and, ultimately, free up the manager’s time.
Reason #4. They’re worried about hurting a sales rep’s confidence
Sales managers worry that pointing out the shortcomings of the reps could lead to a loss in confidence and trust. This can be solved by providing constructive feedback that can benefit the entire team.
Also, managers tend to focus only on the bottom reps’ performance but whereas, the focus should be on mid-level performers and top reps as well. This can lead to a greater increase in outcomes, and also improve the overall team morale.
Common Challenges With Sales Coaching
Whether your sales coaching program is yielding results or not also depends on the ability of a sales coach. There are a lot of challenges that most sales managers need to overcome to implement a successful sales coaching program.
Here are some of the most common challenges that sales managers face with sales coaching today.
#1: Not Coaching Enough
Less than 20% of a sales leader’s time is spent coaching. Many sales managers only meet with their sales reps once a month – shortly before closing or after a deal is lost. But for the best results, sales coaching needs to be personal, and the efforts need to be consistent.
Coaching should be more frequent and should be done at all stages of the selling process- from the discovery call to the closing of the deals.
Sales managers have multiple responsibilities and finding time to coach might be difficult. But, by leveraging technology, sales managers can provide effective coaching to the reps, and improve the overall team outcomes.
#2: Implementing One-Size-Fits-All Coaching Method
Sales coaching is bound to fail if you have generic conversations with all your sales reps. Most of the time, sales managers coach all their sales reps in the same way. In some cases, managers run out of ideas and so end up coaching each rep on the same strategies.
But every person has different motivations, and thus, coaching needs to be personalized for each rep. Besides, not all your reps will have the same issues. Some may want to do roleplay to gain confidence, while some might need a more detailed, step-by-step coaching endeavor.
Identify each rep’s strengths and weaknesses, and use that information to guide them through their journey.
#3: Emphasis on Results and Quantity
Take a group of people and ask them to comment on both the bad and good behavior of an individual. You would be surprised to know how people are more inclined to comment on negative aspects. It happens the same with the sales managers too.
Since managers' effectiveness is also measured based on the outcomes and number of sales they push reps to achieve those targets. But focussing only on the negatives doesn’t help in achieving better results.
This is why sales managers should first evaluate each rep’s behavior and find out which behavior needs to be skilled to bring real transformation. This will definitely yield results in the long run.
What Makes a Great Coach?
The role of a sales coach is to monitor their sales reps’ performances, identify areas of improvement, and cultivate profitable behaviors. A good coach knows that a one-size-fits-all training mentality won’t work.
Most managers do not have the natural ability to coach their teams. But anyone can learn how to become a good coach. One thing that separates a great coach from the rest is their ability to create an environment where reps feel comfortable discussing their shortcomings with them.
A great coach listens more in a one-on-one engagement with reps rather than just talking and not allowing the salesperson to speak. In fact, a great coach understands the golden rule of letting salespeople do their own self-discovery instead of simply telling them what to do.
Here are a few qualities that define a great sales coach.
- Guides sales reps towards the journey of self-discovery and learning
- Fosters a safe environment where reps do not hesitate to share their shortcomings
- Pays attention to what the team has to say
- Asks open-ended questions for healthy discussions
- Focuses on helping build a rep’s confidence by working on personal development and soft skills
- Offers honest feedback and keeps them motivated
Effective Ways to Coach Them
One of the biggest challenges for a sales coach is to resist the urge to dictate every action and not let their team members make their own decisions.
The best sales coaches are the ones who are able to communicate expectations clearly to their team. They try to improve the team's skills without trying to micromanage them. Here are ten critical sales coaching tips to implement.
1. Set Clear Expectations and Identify Key Behaviors
More often than not, sales coaches think that they have clearly communicated their expectations. But in reality, if you ask the team, they aren’t sure what’s expected of them. So the first step for a sales coach is to define and share clear expectations and emphasize more on the skills required to succeed, than just the results.
2. Build Trust With Your Teams
If a sales rep is able to share their shortcomings with the sales coach without any hesitation, it’s a sign of successful coaching. But for that to happen, sales managers must earn reps’ trust first so that they are open about performance challenges.
A great sales coach would try to gain their reps’ trust by sharing their own stories of success and failure. These stories show reps that they aren’t struggling alone and that there are ways to overcome those challenges. While telling a story, the manager can highlight why their sales call failed – lack of empathy or patience, poor preparations, etc and at the same time, they can also talk about the different steps they took to rectify those errors. This could include learning more about their prospect’s needs, allowing their prospects to talk more, etc.
3. Point Out Whenever You See a Positive Behavior
Good sales coaching is about finding the balance between pointing out performance issues and providing positive feedback but sometimes, in an attempt to offer more positive feedback than negative, it ends up sounding more like a forced appreciation.
The best way to approach this is to identify key behaviors needed to succeed. Once you observe those behaviors in reps, point them out and encourage them further. You will see a significant amount of improvement in your reps’ performances.
4. Allow Them to Self-Evaluate
When in one-on-one coaching sessions, it’s crucial for salespeople to self-evaluate
Try to build conversations, and create a safe space where the reps can openly communicate their ideas and address their shortcomings. This can also improve team bonding, foster teamwork and build trust within the team.
Assist them by asking questions like
- What do you think is your biggest obstacle?
- How could you have performed better in a particular sales call?
- How can you reinforce positive behavior further?
This process allows them to be self-aware, which helps in building confidence and improving performance.
5. Focus on One or Two Things At A Time
As a sales coach, you might be tempted to work on multiple areas simultaneously. After all, it’s easy to create a long list of skills that need improvement. But then, it becomes difficult to coach and measure progress. This, in turn, only frustrates your reps further.
In fact, the overall performance of a sales rep boils down to things like selling skills, product knowledge, defending objections, etc.
6. Create an Action Plan for Each Rep
Sales coaching needs to be continuous and ongoing, and the reps need to implement their learnings while on the job. It thus is necessary to create an action plan for each rep and ensure their progress is tracked.
Ask the reps to write out a plan of action. The plan might include the number of calls to be made in a month, qualifying leads, scheduling follow-up calls with top prospects, and more.
7. Foster a Collaborative Environment
A sign of successful sales coaching is the collaborative coaching environment. Foster a culture where reps not only receive feedback but are comfortable giving feedback too.
Ensure that feedback doesn’t sound like criticism but more like supportive communication on how to improve performance.
8. Hold Your Rep Accountable
Once the reps are ready with their course of action plans, the next step for an effective coach is to hold them accountable for their commitments. Ask questions like ‘what challenges are you facing?,’ ‘how can you overcome this challenge?,’ ‘what progress have you made this week?’ and others.
You can even use a CRM that allows you to keep track of your sales reps’ activities and review them..
9. Focus on Middle-of-the-road Reps
One common mistake most sales coaches make is that they either focus on the top-level reps or underperforming reps. But paying attention to the middle and top sales reps can yield additional benefits.
With underperforming reps, coaches feel the obligation to help them to reach their quota. But if they have constantly shown poor performance, no amount of coaching can fix them.
But, coaching the top sellers leads to reinforcement of positive sales behaviors, and leads to an even further improvement in outcomes.
But the real payoff lies among the middle sellers — coaching can improve performance by up to 19%. It’s crucial that managers shift their attention away from low and high performers and towards the middle reps.
10. Make Good Use of Sales Data
Sales data and technology have changed the way sales reps make a decision. They no longer rely on intuition, and neither should a sales coach. Having all sales data on a unified platform can help you figure out what to focus on in terms of coaching.
At the same time, having complete data on your CRM is crucial. Incomplete data doesn’t give you complete visibility into your pipeline, and you will end up making poor decisions.
Having a complete record of all communications and market trends can ensure the best results. You can track each sales rep and understand how their performance has been affected. You will also find how many sales reps skip the lead qualification and need discovery, and directly jump to the feature explanations.
Besides, you should compare each sales rep's historical performance with their current performance. This will help you identify the low, average, and top performers in your team.
Elements of Sales Coaching Plan
Each organization's sales coaching plan will differ depending on its business goals. However, there are a few common elements that make up a good coaching plan.
When you onboard sales reps for your coaching program, tell them everything they need to know about joining your training program. Familiarize them with the tools and resources they will be using, update them on their schedule, and tell them your action plan for how you will proceed.
Share a schedule of your meetings with your sales reps before-hand so they can manage their time accordingly.
Set Up Goals Expectations
Clearly communicate your goal expectations. Break down these goals in terms of monthly, quarterly, or any predefined period.
How to Measure Sales Coaching Effectiveness
Unless you measure the impact of your sales coaching on your sales reps’ performance, you can’t see real growth. Your sales reps should be able to measure value at every stage of their selling journey.
Here are a two important metrics that you can track:
Performance metrics will help you measure the effectiveness of your rep's performance. This might include calculating individual deal size and profitability, individual retention rate, individual size of upsells, and performance of team members who meet their quota.
Many a time, managers evaluate the team's average rate of attaining the quota. But in this case, the high performers cover up for the low seller performance who may be in need of coaching. Thus, managers should keep track of individual performances to get proactive support and enhance their performance.
Cultural metrics are equally important as it helps measure the impact coaching has on building team relationships.
Measuring employee attrition rate, reps satisfaction rate, percentage of sales reps promoted, and more can help evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching efforts.