The Formula for Effective Sales Coaching that Enables Reps and Managers

formula_effective_sales_coachingWhile every sales manager has their own unique coaching style, the end goal is the same; develop and improve how their sales reps sell and meet quotas. By enabling reps and managers with a structured coaching framework you can have a marked impact on coaching effectiveness and its results. Structured coaching ensures reps have consistent behavior, produce more predictable sales results and follow a sales process.

What is the problem?

Industry dynamics are changing too quickly and competition is fierce, it’s no longer an option to leave coaching up to chance.

Research by the Sales Executive Council

found that coaching the middle 60% can improve performance by up to 19%, and even if you coach those below average to above average you can improve the performance of 50% of your sales force by six to eight percent.

Also, there are so many types of managers and salespeople. Each manager has their own style and sales reps have their own individual needs. Ensuring there is a culture of coaching accountability and sales coaching process ensures managers coach reps on the most important area.

Key to coaching success

The key to effective coaching is to provide specific tools, identify gaps and enable remediation workflow that is readily accessible to both managers and reps every day. By supporting this framework with a process that maps each coaching needs to a subject matter expert will make the stakeholders’ accountable.

It’s no longer enough to coach in one-on-one meetings just a few times a year. Companies are now agile and reps and their managers need to be too. Reps need constant development to help them sell better. They need to be coached on a variety of things. Here are some examples:

  • Identifying what stage their buyers are in;
  • Understanding their sales funnel and how to prioritize prospects;
  • Learning how to tailor value messages to buyers;
  • Preparing for that big meeting;
  • Navigating who their champion is;
  • Trying to find the right angle to close the deal;
  • Understanding how to maximize the opportunity in their territory; and
  • Analyzing a lost deal.

This has to be done in real-time, not just when it’s scheduled into the diary.

Coaching from a manager’s perspective

A coaching framework needs to have enough flexibility to accommodate different managerial styles and the individual needs of sales reps. Managers shouldn’t be left to try and figure it out on their own. In fact, managers may not always be the best people to coach on some things at all. Sales Enablement and Product Marketing may be better equipped to coach reps on product demos while managers are best left to coach on the finer points of specific deals.

That’s why best-in-class sales organizations are moving towards an outcome-oriented approach, where different leaders and subject matter experts (SME) collaborate to make coaching successful.

This structure works best when the responsibilities of each stakeholder are clear and their expectations are aligned. We’ve found a framework that encompasses the needs of most sales organizations:

I call this the aX + bY + cZ formula for effective sales coaching.

Depending on the complexity of sale, a, b and c will change the priority of what a rep requires coaching on. For example, FMCG retail sales Sales Process and Execution Discipline (Z) will have the highest priority so c will be high, with b and a being a smaller percentage. For sellers of complex technology software Knowledge and Messaging (X) and Sales Skills (Y) may have a higher priority, so a and b will be a much higher percentage than c. SDR sales may place more weight on Sales Skills, giving b the highest weight.

The trick to the perfect coaching formula is that it’s tailored for your business. Your magic formula will take into account the specific intricacies of your industry, product and prospects, along with the needs of your reps and managers to create your own aX + bY + cZ.

[Podcast] How Outreach Motivates Reps to Stretch their Sales Skills (Episode 10)

In this 11 minute

interview Turner outlines:

  • Outreach’s model for tapping into the motivational drive of its individual sales reps
  • How Outreach has leveraged technology to motivate and develop sales skills
  • The six areas that were critical to accelerating Outreach’s revenue growth

To download or subscribe to the Sales Excellence podcast login to






or find it



outreach_sales_excellence_podcast“Everybody has different motivational factors. Some people look at pleasure versus pain as being a motivating factor or hope versus fear, acceptance versus rejection, even success versus failure.”

The challenges of motivating individual sales reps were amplified for Outreach as the business grew 20% week on week. As the company’s second employee Jacob Turner has played a pivotal role in developing a framework that has seen the business keep it’s now 40 strong sales team motivated.

“Motivation isn’t just about financial reward. A lot of people, especially millennials, are interested in giving back,” he explains. “Instead of giving people money we’re investing in experiences.” The biggest motivator in Turner’s experience is their weekly sales gym.

“Sales gym is about giving reps access to different concepts of sales and psychological practices. Like what’s the difference between feedback and feed-forward, what types of leaders are out there, how to be a better leader, and things like that.” he continues. What makes the Outreach sales gym unique is that it’s a virtual classroom that relies on Slack and a webcam.

“They’re not really Outreach specifically. It’s more about how to be a better salesperson.” And isn’t that what every salesperson wants? Listen now

to hear how Turner took his sales reps to the gym to stretch their skills.

Making Sales Coaching a Team Effort

make_sales_coaching-team-effortNo athlete is perfect. Each has their own unique skills and areas that they can improve upon, that’s why even elite athletes need a team behind them. Usain Bolt is the fastest person alive but in the lead, up to the Rio Olympics (where he won his ninth Olympic gold medal), he credited his team led by coach Glen Mills as the strength behind his success.

Mills has never been an elite athlete. He’s a

career coach

, one who has learnt the ropes from the ground up and trained in aspects of anatomy, agility, coordination and even talent identification to become the best in the business. Running may be an individual sport, but Bolt’s success is thanks to a team of experts from doctors to nutritionists to Mills, who all put his needs front and center.


Focus in on the target

Sales is no different. While achieving quota is up to the individual rep their success is a team effort. For each team, the focal point of their efforts starts and ends with the needs of the sales rep.

In order to stay on top of their game reps require sales coaching on three areas:

The mix of each of these disciplines that a rep requires will depend on a range of factors such as their industry, product and skill level. Each business will need to determine what is the appropriate blend of weighting that each need for their business. This then forms the basis for your sales coaching program. By structuring your coaching program you can take the risk out of your revenue forecasts. Research from The

Corporate Executive Board Company

showed that reps who received as little as three hours of coaching a month exceeding goals by 7%, boosted revenue by 25% and increased their average close rate by 70%. Without a structured program in place, your sales organization is leaving your revenue in the hands of fate.

Success is a team effort

While the manager plays an integral role in coaching a sales rep to success, they are not the only person involved in the process. Sales enablement and capability, sales coaches, leadership and product teams are becoming increasingly involved in the coaching process. Some actually take on the role of coach in some areas, while others help enable the sales manager so they can coach more effectively. Each and every role in the coaching process is important.

For example for some organizations their sales coaching framework looks like this:

With the roles of each stakeholder defined within the coaching framework, your subject matter experts have clear expectations of what they need to do. This also surrounds sales reps with a team who are all there to help them achieve success.

Having everyone on board is an important step towards creating a culture of coaching. To ensure the culture is entrenched it’s also necessary for coaches to be accountable.

Scott Erdinger

suggests some useful ways to reinforce the culture of coaching like establishing uniform expectations across every member of the team from the VP Sales down. This ensures both giving and receiving coaching is role-modeled by all. Highlighting those you are achieving is also effective, but the key here is not to just mention who they are but to also share what they did. This again helps role-model behavior and imparts knowledge to other reps. Finally, he suggests a carrot and sticks approach to accountability, where those who engage in the coaching process are rewarded and those who opt-out face consequences.

The mix of activities that are appropriate will depend on the nature of your team, its members and how entrenched sales coaching is in your organization. Like anything worth doing, coaching requires hard work, but the potential benefits to your team and topline are endless.