B2B customers only spend 17 percent of their interactions with a salesperson. This means that every second of an interaction counts. Effective sales coaching can empower sales reps with the resources and skills they need to leave a lasting impression.
Understanding the objectives of sales coaching and how to avoid the most common pitfalls won’t only strengthen your sales coaches’ influence — it will also improve the end performance of your sales reps..
What is sales coaching?
Sales coaching is the ongoing, one-on-one mentorship of each rep on a sales team. It is a conversation between the rep and a coach, where the rep does most of the talking while the coach listens, observes, and offers feedback.
Coaching is different from onboarding, where new information is presented to many reps at one time. It’s also unique from training, which can happen in many different forms, including virtual training and micro-learning.
Here are a few characteristics of coaching that make it different from training:
While a training event provides a baseline education or a foundation, coaching builds on this foundation with continual sessions. Many successful sales organizations make coaching a weekly practice, and some even establish daily coaching routines.
Unlike a training session that involves the whole sales team, each coaching session is tailored to the needs of an individual rep. The coach knows the rep, as well as their strengths, challenges, and areas needing improvement.
While training is designed to impart new information about products, customers, strategies, competitors, etc., coaching is behavior-based. It corrects a rep’s unfavorable behaviors and habits while reinforcing effective ones. In fact, quota attainment increases by 7% when coaches focus on sales rep behavior.
Why does effective sales coaching matter?
Having a strong coaching relationship is important to gain employee trust and work together to develop sales skills. But the secret sauce to coaching is making sure to build a program and approach where reps are coached the right way.
Apart from building an environment where growth is supported, sales coaching can also:
- Optimize sales training information and skills to be incorporated into day-to-day practices.
- Show sales reps you care about their personal development and growth in their role.
- Create personalized KPIs and development plans that are tracked with employees.
- Share, in a safe environment, valuable feedback for improvement.
- Teach sales reps to leverage sales enablement tools to track and monitor their skill development progress.
The 4 key objectives of sales coaching
Research from our 2022 State of Sales Readiness found that 85% of reps report being coached on closing open deals but only 24% report being coached on long-term skills. The best sales managers make it a priority to deliver a mix of opportunity, skills, and targeted coaching to truly drive results.
Here’s how to build a coaching approach that focuses on developing long-term skills rather than just focusing on short-term deal remediation.
Most sales reps forget 70% of their sales training, with 87% of sales reps forgetting that 70% within the first month of training. Sales coaching helps with this by reinforcing training concepts and applying them to the unique needs of each rep.
Coaching starts with analytics that pinpoint each rep’s strengths and weaknesses. For new hires, the sales coach might target foundational behaviors and best practices like empathetic listening and objection handling. Over time, the coach’s focus might transition to negotiation skills and effectively presenting value.
As the rep’s career progresses, they’ll flourish into a highly skilled advisor that buyers depend on.
Many sales leaders incorrectly assume that coaching creates discouragement and a lack of confidence. Such leaders often come from organizations that only coach their reps after they’ve lost a deal. In that circumstance, coaching is viewed as a negative, as it is often read as a type of punishment.
Proper coaching, however, is an integral part of every sales rep’s daily or weekly routine. Effective coaches build confidence by praising their reps’ daily wins, along with helping them overcome their weaknesses.
It’s common for sales organizations to lack standard best practices for their teams to anchor themselves to. Without a standard set of guidelines and repeatable steps to take, it’s almost impossible to help reps correct their courses of action.
Successful sales organizations use onboarding sessions to teach reps about the organization’s best practices, and they reinforce these standards with coaching. These one-on-one sessions are a great opportunity to identify and correct behavior that doesn’t fit with the organization’s vision or standard process.
Organizations that provide effective sales coaching enjoy 16.7% higher annual revenue growth than those that don’t. That’s why it’s important for sales leaders to resist the temptation to “be the hero” and take the reins of a lagging deal to score the big win. By taking over, sales leaders deprive their teams of the ability to refine their skills and improve.
Sales organizations that establish coaches rather than “heroes” are able to turn every member of their salesforce into competent deal closers. It’s more profitable to have 100 highly skilled closers than a handful of heroes.
The challenges of sales coaching
Most sales leaders understand the importance of coaching but struggle to find the time and support to implement an effective coaching program.
Here are the four most common challenges in sales coaching:
Some sales reps don’t feel they need sales coaching
Many reps want training and coaching because they understand that it boosts their career development. Others, particularly those who consistently hit their sales quota, are hesitant.
Reluctance to sales coaching can be solved by instituting a culture of coaching where everyone — including the coaches themselves — is mentored and coached.
Sales coaches and managers can lead by example by continuing to receive coaching and working to develop their own skills. It’s good practice to strike a balance between formal and informal coaching, as this will let your sales reps know they’re not being graded and evaluated but can use the coaching session as a tool for improvement. It’s especially important early in the sales coaching process — when reps are hesitant — to reinforce a culture of continuous improvement.
Leaders are unsure how to measure success
Many sales leaders want to make a business case for establishing a coaching process at their organization, but they have no idea how to measure success or ROI. Fortunately, the right sales coaching platform provides all the analytics capabilities and metrics needed for this
With the right sales enablement tool, you can set goals for the entire team as well as individual reps.
When you understand an individual rep’s strengths and weaknesses, you can set performance goals and coach toward these. Whether it’s contract value, win rate, time to productivity, or another sales KPI, you can track the individual’s performance on a given metric over time to evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching.
Teams don’t want to put forth the time and resources required
Time and resources are common challenges for organizations looking to expand their sales coaching. It takes time from both the sales rep who is being coached and the leader doing the coaching. It may involve implementing and learning new technology, adjusting schedules, and even changing the department’s culture.
This investment seems daunting, but the long-term value far outweighs the initial investment of time and effort. Organizations that spend time reinforcing skills and use coaching to reach set goals can raise sales rep productivity by 25% in as little as 18 months.
It’s a good idea to include a sales enablement platform that empowers both sales reps and coaches with insights, centralized content, and courses to help save time and track improvement. This shows sales reps insights into their improvement and encourages continuous development.
Lack of understanding of what makes a strong sales coaching program
What makes a good sales rep is often different from what makes a good sales coach. Unfortunately, many organizations promote high-performing reps without investing in training and ongoing development for the sales coach in their new role.
To create an effective coaching plan, it’s important to implement coach training in your organization. Have coaches complete their training before they begin coaching salespeople. And use one-on-one mentoring, virtual training, and other tools to ensure your coaches are well-equipped to develop sales skills in other reps.
The above challenges are temporary ones, and they are usually resolved as the coaching system progresses. Once all reps see the career advantages of coaching, and once top leadership understands the competitive benefits, you can encourage the entire department to embrace continuous development.
4 tips for measuring sales coaching effectiveness
Measuring the impact of sales coaching is important to help understand the ROI of time and other resources invested in coaching sales reps.
However, calculating sales coaching impact is a bit more tricky.
But don’t worry — we’ve got four simple tips that’ll help you measure your sales coaching effectiveness.
Forty-seven percent of companies look at the performance of the overall team to gauge the success of sales coaching. This will help you understand how behavioral change and skill development translate to higher win rates and improved performance.
To measure the impact of sales coaching, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the following sales metrics:
- Sales cycle length
- Quota attainment
- Conversion by deal stage
- Average revenue generation
Keep track of the skills developed through coaching sessions to see the influence they have on quota attainment. This will help you understand where your training has been the most useful and what skills need a little more improvement.
With sales coaching, the goal is to identify weak sales traits and skills and then support sellers to grow their skills and knowledge.
Part of calculating the impact of sales coaching is to see how learned skills pass from theory into practice. You’ll want to ensure sales reps use their new skills in all their interactions and note the impact it has on closing rates.
Keep an eye on the following measurements to calculate the impact sales coaching has on sales reps’ skills:
- Number of sales skills improved
- Behavioral changes around selling approaches
- Amount of new skills learned
You can use skill tests and quizzes to measure skill improvement. And sales enablement platforms can help automatically keep track of interactions and score each seller on their skill level.
Employee turnover is expensive, with the average cost of replacing a sales hire being 2.1-2.5 times their salary.
However, sales coaching and training can increase employee engagement by 10% and improve the overall employee experience. In fact, organizations that focus on personalized development increase retention rate by 34% on average.
Keep track of employee engagement through surveys and polls to understand the correlation between sales coaching and employee engagement.
Some good indicators to keep an eye on are:
- Average employee engagement scores
- Average employee turnover
- Average employee satisfaction
Sales coaches are also at the front line to hear sales reps’ concerns and worries. This puts them in a position to proactively improve their employee experience and come up with solutions with the reps being coached.
Not only does this help with sales rep engagement, but it empowers employees to succeed in their roles while improving company profitability.
A sales coaching platform empowers your whole team
To coach effectively, you need a combination of data insights, content resources, and skill assessments. This requires content and course preparation and tracking abilities to measure sales reps’ improvement. This can be challenging if you don’t have a way to store and connect all the skills and sellers’ insights.
However, it doesn’t have to be.
A sales enablement platform like Mindtickle includes robust sales coaching features for your team to build on.
This post was originally published in January 2020, updated in December 2022, and again in October 2023.