Jan 28, 2020
Running a sales organization is no small task. Your salespeople come from diverse industries, some reps are more experienced than others, and their performance is inconsistent.
Sales coaching is the best way to bring your entire sales team up to the level of your top-performing reps—and do it consistently.
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:
- Ongoing – 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.
- Individualized – 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 for improvement.
- Focused on behavior – 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.
Effective coaching can increase win rates by 27% or more
The Objectives of Sales Coaching
CSO Insights reports that effective coaching can increase win rates by 27% or more. This makes coaching the single most important way to optimize your sales team. It improves sales rep performance, standardizes processes, and ultimately boosts profitability. Here’s how:
1. Ensure reps are refining and improving their skills
While sales reps quickly forget most of what they learn in training, coaching reinforces the training concepts and applies them to the unique strengths and weaknesses 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 handling objections. Over time, the coach’s focus might transition to negotiation skills and effectively presenting value.
As the rep’s career progresses, they flourish into a highly-skilled advisor that buyers depend upon.
2. Build confidence
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, and it becomes 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. Over the course of their careers, effectively-coached reps are confident in their skills and highly fulfilled as employees.
3. Provide consistent practices and expectations across the sales team
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 in 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
4. Increase Revenue
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 team of the ability to refine their skills and improve.
Sales organizations who establish coaches rather than “heroes” are able to turn their entire 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 the struggle to find the time and support to implement an effective coaching program. From the time and effort involved, to the pushback of some of the sales team, the task seems daunting. Here are a few 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, however, are hesitant. (This many be particularly common among high-performing salespeople who consistently hit their numbers.)
This reluctance can be solved by instituting a culture of coaching, where everyone—including the coaches themselves—are mentored and coached. Sales coaches and managers can lead by example by continuing to receive coaching and working on developing their own skills. It is also helpful to strike a balance between formal and informal coaching, especially early on 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 to measure success.
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 those goals. 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 sales coaching.
Teams don’t want to put forth the time and resources required
Time and resources are a common challenge 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 culture.
This investment seems daunting, but the long-term value far outweighs the initial investment of time and effort. Organizations that spend an average of 9 hours per week coaching are 7% more effective in reaching the sales objectives and achieve 9% better sales results, according to a 2018 study by the Sales Management Association. Plus, effective sales coaching boosts sales team engagement, which leads to better results for all.
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. But 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 coaches training in your organization. Coaches should have the opportunity to complete their training before they begin coaching salespeople. 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.
How a Sales Coaching Platform Can Help
If implementing a sales coaching program seems daunting, you’re not alone. It’s a challenging task, but your sales team will reap the benefits for years to come.
A sales enablement platform like Mindtickle includes robust sales coaching features for your team to build on. Mindtickle offers competency maps to identify areas for coaching, micro-learning modules to follow up on the needs identified in coaching, and much more.
Schedule a demo today to learn how Mindtickle can help you develop and implement effective sales coaching.