In the world of sports, great coaching ensures each player is ready to perform their best and win the game. Similarly, great sales coaching helps ensure each member of the sales team is ready to perform in the field and has what it takes to consistently close deals and meet quota.
In fact, sales coaching is a key component of a sales readiness strategy. When it’s done effectively, it can transform the performance of sellers in the field leading to more revenue and increased quota attainment.
However, coaching just to coach or check a box, doesn’t guarantee great results. Instead, you must build a strategic, data-based coaching program and consistently measure and optimize it to deliver the greatest ROI.
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about sales coaching and how to make sure you are fostering a coaching culture in your organization. We’ll also answer key questions that’ll help guide you on your way to a stronger, more successful sales coaching program, including:
Sales coaching is the strategic process of improving sales performance through building relationships, analyzing activities in the field, and delivering ongoing and individualized plans to improve deal outcomes and build key skills.
The most common type of sales coaching is the manager one-on-one. A manager one-on-one is a regularly scheduled meeting between a manager and their direct report. However, there are multiple other types of coaching, including:
Deal coaching is also referred to as opportunity coaching. During deal coaching, the manager and rep work together to determine the best plan of attack for moving a deal forward.
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As the name suggests, peer-to-peer coaching happens when reps give and receive feedback and recommendations to fellow team members, learning from each other and sharing best practices
Sales coaching is one of the best, most effective ways to improve sales rep performance. The best sales managers build close relationships with their reps and understand both their strengths and weaknesses. In addition, sales managers have the opportunity to see how reps are performing day to day – and work with them to capitalize on strengths and hone the skills and competencies they need to improve overall performance.
Coaching is a skill itself, that takes practice and experience to hone. Oftentimes, sales managers are reps who were very successful and got promoted. But, they weren’t always given the training on how to be a great coach and mentor others. . So, what sets the best sales coaches apart from the rest?
For starters, the best sales coaches receive regular training on how to be effective coaches. This starts with onboarding. When a new manager joins an organization or a sales rep is promoted to a sales manager role, their onboarding should include training on how to coach.
In addition, all sales managers should regularly receive training focused on how to effectively coach. At a minimum, ongoing coaching training for managers should be delivered annually. However, many organizations find it’s more effective to provide ongoing training more frequently – for example, during the annual sales kickoff and other key times during the year.
Even more experienced managers need regular training on how to effectively coach. They may have different coaching styles or methodologies used at previous companies. Ensuring you are training all of your coaches on how to coach following your expectations and upholding your company values is key.
Great sales coaches are those that focus on building strong, authentic relationships with their sellers. A key part of this relationship-building is understanding sellers’ career goals – and helping them work toward those goals. Sellers should believe that their managers are there to help them succeed.
Successful sales coaches work to build and foster a supportive coaching environment where everyone on the team is encouraged to share feedback and best practices. Great coaches adopt a “rising tides raise all ships” mentality. Rather than every salesperson for themselves, successful coaches foster an environment where the entire team helps each other succeed together.
Not all sales coaching programs are created equal. While some drive performance results, others can feel ad-hoc and a waste of time. Here are five sales coaching tips and ideas that can improve the effectiveness of your sales coaching program.
Oftentimes, the responsibility for coaching falls solely on the shoulders of front-line sales managers. But managers are busy, and often have very large sales teams. With forecasts to create, meeting prep, and fires to put out, coaching can easily fall by the wayside.
The most successful sales organizations are those that focus on building a culture of coaching. Building such a culture requires leadership buy-in. If coaching is seen as a top priority by the Chief Revenue Officer and sales leaders, it will be a priority of the entire sales team.
Check out this video for more tips on building a culture of coaching at your organization.
According to CSO Insights, most organizations (nearly 63%) take a random or informal approach to sales coaching. In those organizations, there’s no agreed-upon plan or structure. Instead, coaching is done as needed – and sales managers are largely left to their own devices.
This ad hoc approach isn’t effective. In fact, it’s proven that more formalized sales coaching programs lead to better results. The same report found that dynamic coaching brings nearly a 28% improvement in quota attainment and 31% for win rates when compared to a random approach.
When creating a formalized coaching approach for your teams, make sure your managers know the expectations of how often they should be coaching, what topics they should cover, and how to track coaching activities. Consider the below as a start to a formalized approach to coaching:
A successful sales coaching program is one that’s documented. Managers should keep a record of when coaching sessions were delivered to each rep, what they covered, and any action items to follow up on in the next session. That way, sales leadership can ensure managers are adhering to the coaching guidelines. Perhaps more importantly, when coaching is documented, it’s easier to determine how (and whether) it’s impacting a rep’s performance.
Each seller has unique strengths and weaknesses. As such, a one-size-fits-all approach to coaching isn’t effective. In fact, coaching all sellers on skills they’ve already mastered is a waste of their time – and can lead to disengagement.
Instead, sales managers must deliver coaching that’s personalized to each rep’s strengths and weaknesses. The right data can help managers understand where reps shine – and where they need more help. Coaching should focus on those areas of opportunity. Then, managers can leverage data to see how their coaching efforts are (or aren’t) impacting the seller’s performance.
Deal reviews are certainly important. This type of coaching can help a seller move a deal closer to the finish line. But on its own, it’s not enough to improve long-term outcomes.
In addition to deal coaching, start delivering regular skill coaching to your sales reps. Skill coaching should be focused on sharpening the individual skills each seller needs to achieve success in the field. Skill coaching drives behavior change – which positively impacts a rep’s long-term success.
The most successful sales coaching programs are strategic. Here are a few sales coaching strategies employed by the most successful sales organizations.
If you want to deliver coaching that creates more great reps, you must first define what great looks like. Look at what sets your best sellers apart. The skills and competencies they have are what you want to replicate throughout your sales team.
Of course, each rep has unique strengths and weaknesses. As such, you must measure each seller against your organization’s “gold standard” to see where they’re falling short. These benchmarks will help evaluate the skill gaps of individual reps for targeted coaching.
The best sales managers recognize that coaching isn’t a one-time event. They know that ongoing follow-up and reinforcement ensure skills coaching is internalized. In fact, research tells us that top managers are three times more likely to assign a piece of content, training, role-play, or other sales enablement as a follow-up to a coaching session.
You likely have a trove of enablement topics on your sales processes, methodologies, competition, and success stories. After a coaching session, assign relevant sales enablement to the rep. This will help ensure that your coaching sessions are reinforced to commit new knowledge and skills to memory.
Without regular measurement, it’s impossible to determine how (or if) your sales coaching program is driving improvement.
Of course, it’s important to measure short-term results. For example, what was the result of that opportunity you provided coaching on? However, it’s also critical to measure long-term results. In other words, how coaching is impacting skill development and a rep’s overall sales readiness. Using your skill and competency benchmarks, you can track the rep’s performance and skill improvement over time.
Some sales organizations take an informal approach to sales coaching. At these organizations, coaching might be documented in disparate spreadsheets – if it’s documented at all. When organizations take an informal approach to sales coaching, it’s nearly impossible to determine how (or if) coaching is impacting key outcomes.
In addition, many sales managers rely on their reps to recount their sales calls. But oftentimes, reps struggle to articulate what went well and not so well. That leaves the manager unsure of how to coach to improve the outcome of a given deal – or drive long-term behavior change.
As mentioned earlier, formalizing and documenting your sales coaching program will improve effectiveness. A key part of formalizing your coaching is to leverage the right sales coaching technology. A good sales coaching tool will make it easy for managers to schedule, conduct, and measure coaching with their reports. We’ll explore some different types of sales coaching technology next.
There are many sales coaching tools available today that can help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of sales coaching. Some sales coaching tools address a single coaching challenge. However, a complete sales readiness platform like Mindtickle has capabilities that address all key sales coaching channels – all within a single platform.
Sales coaching software helps organizations take a formalized, documented approach to coaching. With sales coaching software, you can see firsthand how often your managers are coaching and how (and whether) this coaching is improving rep performance.
A good sales coaching software will make coaching easier for front-line managers. Key features include:
Good news – Mindtickle’s Sales Coaching has all of this and more! Learn more about it here.
Conversation intelligence software is another powerful sales coaching tool.
Of course, it’s important that a sales rep completes all necessary training. But what really matters is that they’re using what they’ve learned while in the field. However, sales managers typically don’t have the time to sit in on every sales meeting with every rep.
Conversation intelligence software records and analyzes all sales meetings, which helps managers better understand how each rep is performing in the field. Call recordings can help managers lead more effective deal reviews with reps, which will positively impact the outcome of a given deal. In addition, recordings help managers understand the skill and behavior gaps of each rep. For example, a rep may consistently struggle when handling objections or navigating negotiations. The manager can use these insights to deliver coaching to help improve these skills.
Coaching isn’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, managers must be able to deliver personalized coaching that addresses the skill gaps of each sales rep.
Coaching also isn’t “one and done.” The best sales managers leverage sales enablement content to reinforce coaching and drive skill improvement. This is proven to drive results. According to Mindtickle’s 2022 State of Sales Readiness report, reps who are assigned follow-up actions after a coaching session see significant improvements in sales readiness.
Pairing your sales coaching software with an integrated enablement platform helps reinforce coaching with training that can help commit it to memory. For example, a manager might see that a rep consistently struggles with objection handling on recorded calls. After delivering a coaching session focused on objection handling, the manager can assign sales enablement content and role plays to reinforce that coaching.
As the name suggests, data-based sales coaching is coaching that’s driven by data.
Some sales managers take a blanket approach to sales coaching. In other words, all reps receive the same coaching, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses. A more effective approach is to deliver targeted, personalized coaching for each rep. The right data fuels this approach to coaching.
Deal coaching helps reps guide a specific opportunity through the funnel. Effective deal coaching depends on data about both the deal and the individual rep, including:
Skill coaching helps reps hone the skills and competencies needed for success in the field. The right data sheds light on the skills reps may need coaching on. Key data to tap into for skill coaching includes:
As mentioned earlier, ongoing training on how to coach is essential for sales managers. Sales managers should also receive ongoing coaching to improve their coaching skills. This type of coaching should be backed by data, including:
Your reps need certain skills and competencies if they are to be successful at your organization. The first step is to determine what those skills are. Start by looking at your top performers and determine the skills they possess that set them apart. These key skills can be documented in an Ideal Rep Profile (IRP). An IRP generator can help you build yours.
Remember: different roles require different skills. Be sure to define the key skills for every role on your sales team.
The skills documented in your IRP should then be associated with any onboarding and enablement content. In other words, you should tag any onboarding and enablement content related to the skills and competencies outlined in your IRP.
In addition, each rep should regularly be measured against the IRP. That way, managers can easily identify skills for which each rep may need additional coaching. Also, sales leaders can measure how coaching is improving the key skills needed for success.
Another way to implement data-based sales coaching is to leverage revenue intelligence. Revenue intelligence helps surface deal risks. That data can help inform deal coaching that improves the outcome of a deal. For example, a manager can guide a rep on data points or a piece of content that can steer the conversation back on course – and bring it closer to the finish line.
Two common types of sales coaching are deal coaching and skill coaching. Which is the better option?
The reality is, this isn’t a case of either/or. The most effective sales managers leverage both deal coaching and skill coaching to drive improvements. That’s because each type of coaching has different goals and procedures.
Deal coaching is arguably the most common type of sales coaching. According to the 2022 State of Sales Readiness report, 85% of reps report being coached on closing open deals.
As the name suggests, deal coaching is aimed at improving the outcome of a deal or deals. Deal coaching can happen on a regular basis. For example, a rep might have a weekly pipeline review with their manager. But deal coaching can also happen on an ad hoc basis. For example, a rep may reach out to their manager about their concerns with a certain deal and request guidance.
During deal coaching sessions, managers and reps discuss questions relevant to the deal, such as:
Then, the rep and manager work together to make a game plan to move the deal through the funnel. That might include taking a different approach or sharing a specific piece of content – among other actions.
Deal coaching can be an effective way to improve a single interaction or single deal and often happens on an ongoing basis, typically at least weekly.
Skill coaching is extremely important. But unfortunately, it’s a lot less common. Per the 2022 State of Sales Readiness report, a mere 24% of sales reps report being coached on skills.
Rather than focusing on deals, skill coaching focuses on the sellers. The aim of
skill coaching is to ensure sellers have mastery of the skills, competencies, and behaviors needed to close more deals.
What skills should managers focus on? It depends. Managers should measure their reps against their ideal rep profile to identify where each rep needs additional coaching. Then, the manager can measure how coaching (as well as follow-up efforts) is driving improvement.
Unlike deal coaching, skill coaching can lead to behavior change. Improved behaviors lead to greater long-term sales success.
Strategic, data-driven sales coaching can have a large, positive impact on key business outcomes. In fact, the impact of great sales coaching is proven.
Effective sales coaching leads to higher performing sales reps. Research from Heinz Marketing and Mindtickle found that 8 out of 10 sales teams with effective coaching practices hit greater than 75% of sales quotas.
The more formalized the sales coaching program, the larger the impact. According to CSO Insights, organizations with a dynamic approach to sales coaching achieve significantly higher win rates and quota attainment than average.
In addition, more frequent coaching leads to better results. Research from Sales Readiness Group found that sales managers at high-impact organizations (those where 75% of sales reps reach quota) spend significantly more time coaching than sales managers at average and low-performing organizations. Our own research found that the average rep receives one manager-led coaching session per month. However, managers of top-performing reps complete an average of three formal, manager-led coaching sessions per rep per month.
Great sales coaching helps reps close more deals and improve skills that drive long-term success. So it makes sense that poor sales coaching leads to ill-equipped sales reps who are more likely to miss their sales targets.
In addition, poor coaching can be indicative of a negative relationship between managers and reps. These poor relationships lead to higher churn rates. DDI research found that a staggering 57% of employees have left a job because of their manager. When churn is high, managers must spend more time filling vacant roles – and less time helping their sellers succeed.