Sales coaching tips that'll lead your reps to success
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Posted by: Lucid Content Team
It’s said that good salespeople can sell anything, but the truth is that the individual requirements of any sales role vary widely depending on the industry, product, and market needs. These differences are where companies either pull ahead and dominate their market space or remain stagnant.
The health of any business is reliant upon its sales, and there’s no better way to improve your sales culture and outcomes than by investing in your company’s sales coaching. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to build a successful sales coaching program and how it will boost performance at your organization.
What is sales coaching?
Simply defined, sales coaching is the process of supporting and guiding sales reps to maximize performance and effectively contribute to the sales organization’s ability to meet or exceed quota goals. It shouldn’t just be a one-time event for new sales reps—it’s an ongoing, iterative process that considers the individual needs and strengths of every rep.
Sales coaching is never one-size-fits-all. Your program should be:
- Skills-focused, not numbers-focused
As you think about your own sales coaching program, it’s smart to consider your favorite and most effective teachers and coaches in your own past. What did they do well? How would you improve on their methods? What can you implement into your own strategy?
Examples of effective sales coaching
Creating an effective sales coaching program is both science and art. With some basic formulas applied creatively, you can train a top-performing sales team by being a knowledgeable and skilled coach. Here are some examples of effective coaching scenarios.
1. Pipeline reviews
A good sales coach will implement a clear sales process and trust his team members to deliver. A great sales coach will follow up and manage their sales pipeline. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study revealed that companies with consistent pipeline management reported a 15% growth rate over companies with poor or no pipeline management.
Sales coaches, then, should get into the habit of doing pipeline reviews, whereby they sit down with their sales reps one on one and go over where each lead or prospect is in the buyer journey.
These reviews serve two crucial purposes: By checking on the status of your pipeline, you’re not only proactively guiding and shortening the sales cycle, but you’re also getting your sales reps in the habit of managing their own pipelines.
2. Customer meeting debriefs
In the NFL and NBA, all coaches review game tape to see how well they executed their strategy and how that execution ultimately affected their outcomes.
Sales coaching is no different—customer meeting debriefs involve sitting down with your sales rep(s), going over the meeting from top to bottom, and critically analyzing the most important aspects of the meeting.
Questions sales coaches need to consider during a customer meeting debrief include:
- What went well?
- What could improve?
- What did I learn?
- Is there any information that is useful to my teammates?
Though it’s helpful if sales coaches are present for these meetings, it’s not absolutely necessary—checking in with your sales reps is still an effective way for them to learn from their own performance. For a more hands-on approach, consider the following example.
3. Call shadowing
Remember driver’s ed? You’d sit in a classroom (or maybe cafeteria) and learn the rules of the road, followed by an on-road test drive with the instructor riding along for supervision. Call shadowing can be compared to this method: After training sales reps on each step of the sales process, sales leadership may listen in on the call and assist when necessary or simply provide feedback afterward.
This is an especially good technique to use in the early phases of a sales training or for new salespeople, as the active engagement and personalized feedback can be a real confidence boost. However, it’s smart to be sparse with call shadowing—it may begin to feel like micromanaging, especially to your high-performing sales reps.
4. Team meetings
Again, similar to team sports coaching, sales coaches may use team meetings for several purposes. For starters, team meetings are a great way to build moral and internal support, as team members get to air their successes and frustrations, and nothing binds groups like shared victory and shared suffering.
Secondly, team members have an opportunity to learn from one another—if, for instance, a team member is repeatedly hitting a wall at a certain stage in the sales process, other teammates may be able to offer critical advice on how they made it over certain humps. Finally, while one-on-one meetings are a great way to build trust and confidence, team meetings are a chance to save time and address general feedback in a group setting.
Sales coaching techniques
Now that you have seen some examples of when you should coach your sales team, learn how to provide them with guidance and feedback. Here is a list of some sales coaching tips to consider as you craft your own program:
1. Rely on account maps
You have a lot of reps to coach and even more deals to keep track of. There’s no way you can keep up on the day-to-day details of each. But if you coach reps to create an account map for every deal they work, you have an easy way to stay up to date on a deal’s status. The account map should include contacts at the account, the role they play in the deal, and the relationships between them. All you need to do is review this visual with the rep rather than waste valuable time listening to them trying to bring you up to speed.
2. Use tracking and measurement
As with anything with a measurable outcome, data is the hub of your business decision-making. Sales team leaders must have a clear tracking strategy and train sales team members on tracking sales data and KPIs. As a sales coach, you should get into the habit of tracking:
- Quota attainment
- Average deal size
- Win rate
- Sales funnel leakage
Plan on tracking these metrics, but personalize and add any areas where measurable data will help guide your sales decisions.
When tracking the performance of individual team members, counterintuitively, it’s best not to use numbers as they’re not the best metric for gauging performance while coaching. However, it is important to track progress, focusing on developing areas that need improving and applauding areas that are performing well. Consider using a school-based letter grading model, or another qualitative method, or even having reps rate their own performance and improvement. Above all, empathy should always be the model for sales coaching, and micromanagement should be avoided as much as possible.
3. Involve other reps
Coaching doesn’t always have to be all on you. Your reps can learn a lot from each other. In fact, a report from the Association for Talent Development reports that 91% of reps say learning from peers helps them be successful. Ask your high-performing sales reps to share their best practices during team meetings. Review calls together as a group so everyone can provide candid feedback.
4. Focus on the middle 60%
Time is a very precious resource in sales, so carefully consider where to invest that time when it comes to coaching your team. In The Challenger Sale, Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson explain how many managers often misplace their energy, spending time coaching the lowest performers (who might just not be a fit for the role) and highest performers (who need to maintain performance and don’t need drastic improvements). Instead, they suggest managers focus their efforts on the middle performers, as they have the most potential for improvement.
5. Ask questions
Rather than always telling the rep what they are doing wrong, help them evaluate their own performance by asking questions. If you listen more than you talk, reps will be more invested in your coaching activities. Having a two-sided conversation will be much more constructive and help the rep understand how they can improve.
Benefits of implementing sales coaching
Coaching is the buzzy term that everyone in sales wants to talk about but few want to execute because it’s a process that requires time and resources. However, research has shown that the investment will pay off: Sales Executive Council reported that quality coaching helped salespeople improve long-term performance up to 19%, and CEB reported that, when reps receive more than three hours of coaching per month, they exceed targets by more than 7%.
At every level and in companies of every industry, workforce talent report higher levels of satisfaction when they are invested into and given a chance to grow. Being an active coach of your sales team not only sharpens your team members’ skill set, but it will also sharpen your knowledge of your company, sales process, and industry.
Here are some specific benefits to each party in the sales coaching model:
Benefits to sales teams
Knowledge truly is power and being armed with a clear strategy, an opportunity for improvement, and engaged support is a vote of confidence for any sales team. Being thrown to the wolves, so to speak, can be daunting, even for the most ambitious sales leaders. A coach can be an invaluable ally in the competitive sales world and a source of continued education.
Benefits to sales leaders
It’s hard to find a downside to implementing a sales coaching program—a trained team delivers better outcomes, exponentially improving your productivity. Sales coaching can also save valuable time and energy resources by circumventing HR and developing sales team members to advance internally. A culture of development and growth expands into a portfolio of expansion and growth.
Benefits to clients and customers
The goal of every sale should be to serve a need or to solve a problem. An effective sales team, then, serves its customers as collaborative and efficient problem solvers. Return customers are the mark of a great sales experience, and coached teams keep that experience consistent.
Effective sales coaching requires more than rep onboarding and occasional training sessions—it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous investment in the people who are often the first human touchpoint between your customers and your business. Being an effective and engaged sales coach will not only improve the sales culture at your organization, but will also boost performance and revenue.
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