Whether you want to play a new sport, speak a new language, or sell more effectively, you will need a coach to guide you through what works and what doesn’t, regular training to learn winning techniques and methods, and of course practice.
But first, what exactly is ‘sales coaching’? Sales coaching can be defined as ‘the process of developing and accelerating sales rep performance by initiating enduring behavioral changes’. Every sales leader wants a productive, efficient, and effective sales team, but only 1/3 of sales people meet or exceed quota, according to Aberdeen Group. Sales managers who do not invest the time and resources into coaching are missing out on a valuable opportunity and effective way to develop their salesforce. And unfortunately, there are several challenges that frequently stand in the way of successful sales coaching. For one, sales reps often don’t recognize the value in sales coaching initiatives and may not be driven to participate. Secondly, many managers don’t have the time, have the know-how, or don’t have access to the tools and resources they need to effectively coach.
However, both new hires and seasoned reps can benefit from ongoing sales coaching and professional development, particularly when the organization is entering a new market, implementing new go-to-market strategies, or expanding product offerings.
Why Sales Coaching is Important
Sales coaching should be a ‘must have’ activity rather than a ‘nice to have’ activity. Ultimately, the purpose is to maximize the performance of the sales team by leveraging tools, messaging, and training. Consider the following stats. According to the International Coach Federation, “the average company can expect a return of 7 times the initial investment in coaching”. And research from The Corporate Executive Board Company shows that “sales reps who receive just three hours of coaching a month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 25% and increasing the average close rate by 70%”.
Those are not the only reasons you should invest the time and resources in sales coaching:
Make your salesforce more effective at achieving business goals: More than half of B2B executives indicate that their employees don’t understand their company’s strategy, according to research from Harvard Business Review (HBR). Coaching enables sales leaders to define the business goals, outline a workflow, and work with reps to achieve these objectives.
Create more “A” players: Rather than focusing on the leaders and the laggards, coach the middle 2/3 of reps who have both the room for improvement and the incentive to be top performers. A study from HBR shows that “coaching – even world-class coaching – has a marginal impact on either the weakest or the strongest performers in the sales organization.”
Help your team adapt to the ever-changing B2B landscape: The B2B selling space is constantly evolving, with shifting funnel dynamics and better-informed buyers. Accordingly, sales reps must adapt to the new B2B buyer expectations, and coaches can provide the appropriate insights and guidance.
Build a culture of trust: Successful sales coaching harbors a collaborative environment with mutual trust and respect. For reps to buy into what their managers are coaching them on, they need a trusting relationship where both parties feel like they can speak openly and honestly and like they are truly being heard.
Retain talent and reduce turnover: A recent Aberdeen Group study found that it takes seven months and almost $30,000 to recruit and onboard a new sales rep. Further, the cost of losing a rep can range from 1.5 – 2x the employee’s annual salary. These stats emphasize the need to increase rep retention. Sales coaching and professional development initiatives demonstrate the organization’s interest in advancing the employee’s career and strengthening rep morale.
How to be an Effective Sales Coach
Not knowing how to coach sales reps effectively can be a barrier to success. These steps outline the path to effective coaching.
1) Determine Expectations
What are you trying to accomplish with your coaching initiatives? It is imperative that you are able to clarify your goals and strategies, as this will help reps develop practices that will help them reach their goals. Such transparency will help drive consistency and adoption.
2) Maintain Open Dialogues
A good sales coach is one who is engaging, who can motivate people, and who is trusted. Sales reps shouldn’t be afraid to come talk with you, so be approachable. When you meet with your sales team, ask open-ended questions to promote self-discovery and then actively listen to what they have to say. Consider some of the following types of questions:
- “What did the prospect say?”
- “So what went well? What could have gone better? What would you have done differently?”
- “Now what steps would you take next?”
Additionally, be sure to also offer guidance and direct advice, as the situation merits.
3) Utilize Gamification
Gamification can be used to encourage, motivate, and incentivize sales reps to apply sales coaching learnings. Further, the nature of gamification aligns with many sales rep objectives, such as number of phone calls or emails, so it offers a systematic method of tracking individual team members’ progress towards hitting transparent goals and upholds accountability. According to Salesforce.com, 71% of companies saw an 11%-50% increase in measured sales performance after implementing gamification in their organizations.
4) Leverage Data
There has recently been a rise in data-driven sales coaching. This means having a clear understanding of key sales metrics and activities that signify success, as well as the ability to hold sales reps accountable. InsightSquared asserts, “The best training methods show measureable, repeatable results – sales training should be driven by the numbers”. Use dashboards to visualize trends and gain valuable insights into sales rep activity. Collecting and analyzing the proper data can quickly uncover opportunities for coaching and improvement.
5) Make It Ongoing
Reps aren’t going to change overnight – that is not nearly enough time for them to pick up new skills and change their behaviors. And when 87% of training content is forgotten within weeks, a one-time session just won’t cut it. According to Sales Performance International, “When sales managers are used to reinforce sales training, retention is increased by up to 63%”.
6) Use Sales Enablement Technology
Sales coaching and sales enablement initiatives go hand-in-hand and serve to make one another more effective. With a tool such as Savo, sales managers can give their reps the tools, resources, and guidance to help them do their job more efficiently and effectively. They are able to quickly access playbooks, content, and more – right where they work!
As InsightSquared says, “No matter how many talented sales reps you hire, the sales training you offer them has a huge influence on their ultimate ability to sell successfully.”
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