Sales managers lead and guide a sales team to success, just as a coach does for a sports team. One lesson the business world can learn from sports is the value of effectively coaching a team. Since a coach helps someone achieve their personal best, a sales manager who is equipped with a coaching mindset can connect with and develop their sales reps to help them realize their full potential. When managers coach their reps instead of simply providing directive feedback, they maximize sales effectiveness.
The term “sales coaching” doesn’t just refer to everyday sales management or sales leadership. We’re talking about something much more specific. If you want to develop a best-in-class sales force, front line sales managers (FLSMs) need to do the following:
- Analyze sales reps’ performance
- Decide where to spend their limited coaching time to get the best results
- Determine the best solutions, based on performance analysis
- Identify ways to help reps maximize performance in targeted areas
- Provide training to ensure reps have the skills they need to succeed
- Guide reps to greater success with a coaching approach that’s engaging and motivating
- Establish a regular coaching cadence to help reps attain sales mastery and achieve the best results possible
What Is “Sales Coaching?”
At a high level, sales coaching is a formal developmental process where sales managers partner with their reps to improve performance. Sales managers encourage their reps to take responsibility for their growth by helping them determine areas of development, create action plans, and take steps to improve their performance. Instead of telling the reps what to do, sales managers act as guides to help them uncover the best strategies to achieve their goals, which creates a development partnership. To build the most effective sales coaching development programs, managers must know what, how, and why to coach.
To begin to approach sales coaching strategically, rather than simply providing feedback to rep behavior as it happens, it is important that managers ask these questions:
- Do the sales reps know what to do?
- Do they know why to do it?
- Do they know how much/how often to do it?
- Can they do it? (Do they know how to and have the skill?)
- Will they do it? (Are they willing, and do the culture and environmental factors support them using the skills?)
- Are they doing enough of it?
- Are they doing it well enough?
Skill Development & Behavioral Coaching
The answers to the above questions provide direction for coaching opportunities. Just about every sales activity could be considered coachable, including territory optimization, account planning, prospecting, presenting, and negotiating. The best practices learned from these various coaching areas inform the performance improvement solutions needed to solve specific shortfalls for individual reps. Digging deeper, true skill development and behavioral coaching span across all of these other coachable sales activities and enhance each of them.
Field training and sales coaching are the foundational elements of sales skill development and behavior change. Field training is used to close skill gaps, while sales coaching refines skill sets that are already there to some extent. While field training and coaching are different, they should both be an integral part of your overall sales coaching program to make it more effective. Before your reps can hone their skills, they first need to know what to do, and to have clarity on why, how, how much, or how often to do it, to achieve mastery.
Below, you can see where field training and sales coaching intersect when it comes to skill development and behavioral coaching.
Use Directive and Facilitative Approaches in Coaching
Coaching should be learner-centric, not coach-centric, and your approach to training and coaching should adapt based on your rep’s current needs. All coaching should be respectful and engaging to the learner, but the models you use may vary. There are two simple approaches for teaching and validating knowledge and skill that will guide reps to more effectively use what they know and improve what they do.
- Directive: Telling, discussing, showing, validating knowledge and skill
- Facilitative: Questioning, listening, involving, engaging, leading
Both directive and facilitative approaches are effective when used properly. When you need to share information due to lack of knowledge or skill, a directive approach is used because you are telling or showing the employee how to do something, which means you are training. Coaching is more about enhancing knowledge that is already there. When coaching, you should be more facilitative, using questioning techniques to engage your reps and helping them assess where and how they can improve.
What Sales Coaching Can Do for Your Sales Force
According to David Brock (CEO, Partners in EXCELLENCE and author of the Sales Manager Survival Guide), many sales managers aren’t aware that coaching is a key part of their job and they don’t have role models to learn from regarding this. The value of coaching is inherently clear and there is a lot of data that support its efficacy. For instance, companies that provide real-time, deal-specific sales coaching increased revenue by 8.4 percent year-over-year, which is a 95 percent improvement over companies that don’t provide that level of coaching.
We’ve gathered 15 expert pieces of advice regarding the impact sales coaching has on a company and the consensus gives praise to training sales managers with this mindset. As Carole Mahoney (Founder & Chief Sales Coach, Unbound Growth) states, “Companies who make sales coaching a priority sell more, do it faster, and keep both their customers and sellers longer. All of this leads to revenue growth that costs less.”
In my eBook about sales coaching, there are guidelines on how to integrate coaching activities into daily, weekly, and monthly workflow to a standard practice. This eBook provides a glimpse into our program that helps you create a coaching culture. There is a better way to achieve mastery levels and maximize sales effectiveness, and that way is sales coaching excellence. Use sales coaching to develop a more well-rounded and successful sales team.
Sales Coaching Excellence
Develop sales managers into sales coaches.
Identify ways to help reps maximize performance in targeted areas. Establish a regular coaching cadence to help reps attain sales mastery and achieve the best results possible.