Aligning Sales Coaching to Enablement Services for Salespeople: How to Run a Pilot to Create Evidence

Welcome to 2019! After I showered you with an abundance of our 2018 sales enablement highlights in December, let’s begin this year with sales coaching, a must-have sales enablement service, and how to implement a “fast lane” as announced in December.

We discussed that, year after year, formalized sales coaching approaches lead to two-digit improvements of win rates and quota attainment, compared to a recent study’s average performance data.

However, we also see that many organizations struggle with implementing a formalized coaching framework that consists of a coaching process, sales manager development, coaching guidelines and tools, aligning coaching services to the enablement services for salespeople, strong sales leadership, measuring success and reinforcing what works and adjusting what doesn’t. Only 7.4% of organizations apply such a full-blown dynamic approach, and they see the biggest impact with a win rate improvement up to 16.6%.

For many organizations, even creating a comprehensive business case for such an integrated and dynamic sales coaching approach creates serious challenges and often ends up nowhere. Simply because the unique evidence some sales leaders require in THEIR organization’s context cannot be presented. That’s exactly where a sales coaching pilot could help.

The purpose of this pilot is only to focus on aligning the related sales coaching services to the enablement services that are already in place for salespeople.

To make the pilot and the investment manageable, you should focus the pilot on a particular area: for instance, a specific customer problem in a certain industry, or a specific product or service and a new buyer role. Ideally, the pilot’s scope is also on the sales leader’s list of top priorities.

In our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, we asked participants about this practice of aligning the sales coaching services to the enablement services for salespeople: 28.4% of organizations do that, regardless of their sales coaching approach. As to be expected, in the group of organizations with formal or dynamic coaching approaches, almost 50% apply this practice.

What’s the performance impact of aligning sales coaching services to the enablement services for salespeople?

Aligning coaching services to the enablement services for salespeople can improve win rates up to 10.9% compare to the study’s average win rate.

Organizations that applied this practice saw 13.5 percentage points higher win rates compared to those that disagreed, and 5.4 points higher win rates compared to the study’s average of 49.5% which is an actual increase of 10.9%.

Compared to a full-blown dynamic sales coaching approach that increases win rates by up to 16.6%, this practice alone proves the point and enables the team to get the above mentioned business case for a larger rollout and a formal implementation approved.

How do you run a pilot for aligning sales coaching services to the enablement services for salespeople?

  • Be very specific with the scope of your pilot:
    Ideally, a sales enablement initiative, let’s say focused on a new value messaging approach, is already implemented. Let’s assume salespeople have already received a set of content assets to be used with prospects and customers and that they are already trained on applying the new value messages in different interactions along the customer’s path. What’s missing is the specific sales coaching part.
  • Partner with sales coaches and develop coaching guidelines and skills:
    For the sales coaching pilot, go ahead and develop a specific coaching approach for the particular scope of the pilot or campaign. Partner with sales managers who are already excellent coaches to help you develop a set of coaching questions that could be used at the different stages of the customer’s path. Make sure that you develop your coaching questions from the customer’s perspective, that you tailor them on the new behavior (e.g., effective value messaging) you are trying to reinforce and make sure that they are open-ended questions that create a coaching conversation. Providing guidelines alone won’t make a difference. Your sales managers need training in a safe space to practice how to coach effectively. This is the single most overlooked element: the wrong assumption that people know how to coach. No, most of us are not born as coaches. But we can easily learn it, assuming we want to learn it.
  • Define success metrics and run the pilot:
    Make sure that you define the success criteria for the pilot. Use objective and subjective (based on interviews) metrics, and use leading (such as conversion rates), not only lagging indicators. If available, leverage your CRM or any additional sales coaching tools to assist with sales productivity or performance data so that you and the sales managers can immediately see what’s working and what’s not.
    Make sure that you begin with a scheduled coaching cadence to get into a rhythm. Later on, sales managers and salespeople will develop their own cadence and also leverage coaching moments as they present themselves.

Now, leverage the results and lessons learned of your pilot, and develop your holistic sales coaching business case.

If you haven’t already, have a look at our new book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Lots of “how to” information to address the challenges mentioned here.

Questions for you:

  • What were your first implementation steps with regard to sales coaching?
  • What are your obstacles if you haven’t started yet?
  • What are your experiences with implementing sales coaching so far? 


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