Coaching Isn’t Just Coaching: Which Coaching Areas Have To Be Considered

6.2.16When sales leaders and managers use the term “coaching,” we may have doubts about what they mean. First, it’s not clear what coaching is and what it isn’t. Second, people equate sales coaching with lead and opportunity coaching. The actual scope of coaching has to cover more sales areas to create a sustainable impact. The CSO Insights Coaching Framework (member content) consists of five different coaching layers: lead and opportunity coaching, coaching on skills and behaviors, funnel coaching, account coaching, and territory coaching.

Different coaching areas are required to address different needs, both along the customer’s journey and internally.

In this blog post, we will define the different coaching areas that are necessary to implement coaching as the primary sales leadership method to leverage salespeople’s performance. Due to the significant performance impact of formalized coaching, it makes sense to define a coaching framework within an organization’s sales system before training programs are developed and launched.

Lead and Opportunity Coaching: The coach and sales professional examine a lead or opportunity to determine where it is along the customer’s journey and to identify activities that will keep the deal flowing through the funnel toward a successful conclusion. Deriving the coaching framework from the customer’s journey helps distinguish between lead and opportunity coaching, because it focuses on the gates the customer must go through for the sales professional to progress the deal from lead to opportunity. The earlier along the customer’s journey frontline sales managers start coaching, the more value they create. In the customers’ awareness phase, they can help the sales professional get better at identifying and addressing opportunities, and they can coach them to develop and execute winning deal strategies.

Funnel or Pipeline Coaching: Funnel coaching focuses on the structure of a salesperson’s or the sales team’s funnel, identifying the most valuable deals that can be won and helping to manage risks and allocate resources accordingly. Funnel coaching also helps the salesperson understand how the shape of their funnel translates into quota attainment and determine how best to improve their funnel performance. During funnel coaching, the sales managers must assess the types of opportunities in the funnel, e.g., many small opportunities or fewer large volume deals, as well as the assumed close dates, stages and risks of each opportunity. Most importantly, the sales managers must weigh the value of the opportunities against their probability of being won. Clearly, this coaching area builds on opportunity coaching and can only be successful if there is clarity at the opportunity level.

Both areas – lead and opportunity coaching, as well as funnel coaching – are essential to be able to establish a solid forecast.

Coaching on skills and behaviors: In today’s complex selling environments, customer behaviors are constantly changing. As a result, salespeople are asked to make significant changes to their selling skills and behaviors. For example, the transactional, product-oriented approach no longer works in many selling scenarios, and sales professionals must adopt a value-based approach that focuses on the customers’ business results.

This is an area where sales managers should work closely with the sales force enablement teams. Creating value for prospects and customers requires tailored value messages that are tied to the customer’s journey phase, buyer roles and their business challenges and goals; and that’s enablement’s responsibility. And a sales manager’s responsibility is to coach along these lines and to reinforce what has been provided to ensure adoption.

Coaching on skills and behaviors is essential to drive adoption in any sales organization that’s in a sales transformation process.

Account coaching: “Account coaching” is often not even considered as a coaching area. But in organizations with a strategic account or key account program, it is essential to increasing performance in those accounts. Account coaching consists of two main areas, relationship management and development, and lead identification. Specific coaching in these areas is relevant to enable the account team to develop the relationships within an account in a systematic way. Lead identification coaching is relevant in two phases of the customer’s journey: in the very beginning when it’s about a new business challenge, and in the implementation and adoption phase, when the account teams are looking for additional ideas to create additional business.

Territory coaching: Territory coaching is not the same as territory management. Territory coaching takes a focused, higher-level approach built on market and territory analyses as well as territory definitions. The purpose of territory coaching is to increase sales performance by keeping salespeople focused on the right industries, right organizations, and the most relevant buyer roles in each territory. Territory coaching, like account coaching, also includes lead identification coaching.

Whatever coaching area you are focused on, the quality of the data is another important key to coaching success. And this is where technology comes into play; it ensures that sales managers have all the data and analytics along the customer’s journey at their fingertips.

Questions for you:

Which coaching areas are covered in your coaching approach?

How do you formalize coaching in your organization?

How do you develop sales managers to sales coaches?

Related blog posts:

Why Effective Coaching Requires A Coaching Framework

How World-Class Frontline Sales Managers Coach Differently To Drive Performance

Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra: Managing Activities and Coaching Behaviors

How the Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra Drives Sales Effectiveness and Productivity

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