How to Assess Sales Coaching Maturity and Why it Matters

Whenever I address the topic of sales coaching in conversations with sales leaders, at events, and in workshops, people are highly interested. At the same time, many of them initially assume “of course, this is what we are already doing.” Upon hearing a few more insights on what sales coaching actually is and what it isn’t, and what effective sales coaching approaches look like compared to those that don’t lead to the expected performance wins, people usually respond differently: “OK, this is what we think we are doing, but in fact, we are not doing it as we should.” And then, we are in a conversation, open to discussing how to get to more effective sales coaching. And that’s the starting point for a fruitful conversation.

A few weeks ago, I shared the data from our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study on the business impact sales coaching can create if it is implemented the right way:

The majority of organizations, 69.7% operate with sales coaching approaches that are not designed to deliver more than average performance, while 30.3% follow sales coaching approaches that deliver significant performance improvements – up to 27.6% improvement of win rates for forecast deals.

Today, let’s look at the four sales coaching maturity levels behind these findings: random, informal, formal and dynamic.

Random sales coaching means that sales coaching is left up to the sales managers
There is no sales coaching process designed and implemented, nor are the sales manages developed to be effective sales coaches. And, needless to say, sales coaching is neither monitored nor measured. Based on the 2017 data, 34.7% of organizations operate at this level.

Informal sales coaching is based on guidelines and lip service
The organizations is aware of the fact that sales coaching is what sales managers should be doing. As a result, guidelines have been created and sales coaching has matured from a random approach to paying lip service to a mandate from sales leadership. However, there is no formal coaching process defined, nor are sales managers developed in a systematic way to become effective coaches, nor is monitoring or measurement in place. Based on the 2017 data, 35.0% of organizations operate at this level.

Formal sales coaching:
When organizations reach the formal sales coaching level, things begin to change fundamentally. Sales coaching is defined, the organizations is aware of different coaching areas and understands that coaching leads and opportunities is only part of the picture. Coaching areas are defined, and a coaching process that is well connected to the sales process has been implemented. Sales managers are required to develop their sales coaching skills and apply them on a regular basis. Additionally, periodic reviews are conducted to learn what works and what doesn’t. In this phase, sales coaching technology is purposefully leveraged to make coaching sessions and their preparation even more effective. Based on the 2017 data, 18.9% of organizations operate at this level.

Please note that “formal” does not necessarily mean that there are only formally scheduled coaching sessions. The term describes more the overall sales coaching approach. In fact, the more familiar sales managers become, the more easily they can leverage “coaching moments.”

Dynamic sales coaching:
A dynamic or adaptive sales coaching process builds on the formal approach. There are only two differences: The first one is that the sales coaching approach is closely connected to the sales enablement framework for salespeople to ensure that the sales coaching efforts are set up to drive adoption and reinforcement of the initial investments in salespeople. As an example, let’s look at implementing a new value messaging approach. In this case, you would roll out the value messaging training and the related content, e.g., playbooks, and you would also implement the related sales coaching services for sales managers so that they know exactly how to coach along those lines. Only then can the foundation for an optimal adoption and reinforcement of new skills and behaviors be achieved. The second one is that sales managers are not only required to coach, they are also measured and compensated accordingly. And there are ongoing reviews regarding the impact of sales coaching efforts based on sales coaching technology. Based on the 2017 data, 11.3% of organizations operate at this level.

The random and the informal sales coaching maturity level don’t lead to the expected performance improvements. In fact, they are a waste of resources. Random sales coaching is a recipe for performance even below average, while the informal phase ensures at least average performance.

The informal approach is a necessary phase organizations have to go through on their way to a formal sales coaching approach that does create the expected improvements: +7 percentage points or 13.5% improvement compared to the average win rate. And the best results can be achieved with a dynamic or adaptive approach that is closely connected to the sales enablement services for salespeople: +14.3 percentage points or 27.6% improvement compared to the average win rate.

Questions for you:

  • How do you assess your sales coaching maturity in your organization?
  • If you would use this approach, what would be the result?
  • What steps will you take to approach sales coaching differently?


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