Perspectives on Sales Coaching and How to Get on the Same Page

Imagine that there is a big number on the floor between you and me. It looks like a “6” to me, and you think it’s a “9.” In that case, we both are right simply because we looked at the same number from two different perspectives. Because of that, we came to two different conclusions on what the symbol on the floor represents: a 9 or a 6. If I was standing right next to you, I’d have agreed to see a “9,” and if you were standing right next to me, it would have been a “6” for you as well.

What does this have to do with sales coaching? A lot. In our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study, we asked more questions on sales coaching than we usually do. We wanted to better understand whether different groups perceive sales coaching differently. And, if so, we wanted to know how different these perceptions are.

So we asked sales managers (coaches), salespeople (coachees) and sales enablement professionals (who should have their skin in the coaching game) how long they were coached and, respectively, how long they would coach regarding just one aspect of sales coaching: coaching skills and behaviors.

Sales managers and salespeople have a very different perception of the time they spend on coaching skills and behaviors.

Two-thirds (64.1%) of salespeople perceive their skills and behaviors coaching to be less than 30 minutes/week, but only one-third (35.6%) of sales managers reported coaching for less than 30 minutes/week. In fact, another 30.5% of sales managers reported coaching their salespeople for 30-60 minutes/week. When it comes to coaching times beyond one hour, both groups are better aligned regarding their perceptions.

Salespeople perceive the coaching they receive to be much shorter than sales managers. And sales enablement professionals perceive the sales managers’ coaching to be much longer.

From their enablement perspective, only one-quarter of salespeople are coached for less than 30 minutes/week, and another one-fifth (20.7%) are coached between 30 and 60 minutes. The big surprise is that sales enablement professionals’ perception is that 42% of sales coaching sessions on skills and behaviors lasts for 1-2 hours.

Three steps for sellers, sales managers and sales enablement professionals to get on the same page:

  • Get clarity on sales coaching, managing activities and where to draw the line. Sales coaching is a leadership skill that develops each salesperson’s full potential. Sales managers use their domain expertise, along with social, communication and questioning skills, to facilitate conversations with their team members that allow them to discover areas for improvement and possibilities to break through to new levels of success.Asking a seller about the status of their activities and numbers such as forecasts, leads, calls, etc. is all about managing activities. It’s not coaching. Telling him/her what to do also is not coaching, it’s just telling. Sales managers could improve how they communicate with their salespeople to make sure that sellers perceive things the way they are intended.
  • Too short is not effective, but too long is not better. We analyzed the win rates for forecast deals and quota attainment results, and the trend is always the same. Very short coaching sessions (less than 30 minutes) are not effective and don’t move the needle, and very long coaching sessions (beyond 2 hours) also are not effective. The most effective results happened in the middle, when coaching was perceived to be between 1 and 2 hours per person per week.
  • Sales enablement pros should adjust assumptions. Enablement leaders have a tendency to demand that sales managers schedule special coaching sessions with an expected duration. This is understandable, especially if the organization is going through a transformation and sales coaching is formalized and implemented. To get started, it can make sense that coaching cadences have to be scheduled; however, this is not the way forward. Ideally, sales coaching happens in the moment—in each and every coaching moment that presents itself, to be precise. And this is a process that needs to unfold itself. It takes time for sales managers to not put their coaching hats on for scheduled coaching sessions only, but to be in coaching mode all the time and take advantage of leveraging each coaching moment.

 

Year after year, sales coaching is the most effective sales enablement service, as explained in more detail here. While formalizing an organization’s coaching approach, all roles involved should get clarity on their expectations, assumptions and misconceptions.

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

  • Where are you on your journey to formalize sales coaching?
  • Do you measure how long your sales managers coach their sellers?
  • Do you have a fluent model that ensures coaching takes place whenever a coaching moment occurs?

 
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