Why Sales Coaching Begins with Prospecting

Two weeks ago, I wrote about bad sales email habits, using an example of a prospecting email approach that was set up to fail. I made a couple of recommendations on how sales enablement and sales managers can significantly improve the quality of prospecting emails.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about the same topic only two weeks later. However, some recent experiences have convinced me there is a great learning opportunity here, and sales enablement and sales management have a serious gap to address. Again, before we go into the details, I don’t want to blame anyone, especially not business and sales development and roles, or the organizations they are working for.

The impact of poor prospecting practices is more significant than just failing to generate leads.

Let’s look at another email practice that has been around for a while and is in use by various organizations. The aim of this technique is to sound different and suggest that the senders really did their research before sending the email. Have a look at the first part of the message:

Hi Tamara,

You have had quite the career path since your days studying Economics at the University of Hohenheim. It must have required a lot of hard work and sacrifice to earn your way to Research Director at CSO Insights/Miller Heiman Group — I respect that.

I want you to know that my reaching out is not at random. I’m curious to pick your brain on what Sales Enablement means to you and see how XYZ can be of use to you and people that you work with.

You may have seen the LinkedIn feature that suggests using people’s educational details, such as their university, to connect for prospecting reasons. On the other hand, why is it important to tell me that it was hard work? And no, I don’t feel that I sacrificed anything. I chose this path. Period. So, the second sentence adds no value, nor does the third. Although the sender says the email is not random, random is exactly how it feels to me.

In general, this approach isn’t a bad idea. It’s a good one, but only if this step also includes that the sender has had a look at the person’s entire LinkedIn profile!

Let’s continue and you will see what I mean:

With XYZ, reps no longer waste time searching for and personalizing content. By integrating into your existing systems (CRM, Mobile, Web, E-Mail, etc.) the right content now finds your sellers and personalizes itself based on the selling situation at hand… Ready to learn more? How does your calendar look over the next couple of weeks for a brief call? 

Sending this message to me, a leading sales enablement analyst, doesn’t make a lot of sense, to say the least. To be precise, it shows that the sender didn’t check my profile (otherwise they wouldn’t have sent me THIS message) and that the sender doesn’t seem to be very familiar with the market they are operating in.

This is only one example of many emails I receive (and I’m sure you do, too!) that use similar approaches that might be based on good intentions but that are implemented and processed in a “one size fits all” manner.

Effective prospecting is never based on a “one size fits all” approach. Instead, it is tailored to the person’s role and industry. And that means “less is more.”

In my last post on this subject, I added a few recommendations for salespeople, for sales enablement and sales managers.

Today, I want to focus on the role of sales managers. It’s about managing the right activities, and coaching the related behaviors, a sales manager’s core responsibility.

  • Don’t let your salespeople plan alone when it comes to prospecting: Often, it seems that in this phase there is no coaching and involvement of sales managers. Salespeople are often given email templates and address lists from different sources (templates from marketing, lists that sales ops bought, etc.) but are not given guidance on how to use them. Then, if they are not coached, but measured by the number of activities, they will just send emails no matter what to get the damned prospecting task done.
  • Manage the right activities: Discuss with your team what works and what doesn’t. Define with them the mandatory steps before sending an email (or making a call). LinkedIn profile checks are essential to target the right buyer roles (social media are here to be used). Adjust the email template if needed. Then, review the process, gather feedback, check the response rates and define the next steps that could be generated with this refined approach, and take it to the next level.
  • Coach your salespeople during prospecting: Be on calls, or listen into calls. Coach them on how to respond to emails and phone calls. Coach them on being relevant, valuable, and different in every interaction. And that includes prospecting! The earlier you coach, the more valuable it is to master sales leader’s biggest challenge: lead generation effectiveness.
  • Don’t confuse activity with productivity: Measuring salespeople’s prospecting efforts by the numbers of calls, emails, etc. doesn’t make any sense. The example above shows that the damage is bigger than just not generating enough good leads. Less is more as outlined here. Instead, measure conversion rates, the number of positive (!) follow-up interactions (that excludes angry responses!), that move the lead to the next stage, measure the time between these stages.


Lead generation effectiveness is one of the key challenges of today’s sales leaders, as we see year by year in our data. Sales leaders should pay close attention to the quality of the prospecting approaches in their sales forces. For sales managers, it’s wise to spend some coaching time on optimizing the quality of prospecting efforts.


  • Do you have any quality standards for salespeople when it comes to prospecting?
  • If yes, what are these quality standards?
  • How do you develop your sales managers to be effective coaches in the prospecting phase?
  • What’s the role of your enablement team when it comes to prospecting?


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