Sales Coaching Continues to Head in the Right Direction, But Not Fast Enough

Sales coaching! I didn’t write about it for a while for a simple reason: I was waiting for the 2018 data to come in. Based on our 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study (requires membership), let’s look at the latest trends. Before we do that, let’s recap where the industry was last year.

In 2017, the state of sales coaching started to change significantly for the better.

Earlier this year, I shared the 2017 data with you, and we reported that sales coaching is finally heading in the right direction. In a nutshell, 30.3% of organizations (more than ever before!) leveraged the tremendous performance potential of sales coaching by following a formal or dynamic sales coaching approach.

The bad news was that 69.7% of organizations were not able to leverage the potential of sales coaching: they couldn’t even achieve average performance because they left sales coaching up to their managers (“random” approach, 34.7%) or they could only achieve average performance based on an informal approach to sales coaching (35.0%). However, we saw a positive trend because the percentage of organizations that left sales coaching up to their managers was 47.5% in 2016 and decreased to 34.7% in just one year.

To clarify the terms we use: “Random” – described above – is the least effective approach to coaching. “Informal” means that the organization knows that sales coaching is what they should be doing, but nothing more beyond guidelines and wishful thinking exists. A “formal” approach includes a formally implemented coaching process, sales managers are developed regarding their coaching skills, and the impact is measured. A “dynamic” sales coaching approach goes even further: organizations also design their coaching services in a way that they drive adoption and reinforcement of their initial enablement services for salespeople. That should always be the ultimate goal for enablement leaders.

In 2018, organizations continue to formalize their sales coaching approaches: 40.1% of organizations, 9.8 percentage points more compared to 2017, could leverage the performance potential of effective sales coaching.

 


Let’s look at the magnitude of the performance impact. The win rate difference between a random sales coaching approach and a dynamic approach is 13.8 percentage points, which is an actual increase of 31.4%. Compared to the study’s average win rate of 49.5%, the difference to a dynamic approach is 8.2 percentage points which is an actual increase of 16.6%.

In whatever way you prefer to look at the data, there is always a significant improvement that cannot be ignored by any growth-driven and performance-oriented sales leader. And which sales leader is not driven by performance?

Lessons learned from this year’s data:

  • Overall, sales coaching continues to evolve and is heading in the right direction. But not fast enough:
    The percentage of organizations that actually leverage the performance potential of an effective sales coaching implementation (40.1%) was never greater than this year. Sales organizations around the globe made a lot of progress, as the same number was about 30.3% in 2017. This is good news. However, the numbers also show that the majority of organizations (59.9%) are still not leveraging the performance potential of effective sales coaching implementation.
  • The costs of doing nothing must not be underestimated. Instead, the costs of such a random approach must be included in your business case:
    If an organization begins to think about the right steps to implement sales coaching, the easiest way is to compare “random” coaching results to the study’s average performance. The potential win rate performance increase from a random approach (43.9%) to the study’s average of 49.5% is already 5.6 percentage points, which is an actual increase of 12.8%. If that’s your current state, these numbers should be in your business case.
  • Creating coaching guidelines and sales leaders’ lip service are only good for average performance. Initiate the next phase of a formal implementation:
    If your organization is already at an informal state and already achieves average performance, your business case should include the potential improvement of a dynamic approach, which is 16.6%. Developing a coaching framework and developing the sales managers’ coaching skills based on that coaching framework should be a first step, ideally focused on a pilot. Capturing the lessons learned from the pilot, the enablement team can then design a formal implementation and rollout and scale their efforts.
  • Sales coaching must be set up the right way to ensure the significant performance improvements of a dynamic coaching approach:
    Such a performance improvement requires enablement leaders to connect coaching approaches to their enablement frameworks to ensure adoption and reinforcement of the initial investments in salespeople. Most importantly, it requires enablement leaders to develop and equip the sales managers at the frontline adequately, especially their coaching capabilities, to achieve performance improvements sought by sales leaders everywhere. Such a dynamic sales coaching approach should also leverage coaching technologies that allow sales managers to focus on specific coaching areas, supported by data. Additionally, coaching technologies can also be highly beneficial to coach remote sales teams as well as enabling peer-to-peer-coaching. For more details, click here.

 
Stay tuned! Next time, we will discuss a few simple steps for you to implement a “sales coaching fast lane.”

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:

  • How is sales coaching set up in your organization?
  • Is sales coaching owned by sales enablement? If not, who owns it?
  • What are your implementation experiences so far?
  • If not yet started, what are the obstacles you are facing?

 
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