Sales Coaching: Four Ideas To Improve Sales Coaching Effectiveness

Last week, we discussed the good news: Sales coaching is finally heading in the right direction. We also stated that only 30% of organizations currently leverage the tremendous performance impact of double-digit improvements that require a formal or even dynamic approach. That means 70% either pay the costs of doing nothing or have to evolve their coaching practice from an informal to a formal approach.

Today, we discuss how organizations are doing in different areas of sales coaching. In our 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study we asked our global participants to rank the effectiveness of different coaching areas:

 

The quality of sales coaching has to be improved overall. Funnel coaching seems to be the most challenging coaching area. Lead & opportunity coaching and account coaching show the best results. The reasons for the differences are that funnel coaching, for instance, is often not done at all, and different areas of sales coaching are not clearly defined in the first place. 

To improve sales coaching effectiveness:

  • Formalize your coaching approach to drive sales results
    A formal coaching approach requires a coaching approach (process) that is designed in parallel to the customer’s path and the internal process landscape. Ideally, sales managers are equipped with coaching guidelines that provide them sample coaching questions for different selling scenarios and different phases of the customer’s journey, powered by coaching technology (sales analytics, video coaching, call analytics, etc.). The coaching approach also works as a mirror of your enablement approach for salespeople, to drive reinforcement and adoption of the initial enablement services for salespeople.
  • Develop your sales managers, in general and in each area
    Unfortunately, most of us are not born as coaches. Coaching is a skill we have to learn. And for newly promoted sales managers, it’s a new skill that has to be developed quickly because of its tremendous impact. Sales coaching should be learned in general, and then specifically applied with your coaching approach. Regarding the chart above, it is important that sales managers understand what, when and why they coach. For instance, funnel coaching is not opportunity coaching for all opportunities in the funnel. Moreover, funnel coaching helps to get clarity in their funnel, to understand and neutralize the risks. Accurate forecasts require funnel coaching excellence!
  • Launch a formal implementation program
    Formal implementation goes beyond acknowledging that coaching is necessary and important. Instead, a formal implementation swings sales coaching into action. This may include a change story, senior executive sponsorship, and transparency regarding the approach, the different phases of your implementation and how you will measure success. As an example, begin with lead & opportunity coaching as well as skills & behavior coaching in phase one. Create a frontrunner group of engaged sales managers that work as evangelists and role models and set clear goals for phase one, for instance 30 or 60 minutes per week (in total, not necessarily in one session) and get the organization into a rhythm.
  • Measure success, begin with leading indicators, and adjust the approach as needed
    One of the challenges for sales coaching programs is the fact that they usually don’t create immediate results next quarter. The first measurable business impact often depends on your average deal cycle length. It’s essential to communicate this fact early on, especially when managing expectations with your senior executive stakeholders. However, you can show earlier trends and results if you begin to measure leading indicators such as conversion rates or the number of follow-up meetings after the first contact. This way, you can show early on that things are going in the right direction. If they aren’t, identify the root cause and make necessary adjustments. Then, you can continue to measure lagging indicators. And, don’t forget to gather feedback from both salespeople and their managers.

 

Given the double-digit impact of sales coaching on win rates and quota attainment, it’s worth the effort to prioritize a solid implementation. Be aware that implementing sales coaching at the front line is a transformational change effort. Successfully implemented sales coaching will change how sales managers work and how they see themselves in their role. It will change how salespeople work, and it will change the relationship between sales managers and salespeople and how they perceive each other. Finally, sales coaching is empowering salespeople and their managers to leverage their true potential.

 

Questions for you:

  • In what areas do your sales managers coach their salespeople?
  • How did you implement sales coaching in your organization?
  • What were the main obstacles your organization was running into?
  • How do you measure sales coaching success?

 

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