Sales Coaching – Who Is Doing It?

When it comes to sales coaching, we usually discuss the approaches that have been taken, the impact different approaches create and what organizations that don’t implement sales coaching the right way miss out on in terms of performance.

We usually assume that sales managers should be coaching their salespeople and that all enablement activities to develop coaching skills should be targeted to sales managers. In our 5th Annual Sales Enablement Study (coming soon!), we wanted to better understand who is coaching your sellers.

Sales coaching is delivered by various roles; sales managers only deliver 66.5% of the coaching. (Click to tweet)


Interestingly, 29.5% of organizations indicated that their sales enablement teams coach sellers directly, which means they have to get enabled first to be able to coach salespeople. I will focus on this in a follow-up blog post.

Another 18.9% work with external sales coaches, and 12.6% work with field sales coaches which is our focus today.

What does this variety of coaching sources mean for you as a sales enablement leader?

Before we go into any recommendations, let me reassure you that there is no right or wrong approach per se. And there definitely is not a “right one” based on opinion or belief. What counts at the end of the day, looking at your charter and the metrics you have to achieve, is that you implement sales coaching in a way that delivers the best possible results in the shortest amount of time in your organization.

Based on that pragmatic clarity, it’s much easier to think through your current situation without having tons of limiting beliefs in your head. It’s about assessing what makes sense in the context of your organization. If you have sales managers who are not developed as sales coaches and were never required to coach their sellers, then you may think about working with external sales coaches, followed by developing internal field sales coaches.

In case you have a highly engaged group of sales managers already developed and equipped to be great sales coaches, you may follow this path and implement a dynamic coaching process to get into a sales coaching routine and cadence.

Your organization most likely is somewhere in-between. That means you have a small group of sales managers who are already coaching their sellers effectively, and you have a bigger group of sales managers who never had anything to do with sales coaching and either claim that they are already doing it (but that it’s not working!) or are more than skeptical when it comes to sales coaching in the first place. Let’s narrow this down a bit and look at their results and what other criteria might play a role.

Specialization seems to matter. Field sales coaches and external sales coaches typically achieve better results than sales managers. (Click to tweet)

This is a very interesting finding. Segmenting the data by these different coaching roles, one could assume that it’s a no-brainer to focus on field sales coaches and/or external sales coaches to get quick results, as their results were, on average, higher than coaching sales managers. However, this is only half true because context matters all of the time, including here. The organization’s sales coaching approach makes all the difference.

Context matters: Putting field sales coaches or external sales coaches in a random coaching approach only creates average win rates. (Click to tweet)

Context matters: Putting sales managers in a random coaching approach is even worse, as win rates are 4.5 points below average. (Click to tweet)

These findings help a lot to develop a targeted and tailored approach in your organization. They simply say that there is no real shortcut to immediate sales coaching success. In such a random environment – with no sales coaching approach, process or culture – all coaching roles have a hard time succeeding.

Regarding quota attainment, sales managers and specialized sales coaches delivered the same average performance, plus/minus 60.0%. There was a noticeable difference, however, regarding win rates. As expected, sales managers with no sales coaching expertise (that’s what defines the random approach) ended up with win rates 4.5 points below the study’s average of 46.4%. Instead, the specialized and skilled sales coaches could achieve average win rates even in a random environment. It makes sense, as they have more expertise and often more time and can better focus their efforts on specific opportunities and accounts to help sellers win more deals.

Context matters: In a formal or dynamic sales coaching approach, sales managers and sales coaches both achieve significantly better results than average. (Click to tweet)

This comes as no surprise. As we see in our data year after year, a formal or dynamic sales coaching approach drives sales performance in an impressive way; overall win rate improvements were 19.0% this year, compared to the study’s average of 46.4%. Given such a foundation – where processes and guidelines are implemented and managers/coaches are required to coach sellers – sales performance is significantly better, as you can see here.

Segmenting the data by coaching role, sales coaches (external/field) achieved win rates of 54.3%, and sales managers (in the same environment) achieved win rates of 51.8%. Both are outstanding results. Both are double-digit improvements (17.0% and 11.6% increase, compared to the study’s average).

How to get started as a sales enablement leader

Assuming you are facing a random sales coaching approach in your organization, check internally to see if there are field sales coaches somewhere in the organization. If not, it might make sense to work with external sales coaches in a specific way. They can help you run successful coaching pilots and, as discussed here, they can create better results, even in a random environment. At the same time, they should help you create and implement a sales coaching process in your organization.

Doing these things in parallel, you can create evidence with a pilot, which is the ultimate key to success, as results will help you get your investment needs approved. Results will make it much easier to create the necessary momentum to drive the transformation toward a coaching culture. While doing that, you also can develop coaching skills with your sales managers and internal field sales coaches.

Effective sales enablement leaders know that there is no shortcut to sales coaching success. But they also know that working with all available options, such as leveraging the potential of external and field sales coaches, can speed up the journey and help propel them from bad performance to average performance. Then, with the implementation of the right coaching environment, all coaching roles will succeed and achieve significantly better results.


If you haven’t already, take a look at our book Sales Enablement – A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. It contains lots of valuable information, frameworks and approaches to make you a better sales enablement leader.

Questions for you:

  • Who is coaching your sellers, your sales managers or specific sales coaches?
  • If it’s the latter, why did you choose this model?
  • If it’s your managers, how did you develop them to be great sales coaches?

Related blog posts:

  • Edwin Kuiper
    Posted at 15:37h, 28 October

    If you choose the route of sales managers to do the coaching it is important to plan on how to develop the coaching skills of sales managers. Just to put them on a coaching training is not enough. I would recommend to have coach the coaches who help the sales people on the job to improve their coaching skills. This could be done with external coaches.

  • Tamara Schenk
    Posted at 10:03h, 29 October

    Thanks, Edwin! You are right, coaching skills have to be developed, in the context of the organization and based on their coaching process and approach. A topic we have lots of data on; I wrote about it on many other blog posts. This one’s intention was written to give sales enablement leaders the relevant insights on different coaching roles so that they can decide on the most impactful strategy in their organizations. Thanks again for chiming in, Edwin!

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