Sales coaching: choosing the right approach
Sales coaching : a definition
Sales coaching is a systematic and collaborative approach aimed at improving the performance and effectiveness of your sales teams. It involves a personalized and ongoing process where, as a coach, you work closely with salespeople to identify their strengths, address weaknesses, and refine their skills.
Successful sales coaching means providing them with constructive feedback, guidance, and support. To that end, you can utilize various techniques such as role-playing, scenario analysis, and targeted skill development exercises.
Keep in mind that your primary goal is to enhance the individual capabilities of sales team members, empowering them to achieve their sales targets and objectives. Effective sales coaching goes beyond immediate sales outcomes; it fosters a culture of continuous learning, adaptability, and self-improvement within both the sales team and the company as a whole.
Sales coaching program: differences with sales training and sales management
Everything related to sales is meant to improve sales performance. Yet, key differences remain between each method.
Concerning sales training, the bottom line is teaching. It is not about tailoring your advice and guidance to individuals but rather about giving them go-to theoretical tactics.
Sales management is even easier to understand: sales managers tell their team members what they need to do in order to improve performance. It is not a conversation, it is simply a chain of command, from the CEO all the way down to the sales reps, to execute a pre-established strategy. Of course, in sales management, it is important to take feedback into account but the approach is almost one-sided.
Sales coaching, as we saw, is heavily focused on individual strengths and weaknesses and it is a conversation which goes both ways. The sales coach and sales reps work together to pinpoint issues and fix them.
For instance, a sales coaching session could be about :
• assessing a sales call to a prospect in real circumstances and taking a deep dive into successes and areas for improvement ;
• doing exactly the same with sales reps email threads with prospects;
• providing them with some pointers and sales coaching tips.
Sales coaching: why is it important?
The benefits of sales coaching are numerous. Indeed, it is a transformative practice that is unfortunately lacking in many companies, where informal, unstructured approaches tend to be the norm. However, the benefits of formal, programmatic coaching cater to a broader audience :
• salespersons ;
• sales leaders and managers ;
• potential buyers.
For sales reps
In the ever-evolving sales landscape, coaching represents an external perspective, supporting reps in navigating market fluctuation. Companies with dynamic coaching programs demonstrate significantly higher closing rates, boosted morale among sales reps and subsequently a reduced employee churn.
While historically, sales approaches may have prioritized revenue and quotas over individual well-being, this has proven counterproductive. Unsupported sales reps often underperform and struggle with job satisfaction.
Here is how your organization can demonstrate its commitment to both employee and client relationships :
• Recognizing that sales teams are the frontline representatives of a company, their attitudes and feelings matter ;
• coaching, by addressing not only sales skills but also fostering resilience, well-being, communication and confidence.
This holistic support ensures that sales representatives feel valued, capable, and motivated to tackle the challenges of their role day after day.
For sales managers
Sales management benefits from targeted coaching support, ensuring that no team members are overlooked during general training. This leads to improved outcomes throughout the sales cycle, stronger relationships with direct reports, and enhanced retention rates.
All in all, modern sales coaching programs are about making things better for the potential customer. Indeed, since sales reps are less pressured into always being closing, they tend to be way less pushy or intrusive. This makes prospects the ultimate winners as they reap the rewards of all of what we just talked about through more consultative engagements with highly capable reps.
Our 5 professional Sales Coaching tips
(The following sales coaching techniques and tips are not ranked, numbers are for readability purposes only.)
1. Encourage your sales reps to self evaluate
Salespeople can oftentimes be a tough lot to deal with. They are independent and self-reliant by nature. This is why vertical teaching where you talk and they listen is not such a good idea. You have to make them be at the root of their improvement: they need to be heavily involved in the process.
Encourage them to self-assess their situation by asking questions such as :
• What could they improve in their sales approach?
• How could they innovate?
• What practice do they think they should keep doing?
• What would they gain or lose by changing their ways?
• How to measure their own performance?
Self-evaluation is also important for another reason: as a coach you don’t have a lot of time with each individual team member. This way you save time.
Just like you did with evaluation, have them set their own goals, according to their own observations as well as yours. By doing this you help them build self-confidence which is a mandatory element of sales enablement.
2. Collect and analyze sales data
Self-assessment is a good sales coaching technique but at one point or another, you’ll still have to crunch some numbers (or have software do it for you!). It can be for the necessary follow-up of how your salespeople are improving but also at the beginning of the process, to get a good picture of how things are and where to start.
Leverage data-driven insights from CRM or sales software instead of relying on pure intuition. Checking conversion metrics over a period of a few weeks offers a comprehensive view of individual and team performance, pinpointing what needs to be addressed.
Avoid generic solutions and tailor coaching sessions based on specific issues identified through data analysis and observation. For instance :
• negotiation ;
• prospecting assistance ;
• closing strategies.
Everyone needs to be on the same page so use a unified interface, typically the CRM, as the central hub for strategic processes like sales coaching. Prioritize working with accurate and complete data to ensure total pipeline visibility. Also consider incorporating AI-enabled tools to streamline and automate coaching processes !
Beware of over-reliance on raw CRM data! Of course, it is valuable insight, but it may prove difficult to translate into action.
During coaching sessions, leverage existing data reports from sales managers or tap into reps’ numerical concerns. Focus on specific trouble spots in the sales funnel rather than tackling the entire process at once. For example, if closing deals is an issue, concentrate coaching efforts on improving that particular aspect.
3. Motivate your sales teams
To achieve that, first try to learn as much as you can about what drives them in the short and long term. Granted, it often is monetary gain but other drivers can coexist with money like the satisfaction to close deals that proved particularly challenging.
Once it’s done, try and find the right incentives and rewards to channel their motivation toward their goals.
Tailor rewards to team dynamics
While individual incentives are crucial, fostering a collaborative team spirit is equally important. Implement team-based rewards that encourage collective achievement. For instance, you could set a collective target for the entire sales team to reach, and if achieved, organize a team outing or dinner.
Rotate incentive structures
To prevent monotony and keep motivation high, periodically change the incentive structures. This could involve altering the criteria for individual or team rewards, introducing new challenges, or offering different types of prizes. By keeping the incentive program dynamic, you ensure sustained engagement and enthusiasm among your sales team.
Acknowledge and celebrate both individual and team milestones. Whether it’s reaching a monthly sales target, closing a significant deal, or achieving a personal goal, public recognition enhances morale. Consider creating a ‘Sales Star of the Month’ award or a bulletin board displaying notable accomplishments to highlight the success of your sales team.
4. Elaborate an action plan
Good coaching needs to be impactful and structured, otherwise it risks being forgotten and all your efforts will be in vain. An action plan is an excellent method because it is a visual and tangible support of what will be achieved along the sales coaching journey.
Collaborate with your sales rep to develop a comprehensive action plan for achieving their desired outcomes. During one-on-one sessions, ask open questions to encourage them to articulate methods for reaching their goals.
Help them outline 1 to 3 actions to take to initiate change as soon as possible. Establish a timeline for progress check-ins, and set an expected date for goal completion. Store this action plan in a shared location for future reference, ensuring regular reviews to monitor progress.
Putting this plan into writing serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it compels the sales rep to carefully think through and shape their course of action. Moreover, it solidifies their commitment to the plan by crystallizing their thoughts on paper.
5. Direct your attention to the median performers
Just like in many other social contexts, in sales coaching, focus tends to be placed on the extremities of the specter. Top performers seem to be the safe bet so you may be tempted to prioritize them.
Conversely, you might think that emphasis needs to be put on damage control and therefore dedicate most efforts to bottom sales reps so that they can meet their quota.
But what about the somewhat less visible middle-of-the-pack? Those are actually the bulk of your workforce, or to put it in another way: the majority. Doesn’t it make more sense to help most sales reps rather than a few of them?
Of course it does! First, let’s put it this way: bottom performers have too much to learn while top performers have a thin margin for improvement.
Then, the more people you coach, the more your company will close deals.
Finally, it is hard to foster a culture of learning and adaptability if most salespeople have to figure everything out for themselves.
While you are coaching median sales reps, top performers can help people lagging behind catch up.
As you surely understand by now, implementing a formal sales coaching program is quite resource-demanding. Yet, it is also an essential investment as it will yield significant results: you will close more on the long run (and quite a bit in the short run too), you’ll get higher revenue too but above all, you’ll have built a solid foundation and a healthy sales environment.
At CoachYZ, we thrive on adapting methodologies, embracing diverse approaches, and fresh views. Each day, our mission revolves around assisting managers and decision-makers in developing innovative strategies to unlock their untapped potential. If you’re ready to embark on this transformative coaching journey and join the ranks of those making a difference, start your coaching journey with us!