Implementing a long-term sales coaching program is a key component of any successful sales organization. In fact, the 2019 CSO Insights Report on sales enablement states that organizations that effectively incorporate a sales coaching program are nearly three times more successful in meeting their sales goals and almost twice as likely to have engaged sales professionals.
However, over 60% of sales organizations reported that they have no formal sales coaching program or process. They rely on random and undefined sales coaching to be provided from sales managers and sales leaders to their individual team members.
Sales coaching, when done effectively, can dramatically improve sales performance, but many companies struggle to establish an effective sales coaching process for their sales teams.
Sales training programs, without the reinforcement and coaching support, yield little results. . For transformation to occur, front line leaders need to be equipped to spark the desire to change, accurately diagnose the gap in performance, and implement a one on one development plan. This is where a sales coaching training program comes in.
3 Steps for Success
Creating and sustaining an effective sales coaching program within your sales organization doesn’t have to be difficult. To succeed, follow these simple steps when implementing a a sales coaching training program.
#1 – Align on the Definition of Sales Coaching
“Sales coaching” is a fairly general term that can be construed many different ways. It’s important for sales management to align on what sales coaching means on an organizational level. For most organizations, sales coaching is defined as reviewing sales forecasts and results, and giving feedback and advice on sales performance.
The true purpose of a sales manager is to help individual sales reps improve sales results for their entire organization. Sales is about results, and sales leaders drive results.
There are three important elements that drive results – Desire, Productivity, and Capabilities. Sales management embodies all three roles: leader, manager and coach.,. It is important to be clear about those different roles that sales managers play and what each one entails.
At ASLAN Training & Development, we define those roles as follows:
- Lead for sales rep desire.
The goal here is to motivate, clarify, and inspire the sales reps and sales team.
- Manage for sales rep productivity.
The goal here is simply to measure sales results with reporting and forecasting. This role is an important one, but candidly, it does the least for improving results. The ironic part is that many sales managers spend most of their time here.
- Coach for sales rep capability.
The goal here is about skill development and improving a sales rep’s capability to drive results.
Align Sales Coaching with Selling Strategies
Sales reps operate from a certain mixture of talent, skill, and knowledge. This is what drives their ability to sell. You can hire for talent, increase knowledge with information, but you have to coach for skill. This is why it is so crucial to have an effective sales coaching program within any organization.
Sales coaching is not just coaching conversations. A company’s coaching conversations should reinforce your organization’s sales process and methodology. Sales coaching, sales training, and sales coaching training need to be integrated and cohesive in order to be effective.
Sales coaching is a very specific, important process and should lead to behavioural change. Developing and implementing a sales coaching training program for your organization is a huge part of driving change.
#2 – Addressing the Real Barrier to Sales Coaching
The number one reason that managers do not coach their sales reps is… time. We hear this frequently from every client we work with. Sales managers tell us that they simply do not have the time or cannot find the time to coach their sales team.
The short answer to this is simple, but almost counter-intuitive: do not coach every sales rep.
The truth is, most sales managers are coaching the wrong people. There is a common belief among leadership that everyone on the sales team should be coached. This is not the case. If one of your sales reps does not want to improve their sales skills, you cannot force them to.
It’s like that old adage: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. In order to optimize sales managers time, employ the Quadrant Coaching Method. Coach the sales reps who respond to coaching, the ones that want to be coached. Sales coaching is a waste of time if the sales rep being coached is not bought in.
Desire determines development.
A very common question here is: “How do I know if my sales reps have the desire to improve?” The answer is simple: effort. Desire is revealed in the sales rep’s actions, not in their attitude. Do they do the development work you assign them?
If sales reps have desire, commit to spending time coaching them. If they lack motivation, “switch hats” from coach to leader. Here your goal shifts from development to identifying and removing the four barriers to change.
Where Do I Even Start?
Another coaching complaint we often hear from sales managers and sales leaders is that there are “too many things to fix.”
As sales managers observe their sales reps, they take copious notes and generate a list of capabilities that need improvement. The problem is, sales managers don’t have the tools, process or coaching model to sort through and organize these areas for improvement into a tangible plan for development.
To remedy this, establish some kind of real-time capability assessment that is based on outcome. What are the key abilities that a sales rep needs to improve win rates? For example, engaging the customer, asking good Discovery questions, gaining commitment to the next step in the sales process.
There are many ways to achieve the above capabilities. So instead of having sales managers “teach” their sales team to sell like they do/did, have them focus on the outcomes first. Can the rep successfully engage the customer? Do they consistently gain commitment from prospects to the next step?
Sales coaching exists to improve areas that need improving in order to get that desired outcome. When the sales rep is consistently not achieving that desired outcome, it’s time to focus on the behaviors that are driving the issue.
This simplifies the number of capabilities that sales managers need to focus on when coaching their sales reps for improved selling skills.
One final note on this section: focus on improving one area at a time. When a sales rep hears 12 pieces of feedback, they may agree with the sales manager’s assessment of each area, but they cannot possibly focus on improving all of them at once. This is overwhelming, and even counterproductive to the sales rep’s progress.
Instead, pick one area to improve and create a development plan that both sales coach and sales rep can agree on. Focus on the results, the outcome – because that is ultimately the point of coaching sales reps on improving their skills: to see better sales results.
#3 – Sales Leader Motivation and Commitment to Coaching
Due to a lack of time and confidence that their effort will yield results, most sales leaders and managers are not motivated to coach their sales reps. Training can change this. Developing a sales coaching training program helps equip sales management with the tools they need for success.
Once sales managers commit themselves to effective sales rep coaching, they will see better sales performance.
Part of the commitment to coaching from sales leaders is to create a clear plan of action for development. This is essentially a fancy way of saying, “assign homework.” Give sales reps a specific development activity after each sales coaching session and make sure they own it. If they do the work, they show desire and they should improve with your help. It’s about action, not attitude. If they don’t do the work, they don’t have the desire to improve and you cannot help them.
Implementing a Coaching Training Program
When implementing a sales coaching training process, never change the process. Just because the sales managers are the ones going through the training program doesn’t mean the training process needs to change. The following considerations should be made when implementing a coaching training program:
- Have structured, instructor-led, formal training session(s) to give your sales management team the knowledge and skills they need to be better sales leaders and sales coaches.
- Reinforce the training with post-training resources, micro-learning modules, digital learning resources, etc. Sustainment is key.
- Coach the coach or train the trainer. Leadership rarely observes sales coaches and gives them feedback. It’s just assumed that they are effectively coaching. Very few managers get the opportunity to have a sales coaching session observed and evaluated by a leader internally or by an outside expert – but this is key. Find or hire outside resources to add value for your sales managers by observing, giving feedback, or modeling an effective sales coaching session.
- Hold them accountable. A sales coaching training program alone will not be enough. It may not spark a behavior change instantly. The training sessions may help, but the mentality needs to be adopted on an organizational level and become a mandatory part of the sales’ managers role. Establish a system, a tool, a reporting method… anything to help managers report on the frequency and effectiveness of their sales coaching sessions.
The goal is to help sales management start and sustain a coaching cadence, so that they improve their own sales coaching skills and better serve their sales teams to help drive the best results.
If you align on the definition of sales coaching, address the real barriers, and follow a consistent process, you have the best chance of creating a successful sales coaching training program.
If this blog makes sense and you now have questions about ASLAN’s workshops, tools and consultancy, feel free to reach out for our help. In the meantime, we mentioned that you may want to establish a system or tool to support the sales coach in their efforts to hold their teams accountable. Perhaps you may want to try our freemium app called Catalyst Core which will give you ideas and a starting point.