For sales organizations today, coaching is an important and strategic way to increase rep preparedness and, as a result, overall sales. To cite just a couple of statistics:
- According to CSO Insights, a formal sales coaching framework increases win rates by 28 percent and quota attainment by 10 percent.
- Organizations that provide optimal sales coaching realize annual revenue growth rates that are 16.7 percent greater than companies that don’t coach, according to the Sales Management Association.
Keep in mind how terms like “formal sales coaching framework” and “optimal coaching” are linked to the results above; a poorly conceived, slapdash program won’t cut it. All too often, organizations make mistakes that hinder coaching and, consequently, sales effectiveness. Here are five frequent mishaps to avoid.
1. Coaching for Coaching’s Sake
Sales coaching shouldn’t be implemented just to check a box. Organizations need a thought-provoking strategy that addresses why they’re coaching, how to deliver that coaching effectively and what the desired results are. A starting point often involves defining what formal and informal coaching programs should look like, who owns those pieces and how accountability will be measured.
It’s important, too, not to implement coaching in isolation. By integrating coaching with other sales readiness initiatives – to role-play skills introduced during training, for instance – organizations can maximize coaching effectiveness and sales productivity. This integrated approach often requires buy-in from leadership across departments, the development of more holistic curricula, and technology platforms that make it easy to deploy and track a range of sales readiness activities. Also, creating synergies with HR – where desired outcomes from sales coaching are tied into individual development plans – can underscore an organization-wide commitment to coaching and its effectiveness.
2. Too Much Doing and Not Enough Coaching
Coaches are most helpful when they guide how reps think, learn and discover. Too frequently, though, managers are tempted to take the reins. This might happen, for instance, on a discovery call – where a rep brings in his or her manager to make the prospect feel more valued. Everything is going smoothly until a tough question or objection arises, and the manager immediately jumps in to “save the day” for the duration of the meeting.
While ostensibly helpful, this approach, in most cases, does reps a disservice. It’s not scalable and doesn’t promote skill development. Instead, managers should serve as advisors, guiding reps to regain control while observing as much as possible. That puts managers in a better position to provide actionable feedback. For example, should the rep be performing deeper discovery? Identifying issues vs. leading with features and functionality? Coaching reps to mastery also helps develop a more successful sales force.
3. Forgetting to Coach the Coaches
Sadly, according to CSO Insights, one in five organizations doesn’t offer training for their sales managers at all. This is a huge miss. Managers need to be well versed not only in the materials and skills that they’re asking reps to master but also in the best way to transfer that knowledge.
Plus, when many successful reps are promoted to managers, they often need help cultivating new skillsets, such as how to deliver feedback constructively and in a motivating way, while also receiving training on their new responsibilities.
To maximize success, training/coaching sessions for managers should occur on a regular basis – such as through quarterly seminars – with resources and templates made available to them as well.
4. Not Embedding Coaching in the Corporate Culture
Coaching requires time and commitment – on both managers’ and reps’ parts. But with many competing priorities during jam-packed days, it’s sometimes put (repeatedly) on the backburner. For coaching to be a priority, the value has to be palpable and widely known – and it has to be a priority at the organizational level, embedded within the culture.
Sales leaders can demonstrate the importance of coaching by setting objectives around how frequently managers should coach and the number and types of challenges they should address. Then, they should hold managers accountable for that cadence, with specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals. At the same time, sales leaders need to make it possible for managers to meet these expectations by enabling them to offload other activities or encouraging them to restructure current meetings to incorporate time for coaching.
5. Being Too Static With Coaching Methods
There are multiple coaching methods – formal, informal, peer-directed, in-person, virtual, etc. – and, of course, multiple ways individuals like to learn. All have a place within coaching programs. When organizations adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, which fails to account for rep and manager styles, timing, location and the activity being measured, productivity suffers.
In addition to varying coaching styles, many organizations also have success varying the coach – pulling in a different manager to provide perspective to a team that’s not his or her own. Reps often ease up, become more creative and innovative, and assimilate different strategies and approaches. Doing a “manager mix-up” once a quarter can yield these credible benefits.
By avoiding these mistakes and fostering coaching programs that are well planned, consistently implemented and supported by leadership, organizations can maximize sales productivity and results.
To learn more about sales coaching best practices, register for the upcoming webinar “Sales Coaching Technology: What You Need to Know and Why” on May 10 at 1 p.m. ET.