Sales organizations rely on training sessions to develop staff members’ sales skills and alter their behaviors. However, its value is limited without appropriate coaching to reinforce training and guide employees on an individual basis. Sadly, many organizations fall short in this regard, often due to a lack of time and other resources. Virtual coaching can enhance training, solve coaching challenges and improve overall sales results.

The Importance of Coaching

Coaching is important for sales organizations, because it allows reps to receive much-needed reinforcement of the knowledge they obtained during sales training; allows sales managers to iron out any specific, individual problems; and can help keep reps motivated and moving towards their targets. The reinforcement element is critical, because it reduces knowledge drop-off to make training a more worthwhile investment.

There is a clear business case for carrying out sales coaching activities. According to a 2016 sales enablement optimization study, formal coaching improves win rates by 11 percent, while dynamic coaching, aligned to a sales enablement function, boosts them by 27.9 percent.

Issues With Coaching

Despite the benefits, a 2017 sales manager enablement report reveals that one of the biggest problems is a lack of time for coaching. Indeed, about 47 percent of businesses report that their sales managers spend less than 30 minutes per week on coaching skills and behaviors.

This problem is not helped by a more general lack of investment in sales managers. For example, the report also pointed out that just over 18 percent of sales organizations do not invest in sales manager training; that’s more than three times the number that do not invest in broader sales training.

However, even in companies with sufficient investment, where sales managers do put in substantial coaching time, there are problems. Coaching usually relies on both people being in the same place at the same time. Additionally, coaching is often left up to individual sales managers. Lacking formalized coaching is a mistake; the report found that informal coaching programs do not produce significant improvements to sales results.

The Virtual Coaching Solution

Essentially, virtual coaching simply refers to the use of digital technology to enable coaching even when the coach and the sales rep are in different locations. The coaching can be delivered through pre-recorded video content, visual or written content, or live communication software.

One of the key benefits of virtual coaching is that it eliminates the time restrictions that often prevent coaching from taking place. It also means that multiple reps can be coached at the same time, freeing up sales managers’ time to carry out other important daily tasks. Virtual coaching improves contact frequency, and although there are some initial costs, it is more cost-effective than face-to-face coaching. “Virtual coaching can also be delivered in short bursts exactly when needed,” says Chanin Ballance, adding that presenting information in the moment “dramatically increases retention because there is such a heightened interest and motivation for paying attention.”

That said, it is important not to use virtual coaching as a direct replacement for in-person coaching. Although it can replicate the benefits of in-person coaching in many cases, it is not always as effective. For this reason, it is best to use virtual coaching to complement a formal in-person coaching strategy.