What is Sales Coaching and Why is it Vital for Success?
December 9, 2022
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Sales coaching includes ongoing sales training and teaching to help reps improve performance. In addition, sales managers generally provide coaching and guide sellers on techniques and best practices to close more deals and hit their sales goals.
Studies show that effective sales coaching can improve win rates by up to 30 percent. But according to the 2019 CSO Sales Enablement report, almost 63 percent of companies have random or informal coaching, with few guidelines and no formal implementation.
Sales coaching supports and equips reps to hit their personal and team quotas and goals. An effective sales coaching process can lead to up to a 10-point improvement in win rates. But unfortunately, most organizations don’t provide effective sales coaching.
Not every sales leader is an effective sales coach. However, understanding the importance of coaching and how to train team members can empower your reps and drive revenue for your organization.
The CSO report lists improving sales coaching as a core responsibility of the sales enablement team, alongside training and creating sales enablement content. Knowing how to approach and measure sales coaching efforts can help your team significantly impact your company’s success.
In this post:
Why is sales coaching important?
Sales coaching is essential to help team members hit their quotas and goals. Foundationally, coaching rewards positive behavior and corrects mistakes so that every rep can do their best work.
Systematic sales coaching, with clear guidelines and formal implementation, has additional benefits. For example, no one falls through the cracks with a clear coaching schedule, and managers can take a proactive approach to the sales coaching process.
“Sales coaching is one of those activities that every manager knows they should be doing but can be one of the first casualties of a busy calendar,” according to Stephanie Middaugh, Director of Enablement at WorkRamp. “Another tricky part about sales coaching is that most managers are told to go and coach their teams without guidance, training, or best practices. It’s like giving the car keys to someone who has never driven. They might have a natural talent for it, but most people won’t. Instead, define what coaching means at your organization first and then help leaders sharpen the skills that fit the needs of your company’s coaching culture. Investing in those skills will pay back tenfold when your reps begin improving.”
Coaching should be genuinely helpful rather than a way to punish poor performers. Employees who perform at a middle or high level and desire to improve are the most likely to benefit. Best of all, high-quality coaching can improve morale and performance, leading to a more engaged team with lower turnover rates.
Research shows that 75 percent of leading companies cite coaching and mentoring sales reps as the most essential role that a front-line sales manager plays.
It’s clear why; the research shows the following results from sales coaching:
- Sales professionals with 30 minutes or less of coaching per week have win rates of 43%
- Reps that get two hours or more of coaching per week have win rates of 56%
At the same time, 60 percent of sales reps say they’re more likely to leave their job if their manager is a poor coach.
Read more: How to Create a Coaching Culture
What do sales coaches do?
A sales coach is generally the front-line manager of a team, so they’re likely to wear many hats. During sales coaching, however, the manager is focused on evaluating the sales rep’s performance and providing necessary training and resources.
In terms of coaching, sales managers:
- Monitor performance and identify areas of achievement and opportunities for improvement
- Teach skills and provide tools that allow sales reps to gain confidence and improve results
- Help sales reps meet their professional and team goals
- Reinforce behaviors that lead to success
- Equip the sales team with the skills they need to have broad success, not just drive specific numbers
A good sales coach should avoid telling reps exactly what to do or giving the same advice to every team member.
Managers can help team members hone specific selling skills. Some examples include the ability to identify motivators, have helpful conversations about performance, encourage and challenge reps, and more.
One of the biggest challenges managers face is that few have effective training on coaching team members to reach their full potential. Forty-three percent of managers with less than a year on the job say they’ve had no leadership training.
As a sales enablement team, you can create a formal coaching process and help your sales managers coach their teams effectively. This process sets everyone up for success–your sales reps get the support they need, and managers learn to address shortcomings and encourage positive habits.
How to coach and develop a sales team
What can the sales enablement team do to help managers coach sales reps?
The first step is to create a formal coaching process and train managers. Then, ensure it’s followed so that every sales team has a positive coaching experience.
Finally, the enablement team can get feedback from managers and sales reps to improve the process.
Here’s what you need to look for as you create your sales coaching process:
- Ensure the coaching process fits sales reps rather than being aimed at general employee development
- Avoid coaching methods that don’t fit with your organization’s culture
- Create a coaching process that is flexible enough to adapt to ever-changing sales processes
- Get feedback from managers and sales reps as you create the coaching process
- Allow room for multiple coaching styles so that each manager can connect with their reps needs
As you create the sales coaching framework, get reps and managers involved. This will lead to a more effective coaching model and you’ll get better buy-in when it’s time to roll it out.
Once the framework is complete, the enablement team should ensure that training modules and tools are available to develop specific skills. This process might involve reviewing existing training or creating new modules.
Having an All-in-One Learning Platform like WorkRamp can make it easier for sales reps to access on-demand training to improve their sales skills.
“I can’t even imagine how long it would take for me to create these guides without WorkRamp,” she shares. “It’s so easy to use and the tools like the drag-and-drop content editor are very robust. I’m able to spin up new training guides in a matter of a day or two.”
Sales coaching goals
To create the best sales coaching program for your organization, you must define your goals. These goals will help you organize your coaching framework and focus your efforts.
Of course, you want sales coaching to lead to better win rates, higher quota attainment, and larger deals. However, there are other goals to consider as well:
- Creating a positive work environment
- Fostering trust between reps and their managers
- Helping sales reps understand their strengths and areas for improvement
- Teaching skills and providing tools that help reps gain confidence
- Highlighting successful habits, not just detrimental ones
- Inspiring sales reps to take accountability for their results
- Creating a culture of consistent learning and improvement
When you create the right culture, your managers will applaud effective sales habits and help reps move beyond negative ones. Sales coaching focuses on helping sales reps meet their professional goals and be as successful as they can.
Getting stakeholder buy-in for these larger goals will also help everyone stay on the same page when measuring coaching success.
Sales coaching techniques
A big part of creating a sales coaching program for your organization is to teach sales managers how to coach effectively. Unfortunately, many managers haven’t had much training in the skills it takes to lead a team.
When the sales enablement team trains managers on effective coaching techniques, the managers will then be able to implement the coaching framework and drive results for your organization.
Ensure to incorporate the following sales coaching techniques in your management training to improve sales performance.
The first step in any coaching process is establishing trust between the manager and the employee. To do this, a manager must be honest, fair, and communicate expectations clearly.
After that, the manager should know what metrics matter most and be able to analyze sales results to look for both successes and opportunities for improvement.
Time the coaching conversation
Managers also need to know how and when to have coaching conversations. When your framework includes specific timeframes for coaching (a certain amount of time per week, for example), that can be very helpful.
Teach new skills
- One-on-one training
- Shadowing or learning from other team members
- Training modules focused on specific skills
- Role-playing and practice conversations
Create an action plan
Finally, the manager should create an action plan that includes additional training, follow-up, and monitoring and evaluation for performance improvement.
When your sales managers are clear on these skills and how they fit into the sales process, your organization will be well on its way to sales coaching success.
Sales coaching best practices
The first step is to realize that sales coaching skills are not something you are born with but something you need to learn. Even the best sales reps will need help learning to identify opportunities, have supportive coaching conversations, and follow up with team members when promoted to manager.
Take advantage of the training best practices you already have to create an engaging, informative training process for new managers that includes coaching skills and other important topics.
Create a formal and flexible sales coaching process
For many people, a “formal framework” and a “flexible framework” are opposites, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, you can create a coaching process with specific timeframes and expectations for sales rep development, allowing customization for each rep’s needs.
For example, your coaching program might require an hour of coaching per rep each week. In addition, you might need managers to cover a list of specific sales skills each quarter. But the way that coaching happens-through instruction, role-play, shadowing, and more–can be tailored to the sales rep’s learning style and needs.
Reinforce changes and track coaching results
Finally, coaching won’t have the desired impact unless your managers reinforce the new behaviors and track results.
You can track training module and lesson completion rates, improvement in specific sales results, growth in the sales pipeline, and more. You know your process is effective when sales reps progress due to coaching. However, if you don’t see improvement, you will want to determine what’s missing and update the sales coaching program accordingly.
How to measure sales coaching effectiveness
Measuring sales coaching effectiveness helps your organization in two specific ways.
- Ensures your sales coaching program is working as intended
- Holds managers accountable for coaching their sales reps
You can start with the standard performance metrics. When you track teams and individuals based on quota attainment, deal size, profitability, deal renewal, and upsells, you can see if they are trending positively. If a team or sales rep is falling behind, the coaching process can work to address that.
Next, create metrics to measure the effectiveness of your managers’ coaching efforts. For example, you might look at time spent per sales rep, topics covered, how the team responds to the coaching and more. If things aren’t going well, that manager might need additional coaching.
Don’t forget to include self-evaluation for sales reps and managers. Ask questions like, “What were you most proud of this week/month?” and “What was your biggest obstacle? Did you have the tools to overcome it?”
Remember: it’s important to highlight both the positive and the negative in these conversations.
Finally, pay attention to how the coaching program affects your sales team culture. Ideally, it will be a positive change, and everyone will be excited to improve. However, if coaching is inconsistent, your hard work will be fruitless.
Create the sales coaching program your organization needs
Sales coaching can significantly improve sales performance, but many managers need to be better equipped to coach their teams. When you create a sales coaching framework that trains your managers and makes coaching systematic and equitable, you can drive significant improvements in revenue for your organization.
You can’t create the training program you need without the right learning platform. WorkRamp is an All-in-One Learning platform that can help make training engaging so you can equip your reps with the resources they need to succeed.
Learn how WorkRamp can help you implement sales coaching and turn learning into a growth engine for your employees. Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.
Complete the form for a custom demo.
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Anna SpoonerWorkRamp Contributor
Anna Spooner is a digital strategist and marketer with over 11 years of experience. She writes content for various industries, including SaaS, medical and personal insurance, healthcare, education, marketing, and business. She enjoys the process of putting words around a company’s vision and is an expert at making complex ideas approachable and encouraging an audience to take action.
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