Let’s face it.
A majority of sales coaching is reactive rather than proactive. Blackdot’s Unlocking Sales Manager Coaching Impact report found that:
- Over 1/3 of sales reps surveyed receive zero coaching
- Of the reps that receive coaching, only 15% of them about three hours of coaching per week
- And less than half of the reps surveyed receive regular, consistent coaching.
As sales managers, nurturing, developing, and empowering your reps is one the most significant wins of a sales leader. And while the pressure to hit quotas will probably never go away, consistent, structured sales coaching is one of the fastest ways to build successful sales teams.
Why is sales coaching so important?
The simple answer is it works.
And while there are other methods to get your reps firing on all cylinders, coaching is a great way to address deficiencies in core competencies.
It provides space for reps to continuously improve their performance. Teams with a consistent coaching program also experience a better working relationship and better retention (in an industry notorious for high turnover).
Plus, sales managers can use the targeted approach sales coaching provides to complement general training sessions.
For prospects, capable reps mean better, more productive buyer engagements—something every buyer who has agonized through a badly-handled sales call knows all about.
Ultimately, all these combine to unlock improved performance.
And the stats back it up.
- The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Study found that companies with sales coaching programs achieve 28% higher win rates than their peers.
- In a study on Maximizing Performance with Sales Coaching conducted by ValueSelling Associates, 69% of those surveyed saw organizational performance gains after deliberate sales coaching programs.
So, we asked some of our favorite experts to have their say on building a proactive coaching and development plan for your sales reps and letting us in on their top frameworks and strategies.
Let’s jump right in.
How to build a coaching and development plan for your sales reps
1. Focus on knowledge and skills
2. Coach the behavior, not the person
3. Create a repeatable, scalable process
4. Recognize changes and reinforce those behaviours
5. Focus on three skills—creativity, consistency, and discipline
Sales Coaching Tip #1: Focus on knowledge and skills
As founder of Revenue Advisory, LeadMagic, and with over 17 years of hardcore B2B sales experience under his belt, Jesse Ouellette has firsthand seen the benefits of a structured sales coaching program.
For him, the modern sales leader coaches their sales reps on two things—knowledge and skills.
“Knowledge means showing them how to do it, with a proven blueprint. While skills are the outcome of actively following the proven blueprint or process,” Jesse says.
“You don’t get results and effort (which is the old mindset) if you don’t provide the two parts—knowledge and skill. Focus on developing those, and the rest come,” he continues.
To top it off, Jesse believes there’s one final detail that over-indexes the impact coaching can have on your sales reps: sales leaders must show everyone that it’s okay to fail while learning.
Sales Coaching Tip #2: Coach the behavior, not the person
“When coaching, coach a specific behaviour, not the person.”
Ed Jaffe, demo coach and Lead Consultant at Demo Solutions, thinks focusing on the individual and not a specific behavior can lead to frustrated sales reps.
“If the coaching starts with ‘you are’ or ‘you always,’ that can be hard for someone to hear, and they’ll probably internalize it negatively,” he explains.
“Instead, say ‘in the meeting you said X, I know what you were going for, but it didn’t really land. Try Y instead.’ That method gets the rep off the hook and helps them get better, instead of just making them feel bad,” Ed continues.
Sales Coaching Tip #3: Create a repeatable, scalable process
Meganne Brezina is a sales enablement dynamo.
“First, both the manager and the sales rep need to be reflecting regularly on the rep’s performance and create a dialogue around it on a consistent basis. We prefer a quarterly cadence here at Lessonly. These conversations are centered around a role-based matrix with both parties rating the reps’ skill competency on a set scale,” says Meganne.
“Next, identify and focus on one area for improvement with the rep at a time, based on data from the rating scale,” she continues.
But it doesn’t end there; the rep still needs some direction.
“We encourage the manager to collaborate with the rep and document the best path forward when it comes to improving that skill area. And provide weekly or bi-weekly pulse checks tracking against the expectations in the documented coaching plan,” she says.
“Finally, lean on available sales training and enablement tools to ensure your team continues to grow and thrive,” says Meganne.
Once you get your process up and running, the sky’s the limit.
Sales Coaching Tip #4: Recognize changes and reinforce those behaviours
Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective and powerful learning methods. For Katie Ostreko, VP of Sales & Marketing at Quality Edge, that’s especially true for coaching sales reps in the workplace.
“Measure the results and see if there are improvements and differences. Recognize reps who put in the effort and any positive changes to reinforce those behaviors,” Kate explains.
Sales Coaching Tip #5: Focus on three skills—creativity, consistency, discipline
Brett Knowles, Chief Executive Officer at Hirebook Technologies, has decades of experience delivering performance measurement and management solutions.
“Chase these three skills through your development plans: creativity, consistency, and discipline,” he says.
“The easiest way to build creativity is through encouraging your reps to be thought leaders & experts in your industry and upskilling them with the knowledge they can apply on the field. Consistency and discipline come through building robust sales processes and ensuring the reps stick to them,” Brett explains.
And for Brett, the best way to make sure the reps stick to their development plans is by providing them with an understanding of why the sales process works and not just what they are.
Sales coaching done right and consistently can have an outsized impact on your business. From improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the sales team to its ripple effects on the team culture and retention rates, it’s a no-brainer.
Asides from the right sales enablement software, sales leaders need to focus on developing the necessary skills their team needs to win in the post-pandemic world.
So, what are you waiting for?
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