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How to Measure Sales Coaching Effectiveness

By Norman Behar

On this episode, our CEO Norman Behar discusses tools and processes to measure the coaching effectiveness of sales managers, two types of sales coaching, a five-step coaching model, and five key questions to ask during opportunity coaching.

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Video Transcript

That's a great question. We're all looking to improve the quality of sales coaching. Sales coaching, from our perspective, has one of the highest ROIs. Sales coaching is powerful because of the amount of leverage a manager can drive through it.
 
Let's say you're a sales manager with five to seven sales reps. You're able to help them either improve win rates or improve the quality of their selling skills. That's going to have a major impact on your organization.
 
You're also going to empower them to solve their problems and take your organization forward. Even build the next group of sales managers or sales leaders based on the quality of your coaching.
 
When you think about quality, it comes down to having managers who can use the right processes. Then associate with those processes the right tools. From a definitional standpoint, I'd like to first categorize coaching into two areas.
 
The first, being what I would call skills coaching. That's when a manager works with each sales person on their team to improve selling skills. Then the second area is opportunity coaching. Sales managers have good instincts in this area because it's about coaching on specific deals that are in the pipeline to either qualify or disqualify those deals but ultimately to improve win rates.
 
The purpose of skills coaching is to improve selling skills. We recommend that the first tool a manager uses is an assessment. This assessment is completed both by the manager and the sales rep.
 
Using the SRG assessment from our sales coaching program as an example. We focus on 24 key behaviors with three behavior statements for each of eight different selling skills. That could be prospecting, call planning, managing feedback, negotiation, gaining commitment. These are all crucial selling skills for salespeople.
 
We have the salesperson and the sales manager each complete that assessment. Then they put together a coaching plan on one to two skill areas that they can improve on over the course of a calendar quarter. Finally we go into a five-step coaching process that begins with (1) creating a coaching plan and (2) planning a coaching visit.
 
So now you're going to go out with a salesperson on a call and (3) observe them. You need to plan for that call, understand the background, what's happened in the past, what's transpired, and then go on the call and observe.
 
This is where managers run into difficulty. They'll start—even though they're going there as a coaching call—to sell. But if you're looking for skills improvement you must look at the underlying skills.
 
Following the call, what you want to do is (4) debrief. Debriefing is an art. You don't want to start by saying what they did wrong. Offer one or two areas of encouragement; things they did right. Get the sales rep to analyze the call and then (5) follow-up.
 
That's our five-step coaching process. And within that process there are key tools that also improve the quality of coaching: the coaching assessment and the coaching plan.
 
As skills improve and you see those improve on future calls, you want to reset those plans with the sales rep. Focus on new skills and keep driving to improve skills and quality over a period of time.
 
The second area is opportunity coaching. Opportunity coaching is when the sales manager meets with each salesperson to review opportunities in their pipeline. The aim is to help them either better qualify or, in some cases, disqualify opportunities. But ultimately the goal it to develop a strategy for each opportunity to improve win rates.
 
The process involves five key questions. These five key questions can be set up in terms of a tool or template that a sales rep would complete. Possibly in advance of or following each time you meet with them to assess whether they have a handle on the opportunity and a good strategy. Those questions are as follows.
 
First, what is the customer's business need? Even though it's a simple question, it's surprising how often the sales person's response to that question is fuzzy. If they can't articulate the business need, they need to go back and ask more questions. They need to understand what's the problem the customer is trying to solve or how are we going to put that customer in a better situation than they are now.
 
The second question which ties to the business need is what's the unique value that we're bringing to the customer? Based on an understanding of their business need, we need to set ourselves up in terms of how we're different and better-positioned to win that opportunity.
 
The third question is: Who are the decision-makers and what's our relationship with them? Too often we have great relationships with one or two key influencers. But do we understand the decision-making process, who's involved in that process, and have a strategy to gain accessThat often leads to a mapping of the organization and making sure that we're contacting all the right people.
 
The fourth question they should think about is: Who's the competition and how are they going to try and beat us? If you have a good understanding of the competitive landscape, you're going to start to map out your competitive strengths and weaknesses; and develop some key win themes.
 
That leads to the final question, why will we win? When they can articulate to you with confidence why you're going to win, you're going to see that they've done the other four steps well.
 
We've discussed a five-step process for skills coaching, a five-step questioning strategy for opportunity coaching, and the associated tools for each category. My hope is that this helps answer your question about the use of tools and processes to improve the quality and measure the quality of sales coaching by your managers. 

SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.  

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.

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