The Importance of Sales Coaching Models for Better Results
In our 2017 Sales Management Research Report, 5 Hallmarks of a High-Impact Sales Organization, we found that sales managers at high-performing organizations spent significantly more time coaching their teams than average and lower performing teams.
Additionally, we learned that from a skills development standpoint, there is more room for improvement in sales coaching than in any of the other skill areas we analyzed.
While improved coaching skills and allocating more time to coaching are certainly drivers of sales performance, the quality of the coaching delivered is greatly enhanced by following a consistent coaching model.
The coaching model provides a framework for productive coaching that allows managers to use the right skills in the right context. As an example, the skills required to develop a coaching plan are very different from the skills that you would use to observe a sales call.
Following a coaching model also helps managers use their coaching time more effectively. By adhering to a coaching model, managers will avoid the temptation to cut corners or skip steps which will more than likely lead to sales rep confusion and lower morale instead of improved selling skills.
As an example, without a written coaching plan in place, a sales manager’s feedback may seem arbitrary and cause the sales rep to become defensive. Instead, it is far more productive to share the sales coaching model with the salesperson as the basis for establishing a collaborative sales coaching process.
For sales coaching to be successful, it’s important to select a model that’s optimized for sales coaching as opposed to a generic model. While all coaching models are designed to promote employee growth and development, the sales function is unique and a “sales coaching model” will allow for customized coaching that improves how reps sell.
As an example, observing (or, in the case of inside sales, listening to) a sales call is the best way to see whether selling skills are being used appropriately (e.g., did the sales rep take the time to discover and understand the client's needs before presenting the solution).
At a minimum, all sales coaching models should include the following steps:
- Develop Coaching Plan: This involves developing a customized plan focused on 2 – 3 key areas for improvement. This should be done in a collaborative manner where the sales rep takes ownership of their own skills development.
- Observe Sales Calls: It is important that managers take the time to go on sales calls they can observe (or in the case of inside sales teams, listen to) to see if the skills are being used appropriately. Note: For this to be effective from a coaching standpoint, the sales manager must be in observation mode as opposed to selling.
- Provide Feedback: This may be the most difficult step and the one managers more than often get wrong. The goal here is to provide some very brief positive feedback and then help the rep self-discover what they did well and areas for improvement. Unfortunately, too many managers can’t avoid the temptation to critique the call before hearing the sales rep’s perspective.
- Follow Up: Sales Coaching (like training) will not be successful as a “one and done” activity. Skills development takes time, and it is important to track skills improvement and reset the customized coaching plans on a periodic basis.
By adhering to a model, you'll find that your coaching skills and effectiveness will greatly improve. You'll secure buy-in and receptivity from your sales reps based on the specific areas you jointly determined for improvement, and an understanding of the sales coaching process. Most importantly, you'll see improved sales results as your team improves how it engages with customers utilizing better selling skills.
About 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.