Avoid The Sales Coaching Trap to Drive Improved Results
Consistent sales coaching is a great way for sales managers to improve results. However one common challenge we see with sales managers is that they often spend too much time coaching the wrong sales reps.
Moving the Middle for High Impact Results
Let’s first clear up a common misconception of sales managers have about sales coaching: namely, that all sales reps should get an equal amount of coaching time.
Managing a sales team is not about treating everyone equally, it is about achieving results. Given the time pressures most typical sales managers face, they must be ruthlessly efficient about allocating coaching time. Some sales reps will produce better return on investments of coaching time than other reps. The two key factors for estimating ROI for coaching are a reps skill level and “coachability.”
With regards to skill level, the highest ROI on coaching time is with sales reps with “medium” skills. This is because the highest ROI from coaching comes from moving the middle. Ideally, a sales manager should spend about 60% of their coaching time with these “medium” sales reps. Next, the sales manager should spend 25% of their coaching time with high-skilled reps. Even though these reps are presumably achieving quota, everyone can do better. Finally, sales managers should only spend 15% of their coaching time with low-skill reps (note: newly hired sales reps are an exception).
In our experience, most low-skilled sales reps are not worth a significant sales coaching time investment. Unfortunately, a common trap managers fall into is spending too much time with low-performing reps.
Determining Coachability in a Sales Rep
What about the coachability factor? A rep’s coachability can be determined by asking questions such as:
- Are they receptive to (new) ideas?
- Is there a desire to improve?
- Are they passionate about the work?
Sales reps with low coachability (admittedly a subjective factor), produce low ROIs on your coaching time. Accordingly, we recommend reducing coaching time for reps with low coachability and increasing it for reps with high coachability. Reps who are low performers with low coachability are probably not worth keeping on your team.
While there is no magic formula for improving coachability, it is fair to ask, “Why is this person not receptive to change and what can I do to increase their receptivity?” It may be appropriate to examine your approach and style for this individual.
Time is the one factor that a sales manager has the most control over. They should allocate their coaching time based on ROI.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.