A Sales Coaching Guide for Growing Businesses 

May 18, 2024

#1 in a list of 22. 

That’s how highly companies rate sales coaching. When 750 corporations were asked to rate the top factors for driving business results, sales coaching came out right on top. 

And for good reason.

As per the CSO Insights 2019 Sales Enablement Report, sales coaching has had the greatest impact on win rates and quota attainment for five years in a row. The same report found that dynamic coaching showed a 

  • 32.1% improvement in win rates and 
  • 27.9% improvement in quota attainment, 

when compared to unstructured coaching (where coaching is left to managers). 

Companies that provide optimal coaching realize 16.7% greater revenue growth annually. 

"I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities." Bob Nardelli

And in a field as challenging as sales, people need all the help they can get to reach their potential. Seller performance can improve by up to 19% with high-quality coaching (Source: Challenger Performance Optimization)

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to leverage sales coaching to improve business outcomes. But first things first.

Table of content

What is sales coaching and what are its objectives?

Difference between sales coaching and training

The objectives of sales coaching

Sales coaching for small businesses: 5 benefits and areas of application

Challenges startups and SMEs face in implementing sales coaching

A 3-step coaching plan for small businesses

Pro tips to supplement sales coaching

How Meet Record’s Sales Coaching Feature can help small businesses

What is sales coaching and what are its objectives?

Simply put, sales coaching is a process that provides ongoing, individualized, and contextual support to sales professionals to improve their performance, help them reach their potential, and as a result, hit their quotas.

Sales coaching can be broadly categorized into,

  • Skill coaching: This more common and generic form focuses on developing the skills and behaviors of sales reps. It aims at developing the knowledge, mindsets, and behaviors that are known to be critical for sales success.

Some of these skills include empathetic communication, storytelling, active listening, consultative questioning, time management, etc. 

  • Deal Coaching: This more in-depth approach focuses on deal or account-specific strategy and execution while the sales rep is about to close a deal. This buyer-targeted approach focuses on the resources, strategies, and skills salespersons need to engage the prospect and move them along the sales funnel.
    While deal coaching is more intensive, it does promise higher returns.

(Source: Aberdeen Group

Difference between sales coaching and training

Most companies are content with just onboarding their sales employees and training them, but training is not the same as coaching.
Here are a few characteristics of sales coaching that make it different from training:

  1. Sales coaching is ongoing: Training often provides a base for a sales team; coaching builds on this foundation to create success. 
  2. Personalized: Unlike training sessions that involve entire sales teams, coaching is best when tailored to the needs of an individual salesperson. A good sales coach knows the sales rep, as well as their strengths and areas for improvement.
  3. It focuses on behavior: While training is intended to impart new information about products, customers, strategies, competitors, etc., coaching is mindset and behavior-based. 

The objectives of sales coaching

Besides the obvious impact on revenues, at its core, sales coaching is a commitment to ongoing improvement to

  • guide sales professionals achieve their objectives by developing better skills and awareness 
  • identify and build on behaviors that lead to success and correct behaviors that have a negative impact
  • learn from current customer interactions for better sales conversations

It’s a common misconception that the above objectives apply only to large enterprises, or mature sales teams.  Whether it is small businesses, SMEs, or early-stage companies, no growth-seeking business can afford to ignore sales coaching.  

Sales coaching for small businesses: 5 benefits and areas of application

It’s too early for us to think about sales coaching.

Unfortunately, this is a very shortsighted view of the problem.

When you’re a small and up-and-coming organization, you’re running on a shorter runway. You need to hit revenue goals faster, retain and nurture talent, and understand the key levers to scale. Sales coaching done effectively then, is like taking a step back to jump further. 

  1. Improved revenues: 60% of high-growth companies use coaching as an integrated part of a sales training program. And 67% of companies who have had a formal sales coaching program for the last three years experienced high revenue growth and higher quota attainment. This means that you build a better foundation for your team in the early stages.

  2. Reduced attrition and improved employee morale: Over two-thirds of employees reporting to a manager who is not a good coach are considering quitting their jobs, as per the Center For Sales Strategy.

Salespersons who regularly underwent sales coaching improved their sales competencies such as communication and presentation skills, product know-how, prospect engagement, and more. This early growth of the sales team has a lot to do with their morale. 

  1. Consistent practices, expectations, and brand personality:  It’s common for young organizations to lack standard best practices, or processes, to anchor themselves to. Sales coaching can help establish a distinct brand personality, besides setting up a consistent and cohesive sales foundation for current and future sales reps.

  2. No risk of a ‘sales hero’ culture:  For too long now, organizations have lauded ‘star’ salespersons, and this can impact the morale and motivation of the other team members. By focusing on sales coaching, companies can prioritize the equitable growth of their sales team, while identifying and assimilating best practices that successful salespersons exhibit.

  3. Timely intervention and course correction: When you’re a small and young organization, timing can be everything; it decides if that early prospect converts into a recurring customer. 

By using coaching, you can track and catch issues with the sales team or the sales approach before it’s too late, so you don’t have to knock on the same door twice. 

5 formalized sales coaching opportunities for small and early-stage businesses

  • Customer meeting reviews/debriefs
  • Pre-call planning for customer meetings such as discovery calls, demos, etc. 
  • Pipeline reviews
  • Opportunity/deal reviews
  • Sales team meetings

Challenges startups and SMEs face in implementing sales coaching 

Though there are multiple opportunities for companies of all sizes to implement sales coaching, it’s not without challenges. Here are the most common challenges small businesses face when it comes to sales coaching: 

  1. Employees feel they don’t need coaching: This happens more often than you’d think. Sales reps don’t realize they need help in the first place – because they’re blind to their own behavior patterns, or weaknesses. And that’s not exactly their fault. 

This is where data and insights can help. For instance, a conversation intelligence tool like MeetRecord can help analyze and identify patterns in a sales rep’s approach, that can be hard to establish without data. 

  1. Employers or sales managers aren’t sure what to focus on. 

Without a starting point, employers simply don’t know how to define and measure improvement and success. Sales coaching, supported by the correct data and tools can help understand an individual rep’s or a team’s strengths and weaknesses. Coaching needs to start with analytics that identifies and measures each rep’s strengths and weaknesses. 

That’s a solid start to base performance and improvement goals on before you proceed to other KPIs like prospecting success, win rate, productivity, etc. 

  1. Sales reps believe that it will interfere with their natural ‘sales instincts’ 

Sales is often believed to be ‘instinct’ or ‘intuition’ driven.  When you think about it, intuition, for one,  draws on objective and subjective information and could be – to some extent – data-driven

A data-driven coaching program can help identify, validate, or challenge beliefs – all worthy outcomes –  by helping sales reps identify patterns in their behavior, and bolstering their instinct and intuition with supporting data. 

The bottom line: Data is key to overcoming the challenges associated with a sales coaching program –  thanks to its capacity to provide structure, validation, and direction to the process. 

A 3-step coaching plan for small businesses

Step 1: Identify objectives

Different stages of a company’s journey pose different coaching requirements. Whatever they are, identify exactly what you want sales coaching to accomplish for you. 

Here are a few guiding thoughts:

Conducting effective sales meetings (focusing on communication, listening, and time management)

If your sales team comprises first-timers,  you’d likely want to focus on foundational behaviors and practices like: 

  • clear communication and time management (not using filler words, or having long monologues)
  • optimum talk-to-listen ratio, etc.

Designing consistent and templatized meetings for different sales objectives
You can coach sales reps on the ideal flow of meetings for different sales conversations. For example, you can create a coaching + scoring template for discovery calls, another one for demos, etc.   

Identifying best practices (positioning, addressing customer objections, and competitor mentions)

If you have a bank of sales conversations to go on, you can identify behaviors that lead to better meeting outcomes. 

Step 2: Prioritize whom to focus on 

While it can be tempting to have sales coaching for all your sales reps, it’s not often practical, or even advisable.  

Vadim Zorin, director of SalesMore, also notes how a  5% improvement in the middle 60% of sales performers can deliver over 91% greater sales than the same shift in the top 20%.

It makes sense to focus on your middle performers given that they 

  • have the most to gain, and 
  • provide the best return on investment (an HBR report found that effective sales coaching can improve the results of the middle 60% by up to 19%)

Step 3: Plan your coaching 

Change doesn’t happen by chance, it needs intention and execution. Effective planning can help you with both. 

For sales coaching to be effective, you need to – most importantly – formalize the process. Look at the data below. Dynamic coaching – that is formalized and tailored to individual or deal-specific needs – showed over 13% improvement in win rates, when compared to random or unstructured coaching. 

This element of formalization means that you need to

  • establish a cadence for sales coaching conversations, 
  • create a benchmarking, review, and feedback element, and 
  • use data to identify and track focus areas. 

Pro tips to supplement sales coaching

  1. Use strategies or avenues to build motivation

Sales is not for the easily discouraged, but even the most committed sales reps need motivation and encouragement. 

Weave elements of motivation-building into your sales coaching plan, say by using gamification or a leaderboard to recognize and applaud achievements – and even incentivize improvements through prizes.

(MeetRecord’s leaderboard for sales coaching)

  1. Invest in your sales coaches

In small organizations, it can be tempting to promote high-performing reps straight to coaches. 

But what makes a good sales rep often differs from what makes a good sales coach. Where possible, invest in training and ongoing development for new sales coaches – say through external consultants or certifications. 

How Meet Record’s Sales Coaching Feature can help small businesses

Implementing a sales coaching program might appear daunting – especially if you’re an early-stage or small business. 

Here’s where picking the right tools can help. For instance, a meeting intelligence tool like MeetRecord offers robust sales coaching features for your team to benefit from. 

Whether it is coaching individuals or teams, tracking their performance and improvement, or launching custom coaching initiatives or courses, MeetRecord helps you build a solid coaching program – whichever stage of your journey you’re at. 

Identify behaviors, strengths, and areas of opportunity; Standardize calls and build consistency 

Besides identifying key strengths and areas of opportunity for individuals., you can set custom focus areas for sales reps to focus on, and rate every call on them. Sales receive curated feedback from multiple users or coaches. 

You can set standard practices for your team (say, how to conduct a discovery call) and track adherence to them. 

Create custom initiatives and courses for individuals and teams

Take your first step to sales coaching 

We understand – when you’re a young startup or small business, you don’t have the resources, budget, or time to invest in a thorough sales coaching strategy. 

MeetRecord’s basic sales coaching framework is designed to help.  Whether you’re a team of 3 or a fast-growing team of 20, you can use it to 

  • ensure consistently efficient sales meetings, 
  • invest in the growth of early employees
  • help sales reps crush their quotas 
  • identify critical and scalable best practices
  • develop a distinct brand personality

Sounds like too much? Just start with better sales meetings. 

Try MeetRecord’s meeting intelligence to record and analyze meetings, and capture actionable insights from sales conversations – one call at a time. 

Get started for FREE today. 

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