Sales coaching is one of the best investments you can make in your sales reps, your team, and your business. That explains why 750 companies placed it #1 on a list of 22 factors that drive business results. Nearly 60% of high-growth companies believe that coaching is an integral part of their sales training programs.
It’s clear: Sales coaching is no longer a good to have, it needs to be an area of active investment and focus. In this complete guide to sales coaching, we tell you everything you need to know to get started on your sales coaching journey.
What is Sales Coaching?
Sales coaching is the process of giving sales professionals ongoing, individualized, and contextual coaching to help them improve their performance and hit their quotas.
It can be broadly categorized into:
- Skill coaching: This generic form of sales coaching focuses on the knowledge, mindsets, behaviors, and skills (communication, storytelling, active listening, consultative questioning, etc.)
- Deal coaching: This in-depth and contextual coaching focuses on the strategy and execution aspects of specific deals or accounts. It is often customized based on the buyer, and helps sales reps with engaging the prospect and moving them along the sales funnel.
If you’re looking for a detailed look at what sales coaching for SMBs and startups looks like, check out: A Sales Coaching Guide for Growing Businesses
The Difference Between Sales Coaching and Sales Training
While sales training and sales coaching share a common goal – helping sales teams with the resources and skills they need to do their job better – they cannot be used interchangeably.
Sales training, often at the time of onboarding, or launch of a new product, is focused on introducing processes, products, techniques, and resources. Sales coaching helps improve a salesperson’s skills and techniques on an ongoing basis – based on their current performance.
Here are a few points to remember about sales coaching and sales training:
- Sales training provides a base for a sales team while sales coaching builds on this foundation through periodic support and guidance
- Sales coaching is personalized, unlike sales training which often involves the entire sales team.
- Sales training is often more information-focused (about products, customers, competitors, etc.) while sales coaching has a stronger focus on behaviors and skills.
Why do you Need Sales Coaching?
In today’s challenging business environment, salespeople need all the help they can get to reach their potential and deliver business results. Here are some reasons why every forward-looking company needs sales coaching.
1. It impacts win revenue growth and quota achievement
There’s enough evidence that shows the revenue impact of sales coaching.
Over five years, CSO Insights’ Sales Enablement Report has shown that sales coaching has the greatest impact on win rates and quota attainment – with dynamic coaching linked to a 32% improvement in win rates, besides a ~28% improvement in quota attainment.
Of companies that invested in formal sales coaching, 67% saw high revenue growth and quota attainment.
2. It improves sales rep performance and employee morale
A 2021 survey found that 96% of respondents feel that sales coaching positively impacts their salespeople’s performance. Sales coaching ensures that sales reps are engaged and efficient by giving leaders and individuals a framework to analyze, assess, and improve their behaviors and skills.
Conventional sales training programs mostly prioritize revenue/quota attainment but do little to feel sales reps feel supported as individuals. By using sales coaching to help individual sales reps with their growth, you, as a leader, demonstrate that you care about them and are invested in their journey. It’s not hard to see how this can positively impact employee morale as well as retention.
3. It builds a strong, consistent, and repeatable sales motion
Sales coaching can help sales leaders understand the effectiveness of their sales model and identify gaps and growth opportunities for the entire function. It can help correlate performance and results to set a strong foundation of best practices for the team.
With sales coaching, you can drive equitable growth of your sales team, without relying on the heroics of a select few. This ensures that sales reps learn from the best around them, and are motivated to keep learning and growing.
Additionally, sales coaching builds better collaboration with other departments, such as Marketing, Product, and Customer Success teams, to improve the product as well as customer perception and experience.
4. It gives sales reps support right when they need it
In business, timing is everything. Sales coaching can help you surface and resolve issues before it’s too late. A framework and set cadence for sales coaching conversations enables you to identify trends and behaviors in sales rep performance as well as customer interactions to intervene at the right time.
TLDR: You need sales coaching to
- boost revenues,
- support and retain salespersons at the right time
- assess the effectiveness of, and improve, your sales strategy
- identify and replicate best practices,
Also read: 10 reasons you need sales coaching
Sales Coaching Benefits and Outcomes
While specific sales coaching outcomes vary from company to company, here are the common desired outcomes:
- Higher accountability and ownership over individual tasks among sales reps
- Better time management for sales managers
- Improved win rates and target achievement
- Pipelines being filled with qualified, relevant leads
- Shorter sales cycle length
- Higher sales rep retention
For a more detailed understanding of the benefits of sales coaching, check out 10 benefits of sales coaching that make it a must-have
What Does Effective Sales Coaching Look Like?
Dynamic coaching, meaning formalized coaching tailored to individuals or specific deals – showed over 13% improvement in win rates (compared to random or unstructured coaching).
Lasting, effective change isn’t a matter of chance; it needs both intention and execution. Planning helps you do both.
For sales coaching to be effective, you need to
- Set a cadence for sales coaching conversations
- Create systems for benchmarking, review, and feedback
- Leverage data to identify and track areas of strength and opportunity
- Analyze and continually track performance
Here are some characteristics of effective sales coaching:
1. It is consistent and structured
The more formal sales coaching, the higher impact it has on individual and team performance. This means that it needs to be woven into sales managers' and reps’ schedules for them to be effective. 61.4% of companies with effective sales coaching programs spend over 60 minutes per week per rep on coaching.
2. It is individualized and iterative
An effective sales coaching program is one that caters to every individual’s needs while benefiting the whole team.
This relies on identifying an individual sales rep’s strengths and weaknesses and iteratively improving or building on them.
3. It identifies and institutes best practices
Sales coaching is about surfacing winning practices and propagating them through the sales team.
For example, sales coaching sessions can be used for creating templates for standard customer-facing conversations, coaching sales reps on them, and then further analyzing their performance along these templates.
4. It includes a good mix of skill and strategy
Sales coaching is most effective when it focuses on both tactical aspects or skills as well as big-picture aspects.
This means that it needs to include
- Skill coaching: Focused on skills and behaviors such as clear and confident communication, objection-handling abilities, active listening, consultative questioning, etc.
- Deal coaching: Focused on deal-specific strategy and execution.
- Strategic coaching: Focused on long-term aspects like identifying and nurturing stakeholder relationships, creating customer champions and advocates, etc.
5. It measures improvement as well as the impact on outcomes
Companies that measure competency improvement as a coaching metric see a 7% improvement in quota attainment, as per the CSO Insights’ 2021 Sales Enablement Analytics Report. But to make coaching truly effective, you’ll need to track outcomes and progress.
For instance, to track improvement, you could track
- Soft skills or conversational skills
- Skills improvement
- Best practice adherence
…while for outcome tracking, you could look at tracking
- Conversion rate
- Sales cycle length
- Quality and quantity of leads
- Sale price, etc.
Sales Coaching Techniques to Improve Performance
Here are some of the techniques a good sales coaching program needs.
1. Observe and provide feedback
This coaching strategy entails observing sales representatives in action and providing constructive feedback on their performance. For it to be effective, feedback must be specific, actionable, and timely. In cases where it is not possible for sales managers to observe reps in action, a conversation intelligence tool can help record customer conversations and capture performance insights.
2. Use role-plays
Role-playing is a coaching method that involves simulating real-world situations to practice and improve specific skills. In the world of sales coaching, it gives sales reps a low-risk environment to work on their their communication, objection-handling, and closing skills.
Despite being a low-risk, high-returns investment, only 20% of sales teams actually use role playing effectively.
3. Use gamification
According to a study by Salesforce, 71% of companies saw a 11-50% increase in sales performance after they implemented gamification.
Use game-like elements to ensure engagement and improve the effectiveness of sales coaching. Elements of gamification can include leaderboards, timed challenges, and rewards. You can apply gamification to a variety of coaching activities, including role-playing, simulations, and online learning.
4. Leverage technology and data at every step
While one-on-one support and personalized feedback lie at the heart of every sales coaching program worth its name, implementing such a program without technology is sure to be an uphill task that can weigh down managers.
Even the most carefully planned sales coaching programs can come crashing down without the right software and tools to anchor them.
Use the right tools to capture insights, foster collaboration, capture and analyze data to build a scalable and efficient sales coaching program.
Additional Reading: Top 9 coaching techniques to improve sales performance
Benefits of Using Sales Coaching Software
Here are the top reasons to use sales coaching software:
- Ease of Use: Today’s sales coaching software is designed to be used off the bat with minimal training and onboarding. They can be customized to your team’s needs and promise ROI within months – or even weeks.
- Easier content creation, collaboration, and better engagement: Sales coaching tools make it easy for you to create content, share content, and enable team members to collaborate on shared assets. Whether it is coaching modules, sample meeting templates or playlists, or scoring/feedback, sales coaching tools make everything easier to run and manage.
- Improved integration and centralized access: Today’s sales coaching tools integrate closely with other sales tools. Whether it is CRMs, call recording and analysis tools, or LMSes, sales coaching tools can seamlessly become a part of salespeople’s daily activities.
- Improved flexibility, productivity, and time management: Sales coaching tools automate most of the grunt tasks out of sales coaching for improved efficiency for sales managers and individual reps alike.
For example, instead of shadowing every sales rep on customer calls, a manager can simply use a conversation or sales intelligence tool to get insights on sales rep performance and customer behavior.
Sales Coaching Tools Needed to Build a Coaching Program
A good sales coaching program positively impacts every aspect of a sales rep’s life – from prospecting to closing and everything in between. Sales coaching tools provide a strong foundation for such a program.
When you look at sales coaching tools, make sure that they cover these four functions of the sales process:
- Onboarding and training sales reps
- Tracking/monitoring performance (past and current)
- Creating and mapping existing processes or sales workflows
- Recording and analyzing sales conversations
Here’s a brief look at the tools that cover these functions, what exactly they do, and why you need them.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM software): These tools capture prospect and customer data, sales data, and come with analytics as well as lead management, opportunity management, and pipeline management features.
This means they offer multiple data sources and touchpoints for sales coaching. Some of the popular tools in this category include Salesforce for enterprise-grade companies, HubSpot CRM for mid-market companies, and Pipedrive for sales teams in early-stage and smaller companies.
- Sales Readiness tools: These tools are designed for the journey from hiring to selling and are designed to help new sales hires develop a better understanding of the domain, the product, existing sales processes, etc. – through onboarding and product training.
- Sales process Management tools: Visual design tools like LucidChart and MindMeister can help your sales function evolve and mature by mapping out existing processes and practices – as well as coaching sales reps on new methods, processes, and workflows.
- Conversation/revenue intelligence software: This category covers tools that help with recording and analyzing sales calls and deriving meeting performance and customer insights from them. These tools have the most direct impact on sales coaching – they capture data on sales reps’ communication skills, customer-handling abilities, listening, pitching skills, etc.
In addition, they help sales managers and coaches identify high-performing and struggling sales reps – besides helping capture best practices that can be integrated into coaching.
Gong is a market leader in the space, specifically catering to mature sales teams in enterprises. For early-stage and smaller companies looking at conversation intelligence as a way to get started with sales coaching, MeetRecord is an easy choice – it’s simple to use, and offers high-quality support, customizations, and flexibility for smaller companies.
For a deep dive into these tools, check out this detailed sales coaching tools guide: 12 sales coaching tools you should consider to identify the best tools for you based on your team’s size, maturity, and budget.
Sales Coaching Best Practices: The Key to Coaching a Successful Sales Team
1. Use peer coaching and leverage your top performers
According to a study, today’s employees prefer learning from their colleagues – over other channels such as training courses, YouTube, and Google. This makes peer learning an extremely important approach.
With peer learning, sales reps learn from their colleagues who work in similar conditions and constraints. This shared background and context is key to making this learning far more useful, relatable, and motivating.
2. Use data and sales reps’ inputs to find focus areas
Besides using data to identify areas of improvement, mix things up a little to also learn what your sales reps would like to focus on. Thus gives them a sense of ownership and belonging over their growth.
3. Identify the sales reps who need special attention
Depending on the stage of your business and your team’s unique needs, identify which sales person would benefit most from sales coaching.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, focusing on the middle is highly recommended because a) they have the most to gain b) Give the best return on coaching investment.
Experts state that even a 5% performance improvement of the middle performers can deliver over 91% greater sales than the same improvement in the top 20%.
That being said, you also need to focus on sales reps in the bottom, to ensure that they get the support they need to move to the middle.
4. Finalize how much time you need to dedicate to sales coaching
While there isn’t an industry standard for this, a simple rule of thumb would be to spend over an hour each week on sales coaching. Of companies with effective coaching programs, 61.4% dedicate over an hour per rep each week to coaching.
If you’re not sure how much time to invest in sales coaching, here’s a handy 3-minute read: How much time should a sales manager spend on coaching?
5. Invest in your sales coaches and managers
Not every high-performing sales rep can go straight to coaching. These are two different skill sets. Invest time and training in developing sales managers and coaching – be it through external training, certifications, or consultations.
Sales coaching is one of the biggest aspects of data management. It’s not always easy, but the key is to give it time and attention – the results will show.
We hope this guide helps your team ace sales coaching so they beat their targets, close deals faster, and boost your bottom line.