Most likely, you’re throwing your money away on sales coaching. And you’re not alone.
It takes intentionality and a strategy to help your sales reps sell effectively and become as successful as possible. According to research, 75% of sales organizations waste resources due to random and informal coaching approaches. If you don’t have a plan for sales coaching, you’re most likely failing.
Many sales managers got to their position because they were successful sales reps. That does not automatically translate, though, to the leadership and coaching skills required to lead a successful team.
As a result, they may not realize or possess the skills to effectively coach their teams. However, sales coaching is a critical component of sales team success. The same study above also found that companies with an effective sales coaching program have 28% higher win rates than those who don’t.
So what does it take to coach a team to success? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about sales coaching, including what it is, tips to improve your coaching process, and templates to help you coach your team.
What is Sales Coaching?
Managers use sales coaching to help sales reps improve their performance and achieve their goals. It is an ongoing process after onboarding to continue training reps and to provide the necessary instruction to make sure they continue to learn and grow in their sales position.
Sales coaching requires assessing areas of strength for each salesperson, as well as where they need improvement. Managers or coaches provide feedback that allows them to develop their skills and improve their behaviors to achieve their sales goals.
Sales coaching also serves to strengthen the sales manager-rep relationship. Especially in outside sales, reps can become independent and lose a vital connection with leadership. Sales coaching allows them the space to discuss any concerns and ensures that they are on the same page.
Good versus Bad Sales Coaching: Do Your Homework
So what separates coaching that is helpful versus coaching that is just wasting everyone’s time?
As the statistic from the introduction, not all coaching is equal. While almost half of all managers state that they spend between 30-60 minutes individually coaching reps, that doesn’t mean they’re doing it well.
One of the most effective characteristics of good versus bad coaching is doing your homework. During my sales days, my favorite managers would look at what I had going on before sitting down with me. They would know what was currently in the pipeline, what deals I was working on, and what accounts or prospects I was targeting.
Good sales managers came to the meeting with the homework done to start getting into the important topics immediately. They would then be able to ask about what my approaches and next steps were for my prospects. We would strategize together on how to progress the deal, account or relationship.
In contrast, my worst managers began each meeting with, “So, what have you been up to?”
We would waste precious time as I’d catch them up to speed. They didn’t have time to come up with actionable advice or strategy. Instead, they would have to come up with solutions and ideas on the spot, which are rarely the best approach to any situation.
Sales coaching needs to be tailored and individualized to fit where their rep is on their sales journey. Without a specific understanding of where they are, you cannot effectively coach them.
Sales Coaching Tips: How to Improve Your Coaching
Doing your homework as a sales coach means understanding who and what you should concentrate on coaching.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your time coaching sales reps:
Coach the Right Reps
Often managers focus their time and energy coaching the least effective people. They are tempted to spend most of their time coaching the low and top performers. In reality, though, the reps that could benefit the most from their coaching are the middle performers.
Often, managers worry about their low performers. They fear that they will drag down the team and figure that these reps have nowhere to go but up. However, bottom performers are often that way because they are a poor fit for the position. No amount of coaching can correct someone who is just not the right fit.
Instead of concentrating on coaching reps who can’t or won’t perform, managers may need to focus on getting them out of a position that’s not working for them.
The other group that managers tend to spend their time with are the top performers. The same characteristics that make them high performers are also what makes them easy to coach. The star reps are usually willing to learn while still knowledgeable. The top sales reps can also be an ego stroke for managers: they want to believe they’re essential to the rep’s accomplishments.
However, top sales reps are often limited in how much better they can actually do. There’s only so much a manager can teach them, and even then, it might not make a significant difference in their sales.
Instead, take the time to help the reps that can actually benefit the most from your coaching. The salespeople somewhere in the middle have the right skills and fit for the company, but they still have room for growth. They could use actionable advice and can dramatically improve from the right coaching.
Researchers Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson refer to this group as the “middle 60%.” They are the ones that can benefit the most from sales coaching and are worth spending time to help develop their skills.
Gather Your Data
There are a number of sales topics you can tackle and approaches to take with coaching. It can end up being overwhelming for leadership. Plus, sales coaching is not a one-size-fits-all. What helps and inspires one rep may not do anything for another. The challenges for one salesperson may not be for another.
How do you know which is suitable for your sales rep? Take a look at their data.
Don’t rely on your gut on where you think your reps need help. Instead, take a look at their metrics. Dig deeper than their opportunity-win rate to see exactly what part of the sales process might be challenging for them. It can help give you a more detailed look into where you can offer help. For example, looking into their demo-to-close rate or average order size might give you more insights on exactly what part of the process is causing their numbers to suffer.
Your CRM and sales software can give you some of these insights. The right software not only allows you to check their KPIs but will also provide insights into what activities the rep is doing. In the middle of a sales coaching meeting, it is easy to forget every question. If you bring up a specific deal or customer, they may not remember all of the details. Software that allows them to log activities and take notes will be a valuable tool to ensure that every topic or question is covered.
Some CRMs allow reps to write notes for their customers. HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zoho all offer note taking features directly on their software. However, there are also times where reps need the ability to take prospect notes out in the field. Map My Customers offers light features so your sales team can take their technology with them and log information from anywhere. It’s a convenient way to take notes out on the road.
Leadership can also ensure rep accountability with weekly meetings. You can use meetings as a chance to make sure salespeople are putting in data accurately and thoroughly. With templates, you can track performance and ensure they have clean data.
Reviewing activities and notes can also help a sales coach prepare ahead of time to tackle questions or develop an action plan. You can go into the conversation with an idea of where your reps are missing opportunities to better connect with their prospects and additional insights that KPIs alone cannot give you.
Create a Larger Vision
Getting sales rep buy-in is essential in successful coaching. While it can be effective, monetary compensation can only go so far when inspiring your sales team. They need to feel as though they are contributing to the company and a part of a team.
To get the most buy-in and inspiration, create specific and exciting goals for the sales team to get behind.
Some examples can include breaking a company or industry record or gaining an industry reputation. Make your team feel as though they are a part of something bigger and that they can be proud of in the long run.
Share your vision with your team and praise those who are helping you meet these goals. Share the team’s progress towards your objectives when you meet with your sales reps.
Get Rep Feedback
While you may have specific goals and challenges to work on with your sales rep, a critical part of coaching is supporting and energizing them. Your coaching sessions should motivate them to continue growing, changing, and getting out of their comfort zone.
Ask your sales reps what their goals and motivation for becoming better. More likely than not, their motivation will be financial incentives but dig deeper to find out why. Some may want to pay off their student loans, while others need to pay their mortgages or their kids’ schooling. Help them to concentrate on these larger goals to strive harder.
The goal of sales coaching is to encourage behavior change. You need the right motivation to do that.
Throughout your meeting, take some time to ask open-ended questions, such as:
- How do you feel about our plan?
- Does anything need clarification?
- Is there anything else you would like to address?
Get them to open up to ensure they understand what they need to do and the concepts you're discussing with them. Be sure that you offer feedback and encouragement. Provide more positive than negative feedback to leave them feeling inspired rather than discouraged.
Sales coaching is not a one-time endeavor. It is dynamic and ongoing to provide real support to sales reps. As their deals and prospects progress, your industry changes, and the company continues to grow, the help your sales reps need will change. Continue to follow up with them to ensure they continue to increase their skills and knowledge to become a top performer.
Motivation and inspiration can quickly fade. Ongoing support and meetings will help ensure that your reps stay motivated. It also allows you to find out if the strategies you discussed are working or not. You can then come up with new ideas if they are not.
Plan on maintaining weekly meetings with your sales reps. Create a weekly reminder with set sales meetings agendas for both you and your reps to plan on attending. Plan on each session taking between 30-60 minutes depending on how much there is to discuss and their level of experience.
Templates are a great way to ensure that meetings are consistent each week. It can also provide a touch point to compare performance and track for improvement over time.
Sales Meeting Templates
Besides having the right software to track your sales reps and allowing them to take notes, sales meeting templates can help you streamline the coaching process.
Here are some free templates to use for your next meeting:
Template offers a number of free sales meeting templates that you can download in Word, Google Docs, Apple Pages, or PDF. They offer a few styles for you to download whichever best appeals to you. Not only do they have templates for weekly meetings, but they also provide yearly reviews and sales plans to help your sales reps come up with personal goals to reach for and discuss each week.
During your meetings, your reps could benefit from getting tangible resources to help them create goals, come up with action plans, and get helpful information. This is especially true in the beginning when onboarding new sales reps.
HubSpot offers a variety of free resources for your sales meetings, especially for new sales reps. Some of their templates include coming up with 30/60/90-day sales goals, onboarding plans, and compensation calculators to find the best monetary motivation for your sales reps. They also offer proven email templates to help your sales reps improve their email communication.
SampleTemplates offer a variety of templates to choose from for your team. They come in Google Docs, Word, PDF, and Pages formats for whatever works best for you. Because each industry and company have different market trends and industry norms, their templates are easy to edit and modify as needed.
When it comes to learning how to coach sales reps successfully, it helps to follow in the steps of the best. Ambition offers free ready-to-use templates that were created and are used by some of the top companies around. You can see the exact questions that experts ask to help inspire their sales reps and improve their performance.
Ambition’s templates are popular and get thousands of downloads each year. They allow you to take advice from the best to make the templates your own.
Your coaching template does not have to be overly complicated to work well for your team. Close offers a simple checklist to help keep you on track during your sales meetings. This template helps ensure that your sessions are meaningful while still giving you the flexibility to make the meeting all your own.
Improve Your Team With Better Sales Coaching
Don’t throw your time and resources away with poor sales coaching. Instead, do your homework ahead of time to ensure you’re actually helping your reps exactly where they are at in their sales career. Find the right members of your sales team to coach, use tools to figure out where they need help, and provide them with the right motivation and support.
The more effort you put into sales coaching, the bigger return you will get in a well-trained and motivated team.