Sales coaching is, without exaggeration, one of the most powerful ways to boost your team’s numbers and produce stellar salespeople.
Companies that provide an optimal amount of coaching see 16.7% greater annual revenue growth over those that don’t. That says a lot about the impact a sales coach can have.
And as sales manager, coaching sales is your responsibility. But it’s often a steep learning curve to go from doing to coaching. So I put together 14 best practice coaching techniques and tricks to help you out.
Here we go!
1. Focus on the middle 60%
Performance-wise, your sales team falls into a bell curve.
You have the top 20%.
These are your A players, who regularly hit their numbers.
You also have the bottom 20%. These are either people who are just not getting the sales game, or not getting it yet. They’re at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Every team has top and bottom performers.
But most of your sellers will be somewhere in the middle.
They’re doing OK, some months they hit quota, some months they don’t. Performance is there, but it’s not consistent.
Your top performers are fine – taking someone from 100% quota to 102% quota is awfully difficult for not a lot of payoff.
So the instinct that most managers have is to coach from the bottom up – start with the worst seller, then move up to the next worse performer, and so on.
But that’s also not very efficient. Coaching takes up precious time that managers don’t have, so you need to put your hours where it’s going to drive the most revenue. And while you can coach a square peg into a round hole, it’ll take a long time.
That leaves the middle of the pack. This is where there’s the most upside, since you can improve more people to a higher level, faster. It’s where there’s the most ROI from sales coaching.
2. Coach with data
Everything should be data-led. You need to be using data in your coaching. The data will help you identify areas for potential coaching, and also track the effectiveness of your coaching.
So get to know your rev ops team. Get familiar with your activity levels, conversion rates, and sales velocity metrics. Then communicate that to your sellers, so you know what to improve and they know what you’re coaching them on, and why.
3. Coaching should be results-based
A sales coach needs to have a coaching plan. Don’t go around committing “random acts of coaching”.
And your coaching plan needs to be based on the desired business results.
Look at the main metric that you are trying to move. It will be something like: ‘win rates need to improve from 15% to 20%’ or ‘sales cycles need to reduce from 103 days to 90 days.’
Work backward from there and determine what behaviours your team can change to achieve these goals. For example, are they not running proper discovery? OK then, your coaching can focus there.
Working in this manner addresses the main goal directly, and at the same time shows the executive team that your coaching is moving the needle on the business goals that are most important to them.
Adding structure to coaching (PS: your enablement team can help with this) means that you can begin to create repeatable, scalable coaching as you see the same problems again and again.
4. Keep your reps focused on the right things
It’s easy for reps to spread themselves too thin, particularly if their performance starts to slump or they’re early in their career.
That’s where directed coaching needs to come in. You need to focus them on improving one part of their performance at a time and give them a structured way to do it. You also need to make sure they understand why they’re doing it, so they know what success looks like.
5. Don’t overload your reps
Let’s say you recognize a handful of coaching opportunities for your reps.
Don’t try and address all the issues at once. You’ll end up overloading your reps, and a few issues are sure to fall by the wayside.
Instead, focus on moving the needle on the high-impact issues first, then move on to the next one. When your coaching on these high-impact points sticks, then you can address the other points.
6. Don’t spoon-feed your reps
When you figure out what a rep is doing wrong, don’t come right out and tell them.
Always start with self-coaching.
Help them arrive at it on their own. Usually, in the course of talking about it, they’ll figure out their mistake (and perhaps also figure out how to improve) on their own.
Besides, if you just tell them what to do, chances are they’ll resist accepting it. It’s just human nature.
If you want them to own it, then let them figure it out. Getting your reps to listen and score their own calls is a quick and effective way to get them thinking critically about their own performance.
7. … And THEN show them what “good” looks like
Once your reps have identified their problem and are looking for answers, it’s time to show them what good looks like.
Odds are your reps will get there on their own, but if you can demonstrate, show them an example, and explain what good looks like, they’ll be able to replicate it faster than if they did it on their own.
Then, you have to help them make the new behaviour stick.
8. Use call recordings to coach
Call recording software is possibly the most powerful sales coaching tool today.
You can ask your reps to review their own calls. They could take notes on what they did well and what they didn’t do so well. There’s a goldmine of insight into potential areas for improvement in calls.
You can also review a rep’s calls before your next coaching session with them, or get them to review it and come to you prepared. It will help you determine if they are applying their previous training.
Call recordings are also a more efficient way for you to review how your reps are doing. Shadowing calls is fine, but there is a limited amount of time you can do that, and coordination can also be difficult.
A conversation intelligence tool makes this process a whole lot easier and effective. You won’t have to manually sift through a bunch of call recordings to find what you’re looking for to focus on specific things. For example, you can search your calls for a specific objection, then review those calls and those calls only.
Conversation intelligence tools can also give you tons of insights at the click of a button, thereby saving you time and empowering you with data.
Our integration with Gong brings conversation intelligence and structured coaching to revenue outcomes together. That’s a lot of power in your hands.
9. Keep your reps challenged
A good coach sets high standards and keeps moving the goal post forward. That’s how teams get better!
The trick is to create a challenging but not necessarily overwhelming environment. Reps will move on if they are not learning, or if they’re burning out from wildly unrealistic expectations.
10. Measure what you want to improve
There’s really no point in giving your reps coaching and just sending them on their merry way.
You need to track their performance on the metrics that you are trying to change. Benchmark them before the coaching, and watch their improvement over time.
Nearly the entire sales process is digitized, so everything the rep does can be captured in a tool. Use the data to your advantage.
If you aren’t tracking whether your reps are improving and by how much, then your coaching is more or less a waste.
11. Leverage your best sales reps
Coaching doesn’t necessarily always need to be led by the sales coach.
Your top performers are a treasure trove of knowledge.
What are they doing differently? How are they going about objections? What winning tactics do they use?
Identify what makes them top performers, and ask them to share it with the team. Get them to record a short 1-2 minute video of themselves on a very precise thing, like handling a specific objection.
This puts them in the limelight and increases their visibility to the top brass, besides showing that they are team players. It’s a win-win situation.
12. Individualize your approach
Not every rep is the same.
A good sales coach knows their reps’ idiosyncrasies. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they know what they respond to the best.
Of course, there are times when you’ll need to train a group of reps together. But when coaching is fundamentally about a one-on-one, tailored approach to each individual based.
13. Learn what motivates your team
If money were all it took to motivate people, then we wouldn’t need managers.
But that’s not a reality. Part of leadership is understanding what motivates people. Of course, you already know that!
Simply asking your reps what motivates them and what direction they want their career to go can reveal a lot about their plans, desires, and dreams, and gives you a better understanding of how to get them there.
By tapping into that, you can understand how to frame the sales function as a stepping stone for them.
14. Build a coaching culture
This is something that happens over time.
You want coaching to be seen as a necessary function, not a task that a manager has to do.
The team always has scope to improve. You want to turn B-players into A-players. You want your reps to get better, for the team and for themselves.
For new recruits that come in, you want them to know that you are going to invest in them.
For executive leadership, you want them to see coaching as essential to the growth of the company (because it is).
This will happen when you bring in positive energy day in and day out, and show that your coaching is aligned with business objectives and has a positive impact on numbers.
Wrap up and summary
Things are changing. Sellers want managers to make an investment in them, and to make them better. They’re eager to learn and to grow. Without this investment in them, they will move on.
There’s no secret formula to being a great sales coach. It’s all about bringing your best knowledge forward and caring about people. The rest of it is playing it by ear.
Once again, here are the 14 sales coaching tips to implement in your coaching strategy:
- Focus on the middle 60%
- Coach with data
- Coaching should be results-based
- Keep your reps focused on the right things
- Don’t overload your reps
- Don’t spoon-feed your reps
- … And THEN show them what “good” looks like
- Use call recordings to coach
- Keep your reps challenged
- Measure what you want to improve
- Leverage your best sales reps
- Individualize your approach
- Learn what motivates your team
- Build a coaching culture