Sales Coaching: The Best Tool to Improve Sales Performance

sales coaching

Effective Sales Coaching

The evidence continues to mount. Effective sales coaching is the single best tool to improve sales performance. In fact, a survey of more than 2,600 reps and managers from 40 global Fortune 500 companies conducted by SEC Solutions, a leading NASDAQ sales research best practice firm, found that sales teams receiving high-quality coaching are far more likely to improve their performance by up to 20%.

So, what does it take to be an organization known for high-quality sales coaching and outstanding sales results? It takes three things.

  1. A structured sales process is required.
  2. Aligned coaching processes are necessary.
  3. There must be time to coach effectively.

A structured sales process is the foundation for effective coaching. It specifically defines the key selling skills and behaviors that optimize sales rep performance. Furthermore, it defines what needs to be coached.

Seems simple, right? A structured sales process is defined, documented, and trained. All the sales reps need to do is live the Nike slogan. Just do it. But it’s not that simple. Why? Because it requires a change in behavior. Unfortunately, changing behavior is difficult. This is especially true for adults.

sales coaching

Changing behavior does not happen at the organizational level.

Just do it, just doesn’t work. Behavior change happens one sales rep, one sales manager, one sales leader at a time. And it doesn’t happen in totality, it happens one skill, one behavior at a time. That is why clarity and specificity are critical when defining the required skills and behaviors in the sales process.

Sales Coaching: adopting new behaviors is hard work.

It requires patience, practice, and commitment from those being coached, as well as the entire sales organization, to the prescribed sales process. If the commitments and buy-in are not there, coaching efforts will be hit or miss. Coaching will not achieve the optimum result. How do we get the reps to buy in and commit to mastering the sales process?

This answer is simple. We ask them if they intend to buy in. Assess whether the individual is able to affirm that the prescribed sales process is in their best interest. Do they believe they will earn more money by becoming proficient with the process? If not, then coaching efforts will be in vain.

When they agree that the prescribed sales process is in their best interest, they give the coach permission to hold them accountable for utilizing the desired skills and behaviors. This coaching effort has the greatest impact. Gaining buy-in and commitment is critical to coaching success. Achieving a personal goal becomes the motivation. The skills and behaviors documented in the sales process are willingly internalized.

The number one job of a sales manager is to improve rep performance. If so, the aligned sales and coaching processes give them the tools to do that job well. As sales leaders, we must also give them the time they need to coach effectively. Research from the Sales Management Association indicates that less than 25% of a sales manager’s time is spent coaching, no less coaching effectively.

I encourage each of you to ask yourself the following questions. Be brutally honest with your assessments.

  • Does my sales process specifically identify the required skills and behaviors for success?
  • Are my sales and coaching processes aligned?
  • Do my coaches understand the criticality of gaining buy-in and commitment to the sales process from the reps they are coaching?
  • What percentage of my reps currently buy into the sales process?
  • Am I giving my coaches enough time to coach effectively?

We owe it to our sales reps and managers to provide a structured sales process, an aligned coaching process, and the time to coach effectively so they have a fair chance for success. We also owe it to ourselves as sales leaders, our shareholders, and investors so that sales performance can be maximized.

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