Many companies have programs to onboard and train new salespeople. These programs provide foundational training, but once they are completed, employees are often left to navigate the ins and outs of selling –and evolving messaging and selling points—all on their own. This especially true in today’s hybrid workplaces, where sales trainers who can’t work side-by-side with reps feel less effective because they can’t observe reps in action. Coaching ensures salespeople receive the ongoing training and reinforcement needed to meet personal and team goals. With the right coach, the sales rep—and the company—can not only grow, they can thrive.
What Is Sales Coaching?
Effective sales coaching goes well beyond telling sales reps what to do or how to do it. Today, effective sales coaches create a learning environment where salespeople feel motivated to learn and grow in their roles. Whether delivered virtually, in-person, or a mix of both, this type of coaching gives salespeople the knowledge and confidence they need to achieve personal and team goals while contributing to the success of their organization.
Why Is Sales Coaching Important?
Important Sales Coaching Skills to Have
Listening is a critical skill for any sales coach. Listening in on real-world selling situations—either sitting next to the salesperson, listening remotely, or reviewing a recording—provides the coach with valuable insight. They can hear how the sales rep approaches specific sales situations and better understand the rep’s sales competency and skill gaps. Active listening provides the coach with the data they need to help this and other sales reps improve outcomes.
Asking the Right Questions
If coaches are to improve their sales reps’ performance, they need to ask the right questions. Asking the rep specific questions about what went well on a call—and more importantly, what didn’t go well—begins a dialog that creates a mutual understanding of how the sales rep can grow their skills and achieve even better results. This dialog strengthens the partnership between the sales rep and the coach.
Providing Actionable Feedback
Feedback that is too vague can confuse and overwhelm the sales rep and negatively impact what the coach is trying to do. Using input from their conversations and observations with the sales rep, sales coaches are better able to provide relevant, targeted feedback that supports the sales process. When this feedback is delivered in small, actionable bites of content like a short video clip, the rep can better understand what they need to focus on and how to implement changes into their sales situations.
Assisting with Goal Setting
Effective sales coaches set realistic, measurable goals that provide sales reps with a clear understanding of what they need to do to be successful. Start by looking at the organization’s overall sales goals, then break down what each rep needs to do to support that goal. For example, if your organization has set a goal of closing 100 new deals in the quarter, each sales rep will have a specific, realistic number of deals they are responsible for closing. The coach can then work with each salesperson to develop an action plan of the activities needed to meet their particular goals while contributing to the company’s overall success.
Creating Structure for Feedback
Using the previously mentioned skills gives coaches valuable information they can use to improve sales activity and results. But to be effective, the sales coach needs to create a structure for harnessing that data and delivering it back to the sales rep. Sales managers should schedule weekly meetings with their salespeople to discuss sales activity and provide data-driven coaching. Good coaches also find ways to share real-time feedback between meetings, ensuring the salesperson has the input they need to advance each step of the sales process. This feedback can be shared in-person or virtually through interactive video clips and updates.
Examples of Sales Coaching
The sales coach should set up regular one-on-one meetings to discuss personal and business topics with their salespeople. The business conversations can include updates on customers and prospects, pipeline progress, and market or industry trends. Personal updates can highlight any challenges the rep is experiencing (this is especially important in these days of remote work) and discussions on where they need help. It is essential to hold these meetings regularly and that both parties make it a priority to plan for, attend, and participate in these meetings.
Sales Call Evaluation
No matter where you are in the sales process, calls with the prospect play a key role in closing the deal. By listening in on the sales call (sitting next to the salesperson or by listening virtually), a coach ensures the salesperson is sharing the right information and the right time in the style needed to advance the sale. The coach can learn what the rep is doing well and share that success with the rep and the larger sales team. Conversely, if there are parts of the sales call that need improvement, the sales coach can provide real-time, precise feedback that helps the rep to improve and makes the sale.
The sales profession is one that traditionally experiences high turnover. To attract and keep good salespeople, coaches need to learn what skills a rep has today and how they want to grow those skills in the future. These conversations help the manager to match professional and personal opportunities to the rep’s interest. This understanding doesn’t happen overnight, but in time, the sales coach can play a crucial role in helping the sales rep gather the skills needed to take the next step in their careers.
Virtual, onsite, or hybrid team meetings are an opportunity to promote communication and a sense of connectedness between salespeople. Creating this type of connection is especially important in these days of remote selling. Teams can discuss best practices, industry trends, competition and share successful selling strategies. These meetings also allow the sales coach to provide consistent updates to the entire team, ensuring all reps can access the most up-to-date practices and information.
Sales Coaching Benefits
Close More Deals
While all deals have similar components, each sale is bound to have its own twists and turns. Sales coaching helps reps master each step of the sales process—from assessing the quality of their leads to evaluating their presentation skills to closing even the most challenging prospect. With the right coaching, sales reps can move forward with more confidence and ultimately close more deals.
Generate Higher Revenue
Effective sales coaching gives managers greater insight into how each rep is performing. The coach is better able to reinforce positive behaviors and correct negative behaviors before it impacts the sale. As a result, sales reps perform at a higher level, closing more deals and generating higher revenue for the organization.
Attract and Retain New Hires
When looking for work, many salespeople are drawn to companies that will invest in their training. This trend is especially true for entry-level salespeople who are just starting in their career or industry. Coaching is a proven way to attract—and keep—these employees. Providing ongoing feedback on what these reps are doing well and how they can improve keeps them engaged and enthusiastic about their work.
Create a Cohesive Team
Great sales coaching goes beyond just helping one person succeed. When coaches provide the support, information, and encouragement teams need to become a unified group, everybody wins. Salespeople go beyond individual success and share insight, knowledge and information that helps their team succeed.
Sales Coaching Challenges
Managers Don’t Know How to Coach
While most managers (many of them former salespeople) already have the skills, knowledge, and other attributes needed to be good coaches, many don’t know how to coach. These managers often fall back on telling a rep what to do rather than coaching them to improve. This practice of telling salespeople what to do has become a particular problem in these days of remote work. To become a successful coach, managers must use a combination of tools and resources to develop a structured program that teaches the specific skills and behaviors salespeople need to learn to create positive outcomes.
Managers Don’t Have Time to Coach
Most sales managers have between eight to 12 direct reports, and it is often difficult to find time to develop a coaching plan for every one of them—especially when teams are working remotely. Research shows that sales leaders spend slightly less than 20 percent of their time coaching and that some sales managers only meet with their reps once a month. This lack of involvement leads to “after the fact” coaching when the manager meets with the rep shortly before closing or after losing a deal, often when it is too late.
Managers Coach the Wrong People
Research in the Harvard Business Review showed that many managers skew their coaching efforts toward the best and worst performers. But even with the manager’s focus, neither the top sellers nor the underperformers showed any improvement due to coaching. The research reports that it’s the reps in the middle—the core of most sales teams—that are most likely to benefit from high-quality coaching.
Managers Focus on Results Instead of Skills
When a rep falters, it shows up in the results. But you can’t coach to results. Changing behavior requires incremental change via role-playing and reinforcement. When sales managers focus on competencies, they can identify and improve the individual skills that lead to successful selling. A training program that includes personalized assessments, reinforcement, and analytics allows sales managers to track their team’s competencies over time and fine-tune coaching efforts to focus on the greatest areas of need.
Managers Can’t Always Coach In-Person
More and more, sales teams are located virtually, in different locations, or partially in-person. With distributed teams becoming the norm, many coaches aren’t able to coach in person. Sales organizations respond to this trend by adopting video conferencing and other virtual sales tools. Still, these different locations, time zones, and individual learning styles make live face-to-face coaching challenging to coordinate. That’s because effective coaching requires the coach to work side-by-side and observe their teams in action – even when they are a distributed team.
Sales Coaching Techniques
Develop a Goal-Focused Coaching Plan
A good coach starts with a plan, and this is especially true with sales coaching. The manager should develop a plan for every rep that identifies two or three essential skills or behaviors that need improvement, such as managing objections or staying “on message.” Even if the rep has a long list of skills and behaviors that need improvement, the coach should only focus on the most critical skills. Once these areas have been mastered, the coach can add new topics for the rep to tackle.
Observe Sales Calls
A good coach will observe (or listen in remotely) the reps’ sales calls. On these calls, the coach’s job is to assess the reps’ progress or baseline skills, not to close the deals. That means allowing the rep to make their pitches, answer questions and handle any objections without interjecting. It’s okay to guide reps on topics and messages they should cover, but it’s not okay to take over the meeting.
Evaluate Sales Call Performance
Once sales calls are over, coaches should evaluate the reps’ performance. Although many managers will want to immediately critique what went wrong or what the rep could have done better, they need to hold off. Instead of criticizing the performance, start by talking about what the rep did right. Then, ask questions that will allow the salesperson to “self-discover” what they did wrong and how they could improve.
Increase Peer-to-Peer Collaboration
Effective coaches know they don’t have to do it all themselves. Leveraging the power of peer-to-peer collaboration provides high-quality, alternative coaching to remote teams. Letting high performers share best practices with others eases the coaching burden for managers while increasing the velocity in which the field adopts new ideas. This type of collaborative coaching environment—where peers play a vital role in sharing best practices—is critical for ongoing organizational success. Organizations need to invest in resources and processes that formalize the sharing of important, reliable sales information that can be made immediately available to the reps.
Tips to Improve Sales Team Performance
Provide Training and Best Practices
Good coaches are the ones who invest in the development of their teams. So, in addition to individual coaching, be sure your team has access to regular training sessions. These sessions can be held in-person or through virtual sales training. Key areas to cover include: products and services, sales processes, and best practices. In addition to keeping your team informed, this type of training also helps retain employees and supports middle performers as they grow to become top sellers.
Share the Knowledge
Your sales team has a wealth of knowledge: a winning pitch, a new deck, feedback on the market, competitive information. Sharing that peer-to-peer wisdom is critical to your organization’s success, so be sure to provide resources that enable teams to share what they know.
Facilitate Informal Sharing of Information
Not all sales coaching needs to be shared using formal processes. Create systems that allow coaches and salespeople to quickly and easily share content. For example, you can use video to create quick updates of information on a new competitor, a winning sales pitch, or even a supportive message of encouragement. Making this process simple and easy to use ensures it will be actively used by sales reps and coaches.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Sales leaders and reps prefer in-person coaching, but time zones and geography make live face-to-face activities difficult to coordinate. Organizations need tech solutions that support both formal and ad hoc coaching for reps and managers to hone skills and prepare for selling situations.
Sales coaching software solutions that incorporate recorded video are a great way to replicate the face-to-face experience in an asynchronous way. Such solutions allow coaches to provide effective point-in-time feedback, removing time and distance limitations.
Conversation intelligence software is also a powerful tool that gives coaches actionable insight into sales reps’ calls, helping individual reps overcome their unique challenges and raising overall team performance. Conversation intelligence uses artificial intelligence (AI) to record, transcribe, and analyze sales calls to generate recommendations—powering every aspect of sales enablement with data-driven insights into performance.
With access to data from conversation intelligence, sales coaches can identify skill gaps, pinpoint where revenue is won or lost, prescribe training to fix specific behaviors that lose deals, extract best practices for the entire sales team, and keep deals moving through the pipeline.
Making Sales Coaching Effective With Allego
Successful sales coaches have discovered that asynchronous video combined with conversation intelligence is the best way to coach and provide feedback to their hybrid sales teams.
Asynchronous video gives coaches the flexibility to provide real-time feedback and collaboration anytime, from any location. While conversation intelligence lets them observe exactly how their sellers interact with buyers in the field, the precise language they use, how they describe the company’s value proposition, and how they handle (or don’t handle) objections.
For example, Allego’s sales learning and enablement platform offers mobile access and video-based technology that maximizes the impact and time of a sales coach. Whether it’s an existing product or service or a completely new offering, Allego facilitates quality training between coaches and teams.
Coaches can then use conversation intelligence to get data-driven insights to help validate sales learning effectiveness, identify areas that sellers must improve, and gain a new source of training content.
By knowing exactly where to focus their efforts, coaches are more effective—and efficient. And they have more time to focus on the most important things: motivating their teams, strategic planning, and driving revenue growth. From their home or office, coaches can accomplish as much as they would on an in-person ride-along.
Here are five ways coaches can use asynchronous video and conversation intelligence to improve their virtual coaching:
1. Prep and mentor the sales team
Create a short video asking for each rep to record and submit their version of how they handle a specific objection or selling situation. Coaches can review and select the best pitch, then share that video with the whole team as an example of what “good” looks like.
2. Drive skills practice and coaching for new products
Use flashcard drills to reinforce long-term and short-term expertise on product knowledge. Coaches can use the results of these drills to track expertise level and target future quizzes, exams, courses, and coaching.
3. Deliver just-in-time competitive intelligence sharing
Build a library of short videos that reps can access between sales calls for a refresher on anything from product features to regulatory information. Videos can highlight best practices, insights from the field, tips on objection handling, and customer stories.
4. Provide remote training and certification
Evaluate and certify sales reps without the challenges of travel, scheduling logistics, or connectivity. After viewing a certification submission, coaches can provide in-video feedback and provide a standardized assessment with a customizable criteria scorecard.
5. Drive message consistency
Use Allego to share new product messaging, give assignments, and evaluate how reps deliver their pitch. Use conversation intelligence to analyze reps’ video exercises and sales calls to evaluate how reps deliver messaging and product information.
- Coaches can also use conversation intelligence to:
- Consistently assess every sales rep, regardless of location, to determine if they are achieving the necessary competencies for each stage of the buying cycle
- Identify mistakes sales reps make during calls, uncover missed opportunities, and analyze best practices using actual call data
- Get an at-a-glance summary of reps who need attention
- Deliver personalized coaching recommendations, exercises, quizzes, and remedial learning content to help reps improve
- Uncover and understand skills gaps at an individual level, as well as the team level
- Spotlight top performers’ best practices, identify trends, and improve forecasting
Are you adapting your coaching to make sure reps can close deals virtually?