Optimizing your sales team is an endeavor with constantly moving goalposts. Unfortunately, there seems to be no clear-cut path to success that works for every sales team.
One of the most effective and often ignored tools for success and optimizing the team is sales coaching or mentoring (vs. the classic and passive act of hiring an outside sales trainer.)
While some sales reps are born naturals, the majority need a great deal of help to unleash their true potential. Effective sales coaching is an elusive tool with far-reaching benefits, if you know how to do it.
Over the course of a 30-year career in sales, I’ve experienced first-hand both great and abysmal coaching tactics. I’ve played a hand in training countless reps under me and helped them to grow as salespeople.
In this article, I will outline what sales coaching is, the benefits thereof, and how to do it effectively.
What is Sales Coaching?
In its most basic form, sales coaching is the process of mentoring and developing a sales rep to the point where they become an effective sales pro who can command a sales call and exceeds quota. This is done through a one-on-one process with an experienced sales leader or top performer.
Good sales coaching techniques will help reps to identify their strengths and weaknesses, improve their sales tactics, feel more confident, and ultimately close more deals.
Sales coaching is often confused with “sales training” or “teaching.” Here at Altus, we believe coaching is on another plane altogether.
To give an analogy, it might help to imagine the difference between a school teacher and a sports coach. The teacher will tell you everything you need to know to pass an exam, but in the end, you probably aren’t going to grow as a person for having learned it. On the other hand, a sports coach is going onto the field with you and will guide you while you are actually performing or practicing to ensure you win.
“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” — Timothy Gallwey, author of The Inner Game.
Sales training can teach fundamentals to a group of listeners, but sales coaching focuses on an individual using a hands-on approach and live scenarios.
What Are The Benefits of Sales Coaching?
If you’re not sure about the benefits of proper sales coaching, you just have to compare a team of new sales reps versus a team of veteran reps. Coaching turns new “green” reps into veterans exceedingly faster than learning on their own through trial and error.
Some of the benefits of sales coaching include:
- Boosting revenue growth. As each individual rep becomes a better salesperson, the business as a whole becomes more successful. Brainshark.com reports that companies with a dynamic coaching program achieve 28% higher win rates. Could you imagine your team becoming nearly 30% more effective after systematic sales coaching?
- Improving company atmosphere. Everyone wants to be a part of a winning team. As a team becomes more successful, mood improves, as does healthy competition. A rising tide lifts all boats. If veteran salespeople are training their less experienced peers, everyone benefits.
- Increasing employee retention. Losing employees — especially experienced ones — can be a huge cost, reduce revenue, slow momentum and often affect company morale. More than two-thirds of employees reporting to a manager who is not a good coach are considering quitting their jobs. Employees want to know that they are being invested in; they want to grow and learn. Effective sales coaching not only improves sales, it keeps your reps with you for longer.
- Helping individuals to grow as salespeople. A good sales coach can help reps overcome hurdles and learn lessons that they might not be able to on their own.
3 Ways to Coach Effectively
While coaching effectively may not come naturally to everyone, its not hard to learn — and remember, a coach doesn’t have to be a manager or a boss. Successful reps and otherwise experienced peers can do wonders when it comes to training a rep who is new or struggling.
1. Lead by Example
One of the best ways to coach effectively is to lead by example. Include new reps in your sales calls and show them how you interact with your clients. It’s one thing to tell a rep that you should be personable and friendly, and another to actually show them how you build those relationships. Introducing them as part of your program, or orientation also leaves a good impression with customers and it takes zero extra time from your schedule.
2. Roleplay and Practice Extensively
Even if a new rep has come with you on a number of sales calls, they might not yet feel confident speaking with clients. For this reason, you should roleplay sales calls with them and practice what they will say, and let them get used to how they should act. Like the “sports coach” analogy, where a team only spends a small fraction of their time on game day; the great majority of their time should be spent roleplaying the big game and practicing how they are going to win. Very few professionals ‘wing it’ the big day expecting their raw skill will earn them success.
3. Mix “Old School” With “New School”
While many teams today interact through video conferencing, nothing takes the place of face-to-face. It’s important to incorporate the “old school” methods of spending time in person with your peers and customers with the “new school” technology now available to us. Here at Altus, we believe that we have the duty of incorporating new AI programs such as Gong and Chorus into our coaching efforts. These technologies make it possible to scale coaching and allow one experienced leader to coach more reps with less time and more data. These programs record sales calls and data points that make it easier for sales leaders to coach their team members using metrics that indicate the difference between good and bad sales calls.
Is Every Rep Coachable?
Unfortunately, not all sales reps are coachable — but that doesn’t mean you should give up so easily. Some new green reps have great potential, and some reps who already have years under their belt still just don’t have what it takes. You may only be able to find out which is which after repeated coaching sessions over time.
When I served as president of one of the largest distributors for Zimmer Orthopedics, I learned that if a rep has been coached time and time again with limited progress, it could mean that they don’t have the right personality for it; it may be time to cut your losses. Some personalities just won’t fit in well in your sales team, no matter how hard you try.
The more time you spend on a sales rep who has the wrong personality, the more time you will lose that could be spent on a different rep that could succeed much more quickly.
This simple fact is why Altus recommends dynamic personality testing during the hiring phase to further decrease employee turnover rate.
Coaching Sales Reps Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Sales performance often depends on effective sales mentoring and training programs that arm team members with the tools they need to succeed. Great coaches are top performers or sales leaders that bridge the gap between mentors and mentees to create a sales team that is truly productive and effective.
Coaching is an important step of sales team optimization, but it isn’t the only one. Altus Alliance helps businesses optimize their sales forces and grow their revenue with a systematic approach that allows you to overcome your unique challenges and needs by utilizing our proven High-Performance Revenue methodology.
If you need help with sales team coaching or any other aspect of sales growth, Altus can fill the gaps in your team with our operational expertise in sales.