Sales Coaching Program – A 3 Step Guide


  • A sales coaching program applies insights, dialogue, collaboration, feedback and repetition to improve staff performance.
  • Managers apply coaching to elevate performance for each rep and deliver the biggest financial upside from the salesforce.
  • Successful sales coaching programs do not occur by happenstance. They are intentional. They are born from a plan, pursued with rigor and follow an evolutional model.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

A 3 Step Guide to Implement a Sales Coaching Program

Sales coaching research shows that formal and regular sales coaching programs deliver sustained ROI and improve opportunity win rates, salesforce quota attainment, year over year revenue growth and staff tenure.

But achieving these types of performance results requires a process. Here are the three essential steps to rolling out a successful sales coaching program.


Identify Who to Coach

Sales managers have limited time and must decide how to allocate that time to achieve the best results.

Sales coaching statistics show that for most companies, about 20 percent of the salesforce delivers just over 60% of the revenues. Understanding this figure is important when targeting coaching.

The top 20 percent are often lone wolfs and content to operate autonomously. However, they embrace knowledge and are willing to engage in programs to improve their individual performance and career success. Because they bring in the most revenue, even small performance improvements result in big financial gains. This group also achieves results in shorter periods.

The middle 60 percent offer the single biggest upside challenge and opportunity. The challenge comes from the fact that they are not in the top 20 percent and are often okay with that. For many in this group, if they are not in the bottom 20 percent, they feel safe and become complacent. Most will not self-initiate change, so it becomes critical that their managers inspire the need for change.

Sales Coaching

Because this group is the largest in number it offers the biggest revenue uplift. This group also fills the vacancies left by the top 20 percent who leave voluntarily as well as the bottom 20 percent who leave for other reasons. Treating the middle 60 percent as a farm team will help managers prevent reps from falling into the bottom tier and identify up and comers to replace the inevitable loss of top producers.

Too many managers spend the bulk of their time managing the bottom 20 percent. It's understandable as this is where the biggest challenges and problems reside. But it's a poor choice in terms of time allocation and does not deliver the biggest revenue impact.

A study by the Sales Executive Council reported that a 5 percent increase from the middle 60 percent of the salesforce delivers 80 percent more revenue than a 5 percent increase from the top 10 percent of salespeople.


Identify The High Impact Opportunities

Managers need to figure out where each rep needs help.

This is best done with data-driven insights that show trends and peer comparisons for critical metrics such as lead to opportunity conversions or opportunity to sale conversions. These insights are most often delivered in CRM coaching dashboards.

For most sellers, the five biggest uplift opportunities include the following:

  • Strategic Sale Methodology
    Sellers with optimized sale methodologies achieve an 11 percent higher win rate than those with informal methods. Success is further maximized when an optimized sale methodology is integrated with a predictable selling process and CRM software. These three components create the sales trifecta and increase win rates 6 percent above sale methodologies alone.
  • Sales Process Optimization
    Predictable selling processes shorten new-hire onboarding periods, focus limited time on the right deals, accelerate sales cycles, improve forecasting and most importantly, increase the opportunity win rate. There are multiple steps in the process, such as those shown below. Each step is worthy of periodic coaching review and improvement.
Sales Process Map

The symbiotic combination of your sale methodology and predictable sales process are often the most influential factors in improving performance.

  • Selling Activities
    The key here is to focus on the activities that advance sale opportunities and drive outcomes.

Activities include things like lead prioritization, buyer messaging (i.e., brand promise, unique value proposition or objection handling) and sales call or presentation preparation. All of these things should be considered in the context of improving sales productivity.

Highly repetitive activities should shoot for perfection. Even simple things such as email correspondence and leaving voice messages should be periodically reviewed. Shadowing or listening to phone calls with prospects can invite small improvements that get applied many times over.

  • Forecasting
    Too often emotional attachment or seller strategies built on hope inflate the forecast, miss expectations, and create downstream problems. Coaching is needed to shift deal forecasting from wishful thinking to data driven projections.
  • Strategic Account Management (SAM)
    Once a customer is acquired reps need guidance to grow existing customer share and customer lifetime value. This might be achieved with a customer strategy such as Customer Experience Management or as part of a Strategic Account Management program.

Define the Journey

This type of management program is a journey of continuous improvements. Recognizing how the journey evolves aids planning and sets realistic expectations. The journey is illustrated in the below Sales Coaching Maturity Model.

Sales Coaching Maturity Model

At the Lagging Level mentoring is individually implemented by each manager, many of whom show good intent but lack a defined process. Some managers wing it while others apply a laissez-faire approach.

Managers instinctually know staff guidance helps but there is a lack of understanding in how sales coaching solutions directly impact revenue results. At this level the program tends to focus on simple but important messaging (i.e., elevator pitch, value propositions). It also tends to be somewhat random and falls by the wayside when faced with time constraints and competing priorities.

At the Achieving Level the program has evolved from a good idea to a mandate. However, while there is now a consistent process it is infrequently performed and not measured. Managers begin to use technology to surface the most needed opportunities or topics for each rep.

At the Leading Level the program is built on a methodology, data driven and frequently measured. It starts with rep onboarding and is embedded in the culture. The process itself is measured and managers receive recurring training. Managers deliver frequent reviews, many of which are unscheduled and triggered in real-time by activities or events. Continuous feedback is the norm.

At the Exceeding Level the program can measure KPIs in real-time and replicate the actions and behaviors of the top producers. Managers adopt benchmarks and best practices and frequently use Playbooks to deliver lessons or insights contextually in the sales cycle using CRM software. This makes coaching experiential and drives continuous process improvements.

At this level, coaches have taught sellers how to solve their own problems and assume the primary responsibility for a journey of performance improvements. Sales coaches are still important, but the reps are accountable for their progress.

See the 3 most essential steps to an effective sales coaching program.

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