Sales Coaching Solutions to Overcome the Top 2 Obstacles
- The top two obstacles to successful salesforce coaching are knowledge and time. Fortunately, there are sales coaching solutions to prevent or mitigate these challenges.
- Finding the time for coaching is never easy but it's a short-term investment with a long-term time savings payback.
- A lack of coaching knowledge can be overcome with a purpose-built coaching model and adoption of best practices. Both are shared below.
Sales coaching research shows that formal and regular programs deliver sustained ROI and double digit improvements to opportunity win rates, salesforce quota attainment, year over year revenue growth and employee tenure.
But finding the time, acquiring the skills, measuring the results and continuously improving the program are real barriers for managers already working at capacity.
I've been helping clients implement successful sales coaching solutions and programs for just over two decades. Based on my experience, and some industry research, I want to share the top two obstacles that stand in the way, and the top sales coaching solutions to knock them down.
No Time to Coach
Research from the Sales Management Association shows the top obstacles to coaching are a lack of know-how and time.
My experience has been that almost every manager knows the importance of salesperson coaching. In fact, many feel it is their most important job. But they also know it's a challenge to dedicate the time when they are already bogged down into running meetings, responding to customers, preparing the forecast and solving the perpetual problems of the day.
And with competing priorities it's relatively easy to put off the time needed for staff development. But that choice confuses the urgent with the important.
If you can't put any more hours into your day, then your only other option is to reallocate your time. That means finding the time for coaching may mean letting something else go.
It's a long-term play. Pursuing a program that teaches reps how to solve their own problems and assume accountability for their career advancement requires an up-front investment but later pays for itself multiple times over.
How to Coach
The second big challenge is knowing how to coach. That means knowing what to do and when to do it.
At an overly simplistic level, coaching applies structured conversations to develop each salesperson's full potential. These conversations seldom tell sales staff what to do and more often focus on developing the right skills and reinforcing the behaviors that deliver targeted results.
A salesforce coaching model will accelerate results by making the program efficient, prescriptive, repeatable and measurable. A good model is your best bet to achieve slated goals in the shortest timeframe.
Most models have a lot of similarities. They demonstrate empathy, apply exploratory questioning, ask open ended questions that prompt introspection, and guide sellers to self-identify performance issues and personal goals.
Following a proven process, collaborating rather than communicating, and delivering feedback in a specific way are what makes each model work.
Who to Coach
Some managers believe coaching should be equally applied to all salespeople. Others tend to deliver more guidance to the more challenged reps. Both of these practices are a mistake.
If your goal is to both develop salespeople and maximize the results of the salesforce, you will find that focusing your time on the middle core performers will deliver the biggest revenue growth impact.
The results of a salesforce coaching study performed by Corporate Executive Board's Sales Executive Council and published in Selling Power magazine found a 5 percent improvement among the middle core sellers yielded 70 percent more revenue than the same improvement among the top-tier producers.
According to Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon, authors of The Challenger Sale methodology, "The data clearly suggest that organizations should do away with coaching democratically and instead shift the majority of the coaching focus away from low and star performers and toward the core."
That doesn't mean the lowest and highest performing reps shouldn't be coached. But that understanding revenue impact should be factored into how you allocate your scarce time.
What to Coach
Performance results are maximized when coaching is focused on the areas where reps need the most help.
A manager's anecdotal experience will reveal some areas for improvement. But using information reporting to surface negative variances and trends will make the process much more timely and systemic.
A study published in Harvard Business Review, and shared by Revegy, identified the five most tactical activities to consider for salesforce coaching.
A sales coaching best practice is to avoid tackling multiple activities or behaviors at the same time. You will accelerate progress and results by limiting sessions to one or a few behaviors at a time.
When to Coach
Salesforce coaching starts with new hire on-boarding and continues with a cadence of one on one sessions. But the best performance results are achieved when it is integrated to everyday experiences.
Coaches should consider observation techniques such as ride-alongs or customer conversation reviews.
They should proactively look for real-time coachable moments for unplanned conversations. They should act on performance deviations such as a drop in lead to opportunity conversions or sales win rates and apply situational interventions.
They should consider co-collaboration exercises such as call planning, customer meeting debriefs, opportunity reviews, creating win plans, pipeline reviews, win/loss reviews and role-play scenarios.
Real-time contextual interactions for these types of events will both prevent future performance shortfalls and improve performance results.
Understanding and proactively mitigating the top challenges is the first step in implementing successful sales coaching solutions.