Only about one-quarter of sales leaders believe that their managers effectively coach and develop their sellers. In part, that’s because sales managers spend less time coaching—14%—than they do on selling, forecasting and administrative tasks, according to our latest study, 2020 Trends in Sales Management. But it’s also because most organisations and sales managers operate from an unclear definition of what coaching is and lack dynamic processes that reinforce their coaching practices.

To create a stronger coaching culture at your organisation, follow these three sales management strategies.

  1. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity

Many sales managers believe that they don’t have enough time to coach, especially those who oversee a large salesforce. And it’s generally true that the more sellers a manager supervises, the less coaching time each seller gets. Yet our research shows that it’s not the time spent on coaching that matters; it’s the substance of that coaching.

Sales organisations that describe their sales managers as effective at coaching and developing their sellers saw a significantly higher proportion of their reps meet their sales goals. To be most effective, sales coaching needs to expand to cover all areas of selling, not just how to convert specific leads and opportunities, and follow a perspective-based approach. That way, sales managers model the same selling skills that their sellers use to build strong relationships with buyers.

  1. Define Sales Coaching

Sales organisations often use the word “coaching” to describe any manager-seller interaction. Sometimes they describe coaching as strategising on an account, such as how to position pricing or better compete with a rival product or service. While account-based discussions can serve as coaching and may help close individual opportunities, the most successful sales organisations consider coaching more broadly.

A better way to define coaching is as a leadership skill that sales managers use to develop each seller’s full potential over the long term. They bring their entire arsenal of experience and talents to bear, including social, communication and questioning skills, to show sellers opportunities for improvement.

Sales managers should engage in five kinds of strategic coaching conversations:

  1. Lead and opportunity coaching: Determining where an opportunity is along the customer’s journey and identifying activities to push the opportunity through the funnel
  2. Skills and behaviours coaching: Developing a values-based approach that focuses on the buyer’s journey, role, business challenges and desired results
  3. Funnel coaching: Identifying the most valuable deals in the funnel and allocating resources and managing risks accordingly
  4. Account coaching: Cultivating and managing buyer relationships and identifying leads
  5. Territory coaching: Focusing salespeople on the right industries, organisations and buyer roles to build markets

Sales leaders should include the full spectrum of these activities in their sales coaching strategies and as they define their approach to sales coaching. 

  1. Establish a Consistent Approach to Sales Coaching

Even sales managers fluent in sales coaching skills may flounder if they don’t follow a consistent, formally defined process. Many sales organisations with documented sales management processes still have random sales coaching that’s left up to sales managers; others use informal sales coaching techniques, which have guidelines but no formal processes, measurement or monitoring. Neither approach develops sales managers’ coaching skills.

Our research shows that the more formal the coaching process, the higher sellers’ win rates and the greater the production they see from their sales funnels. According to our Fifth Annual Sales Enablement Study, a dynamic coaching process—the most well-developed sales coaching strategy—led to a win rate of 55.2%, 13.4% higher than when coaching processes were left up to sales managers. But only 12.6% of respondents reported such a process.

A formal approach to sales coaching defines areas for coaching, develops a coaching process connected to the buyer’s journey, requires sales managers to improve their sales coaching skills and monitors the impact of sales coaching. A dynamic approach builds on a formal approach and connects coaching to the sales enablement framework to drive adoption of selling skills and reinforce positive seller behaviours. The greater rigor of these approaches yields better sales results for sellers—and their organisations as a whole.

Formalise Your Sales Coaching Strategies

Want to increase your sellers’ win rates and quota attainment by double digits? Read Running in Sand: 2020 Trends in Sales Management, to discover how to improve your organisation’s sales coaching and other sales management strategies.

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