How to Get Closer to an Ideal Sales Coaching Strategy This Year

In sales, coaching and training are two terms that have often been used interchangeably, without distinction or clarity. It’s time for a change. Heading into 2017, we’d like to help make a clear distinction between sales training and coaching—and let you know which strategy we think  works.

Coaching vs. Training vs. Evaluation

First, sales coaching is intervention based on current performance for the purpose of improving future performance. It differs from training, which has the same purpose but is based on assessment of skills gaps. It differs from evaluation, which is based on current performance, but evaluation’s intended purpose is to determine what management is going to do with the employee.

Effective vs. Efficient

Extending this definition, effective coaching is performance-based intervention that actually results in improved performance. For an SDR, improvement is easy to measure: setting more, or better, appointments for the AE team in a defined time interval. There’s a small but important point about coaching that differentiates it from evaluation. The time interval should be chosen for consistency in comparing current performance with future performance. One week is good. Why is that? Most weeks are pretty similar to other weeks, whereas days of the week differ from each other greatly. Months are of different lengths and usually differ depending on where they land in the fiscal quarter. Quarters usually have seasonal differences, and a year is just too long to attribute any intervention to any performance change.

Efficient coaching, on the other hand, is coaching that costs less, in time and money, than equivalently effective coaching. One reason it is important to coach efficiently is obvious: time is money—and so is money. The other is more subtle and more important. Below a certain threshold of efficiency, you just won’t coach at all. (If you do, it will be when you can afford it, time-wise—which generally happens around the 12th of Never.)

Ideally, coaching delivers the maximum performance improvement in the least amount of time for the smallest number of dollars. Unfortunately, this sounds impossible.

What Can You Change?

Fortunately, this ideal is not only possible but easy to achieve—reliably. It all starts with identifying the units of change. That is, what the specific elements of performance are that, if they were executed by the SDR more effectively, would show up in their overall performance numbers (i.e., the number of meetings set in a week). For simplicity, by “meetings” we mean “meetings that meet the quality standards of the AE team,” generally measured by the percentage of meetings that generate Sales-Accepted or Sales-Working Leads.

Now it gets easy. The obvious units of change are (drum roll, please!) the different phases of an SDR’s conversations with potential prospects. Check back here next week for Part 2 of this four-part blog series. I’ll enumerate the specific units of change that can be observed in your reps’ calling dispositions, which you’ll then use to craft your sales coaching program.