Understanding Sales Coaching

Virtually every sales organization of any size has some kind of sales coaching program or initiative in place. There’s not a sales executive on the planet that doesn’t agree: sales coaching is essential. They approach it different ways—with online sales training, remote coaching and various technology-based coaching tools. And yet…

I recently completed 150 interviews of sales executives, mostly from larger sales organizations. I asked what was the number one weakness in their sales organization. Amazingly, 147 of them had the same answer: “poor sales coaching.” This was disturbing. With all the focus, resources, and attention this topic has received over the last 20 years, how could that be possible?

Sales coaching is not one thing; it means different things to different people. There are five distinct tasks or approaches:

  • Advisor/Counselor Coaching
  • Performance-Oriented Coaching (focused on metrics)
  • Deal-Specific Coaching (technical assistance on specific deals)
  • Training-Oriented Coaching
  • Heroic Player Coaching (making the sale for the team member)

Training-oriented coaching is by far the most neglected approach. Interestingly, it’s the area that has the most potential to transform performance. Think about it. When you imagine a great coach coaching a football team, do you imagine him in his office, holding meeting after meeting with players—to get to know them, remind them of their goals, and endlessly go over their numbers and commitments for the next game? Or do you imagine them on the field with a whistle, a clipboard and a series of practice routines for the players? Great coaches design superior game plans to win, and then train their teams relentlessly to be able to execute under pressure. It’s superior training that creates superior results.

Sales managers often think of training as event-oriented, coming from sales trainers maybe once or twice a year. In reality, training drills and practices should be happening EVERY WEEK—just like on sports teams. Training needs to be built into:

  • Weekly or monthly sales meetings
  • Pre-call warmup drills
  • Sales clinics to practice basic selling skills
  • One-on-one coaching sessions

Training needs to become something that sales managers do every week, not an event that’s planned every year. It would be silly to think of an olympic swimming coach planning a swim training seminar once a year then just checking his athletes’ numbers and swim meet results.

It’s all about constant training. I’ll be writing more on training and sales coaching in the weeks to come.

Watch this space.

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