Your sales reps have completed their initial onboarding and perhaps receive yearly training to brush up on the basics. Even so, consistent sales coaching can help your team close deals and increase revenue.
Sales coaching sessions can help your reps secure bigger deals and tackle common obstacles to buying. In fact, scaling sales coaching was the number one priority among sales teams, according to 2021 research from Revenue.io. In a separate 2021 survey, 96% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that effective sales coaching positively impacted their salespeople’s performance.
In other words, no other productivity investment is nearly as impactful as sales coaching. Here's the ultimate guide to sales coaching to get you started.
Sales Coaching Desired Outcomes
What is sales coaching?
Sales managers invest in sales coaching to maximize sales rep performance and empower reps to positively impact the sales organization. The sales coaching process is designed so every rep is supported and equipped to effectively reach their personal quota as well as the team’s quota and goals.
Effective sales coaching is iterative, individualized, and inclusive. A sales coach empowers employees to feel as though they can grow, contribute to team success, and take accountability for their performance.
What does a sales coach do?
A sales coach monitors individual rep performance to identify areas for improvement and reinforce behaviors that lead to success. They also develop coaching initiatives that build confidence in reps by providing them with the tools and skills they need to succeed.
Unlike a sales manager role, a sales coach focuses on the individual development of a sales rep. A sales rep’s weekly coaching might focus on improving skills and techniques, instead of spending time focusing on numbers.
Becoming an effective sales coach comes from experience, but there are various sales coaching programs that can help you learn how to build successful teams that consistently exceed quotas.
What doesn’t fall under the sales coaching umbrella?
- Telling salespeople exactly what to do (rather than giving them the end goal and letting them figure out the specifics).
- Giving the same advice to every single person.
- Ignoring individual motivators, strengths, and weaknesses.
Examples of Sales Coaching
To get a better sense of what sales coaching looks like, here are a few examples:
- Reviewing a call with a sales rep and discussing what went well and where they could improve.
- Offering inside sales training and tips.
- Reviewing remote selling techniques and tools.
- Scheduling weekly check-ins with reps to discuss objectives and areas of the sales process they’re less confident in.
- Shadowing a rep’s meeting or phone call with a prospect.
- Reviewing a rep’s email conversations with prospects throughout different points in the buyer’s journey.
Benefits of Sales Coaching
Sales coaching goes beyond its positive impact on your bottom line. See common benefits that follow sales coaching programs.
1. Sales coaching improves employee retention rates.
Rep turnover is a notorious problem in sales. Ignoring coaching can exacerbate the problem. Fifty-eight percent of workers are likely to leave their company if they don't receive professional development opportunities, according to 2022 research from the Conference Board.
While burnout or a bigger salary elsewhere will always be a temptation, professional development opportunities will motivate many others to stay.
2. Sales coaching allows you to share best practices.
When you notice one rep is using a strategy to great success, you can immediately teach the rest of your team to do the same thing. For example, one HubSpot sales rep found success via video prospecting — a best practice that spread throughout his team.
Think of sales coaching as a rising tide that lifts all boats.
3. Sales coaching maximizes your investment in sales training.
Companies spend billions per year on sales training. However, 2019 research from Gartner found that B2B sales reps forget 70% of the information within a week of training. Up to 87% of information will be forgotten within a month.
Effective sales training relies on consistent, long-term reinforcement, which the sales manager can achieve through sales coaching.
Sales Coaching Models
A quick search will reveal hundreds of sales coaching models, emphasizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. What works for one team, might not work for another.
If your sales rep team uses specific methodologies in their work, you might consider a sales coaching model that adapts to those methods. If your sales team employs several different sales processes, you might look for a more flexible sales coaching program.
If you aren’t sure if a coaching model is a good fit, ask your team. To get their feedback, consider using an employee feedback tool or conducting an internal survey.
Now that you have a better understanding of what sales coaching is and why it’s important, let’s look at some sales coaching techniques you can implement.
Sales Coaching Techniques
These commonly-used coaching techniques are applicable to all types of sales teams. Don't be afraid to incorporate some (or all) of them on your team.
1. Use sales data.
It can be overwhelming to figure out where to focus your sales coaching. That’s where data comes into play. Rather than using your gut to guide you, use your HubSpot CRM or sales software to identify where your team can improve.
To effectively use data, keep track of monthly conversion metrics. This will help you identify the performance of individual sales reps, the team’s average performance, and areas of improvement.
For example, you notice deal velocity is increasing, but close rates are decreasing. If that’s the case, you should examine your reps’ email-to-meeting, meeting-to-demo, and demo-to-close rates to understand where they’re moving too fast.
Use the data to guide how you want to effectively implement sales coaching.
2. Mix up your sales coaching styles.
Selling requires a variety of skills and techniques, so make sure your coaching incorporates multiple styles.
Director of Sales Enablement at Brainshark, Mike Kunkle, recommends varying between:
- Strategic coaching, or big-picture guidance. That includes topics like selling to a specific market, navigating a complex buying process, working with customer champions, etc.
- Tactical coaching, or nitty-gritty suggestions on starting a relationship, qualifying, etc.
- Specific skill coaching, or helping salespeople improve their communication, questioning strategies, rapport-building abilities, remote selling, etc.
3. Get buy-in.
Most salespeople are fairly independent — that’s why they’ve chosen to work in sales — and don’t respond well to being ordered around.
You’ll have far more success if you involve them in the improvement process. That means asking them how they think they performed, what they can do to get better, and which metrics can help them measure their progress.
4. Leverage your best sales reps.
Salespeople can learn just as much from each other as you. Use that to your advantage. If one person on the team is crushing it, ask them to share their learnings with everyone else.
During your next team meeting, ask these reps to give a presentation on their winning strategy. Your other salespeople will be motivated to imitate them, and the group will potentially find an even more effective way to execute this play.
Sales Coaching Best Practices
In addition to implementing common coaching techniques, leveraging best practices can maximize the impact of your sales coaching.
Consider the following when creating your sales coaching program:
- In addition to data-driven areas of improvement, ask your sales reps which skills they would like to develop. This provides your team with a sense of ownership over their professional development.
- Incorporate call recording or sales performance management software. These tools allow you to highlight specific missteps and reinforce high-performing sales techniques.
- Pair coaching discussions with training materials. Would your employee benefit from watching a certain webinar? Are there videos or training guides they should refer to? Follow-up sessions with tangible resources for your reps.
- Include remote employees in coaching sessions. According to Revenue.io, 45.2% of sales development reps and account executives report receiving less coaching while working remotely. Make sure you meet with your remote workforce as frequently as your in-office team.
- Spend over an hour each week on sales coaching. Of companies with effective sales coaching programs, 61.4% spend more than an hour per rep each week on coaching.
- Track representatives’ performance data after coaching. This will help you quantify outcomes from sales coaching.
Sales Coaching Desired Outcomes
Specific sales coaching outcomes vary based on your company’s coaching goals. However, these are common desired outcomes of sales coaching:
- Sales reps are accountable, take ownership of their daily activities, and know when to ask for help.
- Targets are consistently met and exceeded. The business is on track to meet revenue goals.
- Pipelines are filled with qualified, relevant leads.
- Deals have a higher win rate.
- The sales cycle length is not too exhaustive.
- Retention rates for sales reps are high.
Sales Coaching Plan
If you’re looking to implement or formalize sales coaching on your team, start by building a sales coaching plan. This document should include the following three elements.
- Onboarding Plan: This includes everything reps should know about joining your sales org. Explain the training schedule, introduce key internal players, and train your reps on the resources that will help them succeed.
- High-level Goals: Outline what is expected of sales reps in their current position. This can be broken into goals that are to be met monthly, quarterly, or after a determined period of days.
- Check-in Schedule: Let reps know when you will be meeting with them to assess their progress towards meeting those goals.
Below we'll provide a sales coaching plan template that can be customized to meet your business needs.
Sales Coaching Plan Template
The following free template will help you create personalized sales coaching plans for your reps. To get the most success from a sales coaching plan, encourage your sales reps to follow the plan from day one and throughout their time with your team.
The image below highlights a section of the goal template, where objectives are broken down month to month.
Sales Coaching Tools
There are many tools you can use to improve or simplify your sales coaching techniques. These tools include software and educational resources you can use both individually or with your team.
1. HubSpot Sales Coaching for Managers
HubSpot Sales Coaching for Managers is a free program you can use to coach and support your reps. The lessons focus on coaching reps so they can hit their goals and so your team can positively impact the business’ bottom line.
Chorus.ai provides a simple way for you to use sales enablement practices to coach reps. The software's AI capabilities simplify the creation of your coaching plans while pulling from real rep conversations, data, and interactions with leads. You can also use this tool to measure the success of your sales coaching tactics.
Gong provides a unique look into rep interactions with your customers by using the product’s conversation intelligence capabilities. As a sales manager, this feature will make it easy to identify and replicate the actions of your best. Gong also gathers the conversations your reps have with prospects on the phone, email, or web conference, making reviewing performance simple.
4. Showpad Coach
Showpad Coach, formerly known as LearnCore, allows you to review analytics related to each of your reps. With this feature, you can identify which people need what type of support and coaching. You can also create and share coaching videos with your reps.
ExecVision is a conversation intelligence program ideal for coaching large teams of reps. The software allows you to easily identify coachable moments in every rep's process. It transcribes sales calls and highlights key moments in every rep's workflow. Then, you can coach the reps in the areas where they need support.
Sales Coaching Tips
- Focus on the middle 60%.
- Share your vision.
- Learn each salesperson’s drivers.
- Use incentives effectively.
- Give personal rewards.
- Seek and experiment with new coaching practices and resources.
- Prepare and practice with multiple coaching scenarios.
- Leverage your entire sales team.
- Have the hard conversations.
- Provide more positive than negative feedback.
In addition to sales coaching techniques and tools, here are some tips to keep in mind. These sales coaching tips will help you effectively develop reps to ensure your team’s productivity.
1. Focus on the middle 60%.
According to Brent Adamson and Matt Dixon, authors of The Challenger Sale, most sales managers tend to spend most of their energy coaching the “very best and very worst” salespeople on their team.
Managers feel compelled to help the bottom 20% to get their team to quota. They want to help the top 20% because it’s rewarding.
Consequently, the middle 60% gets the least amount of attention. But Adamson and Dixon explain, “The real payoff from good coaching lies among … your core performers.”
After all, the worst-performing salespeople (who are consistently underperforming, that is) usually aren’t right for the role. You should replace them, not try to train them up.
And the stars on the team show little to no performance improvement from coaching. So when you’re thinking about which reps to focus your attention on, think of the middle of the pack.
2. Share your vision.
Sales reps want to feel as though they’re contributing to the company’s overall success.
Come up with a mission for your team that goes beyond “sell X amount of business.” This goal should be specific, actionable, and exciting. Think “break into A market,” “become known internally for doing B,” or “break the company record for C.”
Periodically throughout team meetings and one-on-ones, share the overall team's progress toward this objective. Point out the people who have made significant contributions in doing so.
3. Learn each salesperson’s drivers.
Everyone is motivated by different things. Even if the majority of your reps are motivated by making money, their specific goals probably vary widely. Understanding your sales reps' motivations will help you tailor your coaching style to each sales rep.
To identify how you can engage your reps, former HubSpot Executive Dan Tyre recommends asking what they want to accomplish in both their personal and professional lives.
“This will not only show you the type of person they are but also give you insight into what things will motivate them the most,” he explains. Tyre asks these questions:
- Are you motivated right now?
- What motivates you long-term?
- What can you do to motivate yourself?
- How will I know if you are not motivated?
- What do you want me to do if you don’t appear motivated?
Having these insights will help you better engage with your reps and their personal visions.
4. Use incentives effectively.
Sales contests and incentives should change behaviors, not reinforce existing ones. That’s why offering $100 to the first rep to make a sale that day isn’t very helpful.
Instead, figure out what your salespeople aren’t doing that you’d like to implement. Design your contest around that action.
To illustrate, maybe your reps are focusing too heavily on product A because it requires less technical knowledge than product B. You might give a bonus to every salesperson who sells more than X units of product B.
5. Give personal rewards.
Individual prizes should be tied to a specific rep’s goals. For example, if a rep is working on increasing their call-to-meetings rate, you might say you’ll take them to a nice lunch once they improve by X%.
Not sure what to offer as a prize? Here’s where knowing every salesperson’s motivators is handy. You can also directly ask them, “What can I give you as a prize for achieving [objective]?”
6. Prepare and practice with multiple coaching scenarios.
Your team is bound to evolve — either because of increased skills or rep turnover. Keep your coaching effective by preparing for different scenarios. With your preparation and training plans already complete, you’ll be able to teach reps with different needs at any time.
If you notice there are several members of your team who need the same type of coaching in a specific problem area, you can prepare information and training around the topic to share with your group.
7. Leverage your entire sales team.
Some sales reps learn best by example. Ask your top performers to lend a hand and allow members of your sales team to listen in on a few successful sales calls (or sales call recordings). Later debrief and discuss why the sales calls were successful, what could be improved, and how each rep would have handled the call themselves.
8. Have the hard conversations.
Many sales reps struggle to meet their potential because of the inevitable prospect push-back ... and the dreaded word “no.” But most reps work their way through this discomfort with practice.
With the sales reps you’re coaching, role-play some uncomfortable scenarios and hard conversations. During this training exercise, practice some common objections. Once reps get more comfortable hearing those objections and responding, they’ll be better equipped to face them on real sales calls.
9. Provide more positive than negative feedback.
For each piece of constructive criticism, give twice as much positive reinforcement. Not only does this help maintain morale, but it also allows sales reps to recognize what they're doing right — and hopefully encourages them to repeat and build on that behavior.
Put Me In, (Sales) Coach
Sales coaching is both an art and a science. It’s one of — if not the — most important components of sales management. Do it well, and your team’s results will speak for you. So, begin incorporating the various sales coaching techniques, tools, and tips to help your team close more deals, boost revenue, surpass quota, and grow better.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2017 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.