Coaching sales reps is the most important role front-line sales managers play, according to 74% of leading companies surveyed by Forbes Insights and Brainshark.
And research from the Sales Executive Council shows that no other productivity investment improves performance more than coaching -- or even come close.
However, the average sales manager spends just 20% of her time proactively coaching.
What’s responsible for this discrepancy between what companies want and what sales leaders actually do?
There are two main causes. First, many sales managers don’t understand what sales coaching really means. Others know from experience the value of a great manager and coach -- but don’t know how to be one themselves.
As a result, salespeople don’t receive enough coaching and sales performance suffers.
That’s why we’ve added a custom coaching module to our own sales management system.
We also collected best practices from the hundreds of sales leaders. Here’s what we learned about top-performing sales coaching strategies.
1) You’re regularly coaching your salespeople.
Without ongoing reinforcement, reps lose 84% of what they learned in sales training in just 90 days.
That’s why sales leaders must pair training with frequent, regular sales coaching sessions. By “coaching,” I don’t mean walking by each rep’s desk and asking them how their key deals are progressing.
I mean performing regular pipeline reviews and coaching reps on their opportunities. Sales managers should also periodically sit in on a few prospect meetings to coach reps on their messaging, delivery, and value proposition. Finally, everyone in sales management should be having weekly one-on-one sessions with each of their team members.
2) You’re mentoring top, middle, and low performers.
Many sales leaders tend to spend too much time coaching top performers because those are the ones helping the entire team meet quota.
Managers want to do anything they can to help their top reps both meet their number and stay at the organization.
Conversely, some sales leaders concentrate their coaching time on the worst performers. They see these reps are struggling and feel responsible for boosting them up.
While you shouldn’t ignore your highest and lowest performers, the most effective sales coaches dedicate the majority of their time to the middle performers. A study from the Sales Executive Council found that a 5% increase in productivity across middle performers on your team yields over 70% more revenue than the same productivity increase for top performers. Why? Because there are far more middle performers than top ones.
3) You’re using clear, consistent agendas.
A formal coaching process helps sales teams attain quota.
According to CSO Insights, 62% of reps either meet or exceed quota at companies with formal processes. Less than half those reps reach the same threshold at companies with informal processes.
To make your coaching sessions more structured, create a simple agenda of 4-5 topics to cover each time.
When coaching a rep around a particular meeting, for example, you’ll want to identify their agenda, meeting objective, planned questions, and customized value proposition. A deal coaching session, on the other hand, would review pipeline and open opportunities, as well as the key steps or obstacles to help secure a win.
A coaching agenda helps your rep know what to expect and makes the meeting more efficient.
4) You’re using data.
Effective coaching balances objective data and subjective feedback. Many old-school sales managers lean heavily on their emotions or gut instincts. However, research from Aberdeen found using more data accelerates the sales cycle, boosts the percentage of reps meeting quota, and reduces sales turnover.
Which metrics should you be tracking and working on with your salespeople? Of course, pipeline and bookings are critical. You should also discuss overall activity performance, which you can track with sales scorecards or activity management systems.
Use activity metrics to identify best practices from your top performers, then distribute those insights to the rest of your team. Activity data will also help you identify whom to coach, when to coach them, and what to coach them on.
LevelEleven recently hosted a webinar featuring sales coaching research and best practices. Click here to access the webinar recording.