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Playing to win: How sales coaching leads to success

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Sales coaching is a key factor to increasing productivity and driving success, yet in many organizations, it’s spotty at best. According to a study by CSO Insights, while more organizations formalized their sales coaching strategy in 2018, almost 60% didn’t fully leverage the potential of an effective coaching program.

Research by the Sales Management Association highlights the negative impact of the lack of sales coaching. In their survey of more than 1,000 sales managers, 75% had fewer than 49% of their salespeople on target.

So what’s the problem? Why can’t organizations get sales coaching right?

Houston, we have a problem: Most sales coaches are flying blind

Ultimately, coaching is a tactical, top-down activity directed by sales executives, who are focused on hitting a number, whether that’s a sales quota or revenue goal. They’re beholden to the C-suite and executive board to generate results. For them, coaching is all about reaching that number.

Meanwhile, sales reps want coaching that will help them develop as salespeople and improve their skills. They also want to hit a number, of course, but aren’t getting the coaching they need for professional growth.

In the middle are sales managers who are tasked with coaching, along with their many other responsibilities. They’re thrown into coaching sales reps, often with little – if any – direction.

With limited time and under pressure to hit a number, managers will focus on tactical steps to get the best return, often resorting to brute force. They’ll interrogate reps about the status of deals, and harangue them into pushing ahead a stalled deal, or building more pipeline.

Managers should be able to get pipeline insight from the CRM, but traditional CRM technology requires extensive manual entry of contacts, emails, and meetings that sales reps often don’t or won’t do because they don’t feel they get value from it. The result is information that can be inaccurate or outdated, leading to sales rep interrogations.

This disjointed process reduces CRM adoption, causes morale to drop and sales rep churn, which doesn’t help the organization meet its revenue goals.

What can companies do to change this scenario and get their coaching efforts on track?

There’s no crying in baseball! Enlightened sales coaching makes everyone a better player

One way to get sales leaders, sales managers, and sales reps on the same page and improve coaching is with visibility into the sales pipeline and forecast.

With accurate, objective information, managers no longer need to resort to interrogations or other heavy-handed, unproductive tactics. They already know if a deal is in trouble, whether an account executive lacks sufficient pipeline to hit their number, and which salespeople aren’t taking the right actions to fill their funnel and close deals.

Intelligent sales pipeline analysis helps managers focus their coaching efforts and make the best use of their limited time in order to reach corporate sales goals. They can see who to coach and come up with ways to help them. For example, they might suggest a certain training course to build up a sales rep’s cold-calling skills so they can build their pipeline.

Sitting in a customer meeting gives the manager additional insight into a troubled deal. Perhaps there are factors outside the rep’s control, such as the customer dealing with layoffs, which the manager can take into account when figuring out steps to get the deal back on track.

Using sales pipeline data to focus coaching efforts enables sales managers to give each member of the team the unique attention he or she deserves instead of spending time and money on generic, ineffective team-wide training.

With pipeline visibility, managers also can focus their coaching efforts on B players, who have the most potential to improve, rather than wasting time on low performers who are better suited for work outside of sales.

Retain top talent, attract new talent, and win more deals

Through better coaching, managers can reinforce sales processes and build accountability, enabling the organization to reach its goals. Intelligent analysis helps them eliminate guesswork and focus their time to drive corporate objectives.

Sales reps are happier when they have the right coaching to help them develop professionally, which reduces sales rep churn. Moreover, a strong coaching culture can help a business attract sales talent.

At a deeper level, good coaching helps align your sales processes with your customer’s buying journey, ensuring a good customer experience.

Better coaching leads to better results. CSO Insights found that sales organizations that take a “dynamic” approach to sales coaching have win rates of almost 58% for forecasted deals compared to the average win rate of 49%.

Ready to improve sales coaching in your organization? Get started here.

Kevin Markl
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March 7, 2019
Kevin Markl

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