Effective sales coaching is one of the most important parts of the sales management process. It has a direct impact on a sales rep’s performance. Sales teams prioritize training for individual reps but tend to forget that sales coaching for managers is also a skill that needs to be trained and honed.
Table of Contents
Sales coaching is when a manager works with a sales rep to improve the seller's conversation skills, sales strategy skills, and deal management skills. All three of these categories directly impact a sales rep’s success.
While this blog can’t replace proper training for sales management coaching, here are some actionable sales coaching tips for a sales manager to improve their coaching:
It’s easy for managers to jump to the areas of improvement. However, it a good sales coach will also provide positive reinforcement when coaching sales reps. Therefore, start each coaching session with something positive. No matter how small it might seem, it sets a better tone for the coaching session. It also makes the sales reps more receptive to criticism since they feel like the positive parts of their performance are also being recognized.
One of the core rules of human communication is that people always value what they conclude for themselves more than what is told to them. Sales managers can start with something positive during a sales coaching session. Then, it is best practice to ask the sellers to identify what they think they did well and what they could improve upon.
If the sellers point out their shortcomings, it is more likely to resonate with them. This makes salespeople more likely to actually notice when they are making similar mistakes and take the initiatives to improve on their own. Similarly, if sellers conclude the positive aspects of a sales call on their own, they will be more likely to continue those good habits.
It can still be valuable to shadow live calls but highly effective sales coaching programs will also leverage call recordings. Sales call recordings are invaluable during a sales coaching session. It provides both sellers and managers the ability to hone in on specific moments and break down the interaction.
Call recordings also provide great benchmarks for sellers. Let’s say a seller is struggling with a specific type of objection. Perhaps one of their colleagues is good at handling that objection. Instead of the manager just telling the struggling sellers what to do, they can show the seller a real example of that sort of objection being handled on a call. It is much easier for adults to learn new habits when the knowledge is presented in context with examples to emulate.
There are many different options for call recording solutions so this is one of the easier sales coaching tips to implement.
Sellers should not wait till the next call with a prospect to practice the skills they are trying to improve. Sales managers should host regular sales call role plays to give sellers a chance to practice their skills in a low stake environment. During a real sales call, it’s important to be confident and provide real value for the prospect. You can’t take back a sentence or redo a certain part of the call.
In a role play session, however, a seller and their manager can practice different scenarios over and over again until the sales rep feels comfortable and confident in implementing those skills during a real call. You can follow the link to learn more about effective sales call role plays and other sales training techniques.
Sales reps usually have multiple skills that they can improve on. Telling a seller to work on all of them at once is overwhelming and ineffective. Sales managers should focus on just one skill at a time. If a seller is struggling to schedule the next meeting during the end of a call, then focus just on that until that skill set improves. Trying to work on that while also telling a seller to improve their ability to generate curiosity would impede progress on both of those skills. Research has shown that focusing on one skill at a time yields the best results in terms of habit change.
Sales managers might be wondering when they should move on to the next skill set. How will they know that a seller has made progress on the skill set they have been working on? This is where metrics come in. It is highly important to track calls and conversions throughout the sales cycle.
Following an example in one of the sales coaching tips above, the sales manager has been working on getting the seller to improve their ability to schedule the next call with a prospect. This is an easy metric to track. The CRM should be leveraged to track how many of a seller's calls end with the next meeting already scheduled. Then, the sales manager needs to track how that metric has improved over time. If the seller is closing a significantly higher number of calls with the next appointment already set, then the manager will know that they can move on to the next skill set.
It’s okay to move on before someone is perfect at a skill. However, there should be a noticeable improvement in the corresponding metric before managers and sellers start focusing on something else. Metrics can also inform where the sales managers should focus next.
Metrics are a great way to track progress but as the saying goes, numbers never lie but they also don’t tell you the whole truth. Sales managers should also be observing customer interactions to note qualitative changes in a rep’s behavior. Metrics could be improving but it could also be a fluke. If the improvement in metrics is also matched by behavior change, managers can feel confident that the seller has improved on the skills they were working on.
There are many things that a sales manager or a sales rep might miss during an individual coaching session. This is why sales managers should also periodically host group coaching sessions to highlight a skill that many are struggling with. This sort of session can foster discussion and innovative ideas on how to improve.
Aside from group coaching sessions, managers should also encourage reps to join their colleagues’ calls and listen in. Observing others in a similar role can help point out blind spots that the seller may have had in their own sales interactions.
These sales coaching tips will help sales managers but due to the huge importance of effective sales coaching, companies should prioritize training both sales reps and sales managers. The ability to coach is not innate. It’s hard for a sales manager to learn sales coaching techniques on their own and be consultative in their coaching approach to help reps realize habit change. You can learn more about Funnel Clarity’s approach to consultative sales coaching and sales coaching programs by scheduling a meeting with us today.
Request a free sales consultation to get started
Jill Ulvestad is the founder of Funnel Clarity. Jill applies her expertise in driving sales performance and results, developing sales strategy and streamlining skills development to the Funnel Clarity team. With nearly 20 years of business development and consulting experience, Jill provides valued sales performance insight to her roles as co-founder and managing partner of Funnel Clarity. Previously, Jill spent 8 years with the sales performance firm Huthwaite where she served as the Vice President of Sales. She most recently was co-founder of Business Performance Partners, a sales and strategy consulting firm and led the coaching practice.