Take Your Team’s Performance to the Next Level with Sales Coaching

Categories: Sales Coaching

Sales leaders have seen massive transformations over the last couple of years. Limited budgets…more educated and demanding buyers…hybrid and remote reps…digital buying…personalized sales approaches…partner ecosystem shifts…and don’t get us started on introducing AI!

Given these disruptions to the market, the cost of winning new revenue and preventing customer churn is increasing, putting additional pressure on sales teams and their leaders. Now more than ever, organizations must rearchitect their hiring, sales coach training, and, most importantly, sales mentoring to drive growth faster.

But what does good coaching in sales look like? What are the habits of influential sales leaders? In this blog post, we’ll answer these questions and examine how successful sales leaders transform their teams into growth engines for their organizations through ongoing sales coaching programs. 

Build a Sales Coaching Culture in Your Sales Team

While most sales leaders report they incorporate sales coaching into their daily management practices, they often overestimate the time they spend on effective coaching and mistake sales management activities for coaching a sales team. For example, they may discuss performance outcomes with their reps, such as sales pipelines and pending deals, but this is a one-size-fits-all approach that is vastly different from discussing individual performance itself and providing personalized feedback. Consider that, on average, managers of top-performing sales reps hold as many as 11 formal coaching sessions per rep per month! 

It’s, therefore, essential to establish an effective sales coaching culture within the sales organization, wherein everyone from the chief revenue officer to the sales manager understands that the priority is to develop successful sales reps through consistent, supportive coaching practices that build and maintain strong manager-employee relationships. This means that ad hoc and group coaching is deprioritized in favor of programmatic, individualized coaching that is part of the regular sales workflows, daily pulse checks, weekly role plays, monthly account planning sessions, and more.

Create a Sales Coaching Framework

To support coaching activities, sales organizations should create a successful sales coaching framework and sales coach training that provides sales leaders with a consistent, actionable way to engage with each sales rep on their team—a playbook, if you will.  The framework will also help reps set expectations and better prepare for each touchpoint with their manager. While there are hundreds of frameworks or coaching models to follow, four of the most popular are:

#1 GROW (Goal. Reality. Options and Obstacles. Way Forward.)

  • What are the sales reps’ goals for the coaching session?
    • What is the reality of the situation?
    • What obstacles are holding the sales rep back?
    • What way or actions do the salespeople commit to taking to move forward?

In the GROW model, sales coaches guide the sales rep through each of the four stages in the coaching session, beginning by setting a specific and measurable goal and then exploring the gap between reality and goal achievement. Together, the rep and the sales leader generate and evaluate possible actions to realize the goal and then commit to a plan.

In addition to helping sales leaders structure coaching conversations, GROW prompts sales leaders to ask powerful questions and empowers sales reps to find solutions they believe are reasonable.

#2 OSKAR (Objective. Scale. Know-How. Affirm and Action. Review.) 

  • Ask the rep to define the objective they want to achieve.
  • Ask the rep to rate their performance against the objective on a scale of 1-10.
  • What know-how (i.e., sales training, resources) does the rep need to reach their goal?
  • Affirm what the rep is doing well to progress to their goal. Then, ask the rep to plan their action(s) to reach their objective. 
  • Review the conversation and ask the rep for their input and feedback. 

The OSKAR model is like the GROW model in that it includes goal setting and is solution-oriented, but unlike GROW, OSKAR emphasizes affirmation, requiring sales managers to encourage progress and celebrate milestones. OSKAR is particularly helpful for sales reps motivated by managerial acknowledgment and recognition. 

#3 CLEAR (Contracting. Listening. Exploring. Action. Review.) 

  • Define how the sales coach and the rep will work together by creating a contract for the coaching session, including expectations, goals, and success metrics.
  • Listen to the rep as they present their topic for the coaching session.
  • Ask open-ended questions to explore how the rep feels about the current situation, what they’d like to change, and how they can reach their goals.
  • Ask specific questions to help the rep understand what action(s) they must take. 
  • Review the key points, summarize the rep’s progress, and reiterate their plan.

The CLEAR model aims to create lasting change and instill new habits. It relies heavily on an open dialogue between the coach and the sales rep, and active listening, consideration, and empathy are necessary for this model to be successful. The model works best for sales reps who need to feel heard.

#4 FUEL (Frame. Understand. Explore. Lay Out a Plan.)

  • Frame the conversation (i.e., purpose, process, and expected outcomes).
  • Understand the current situation through coach-led questions and challenge the sales rep’s assumptions.
  • Explore the desired situation.
  • Ask the sales rep to lay out a plan.

Like the CLEAR coaching model, FUEL prioritizes open dialogues and active listening. However, the CLEAR model requires the coach to guide the employee in formulating an action plan, whereas the FUEL model requires the sales rep to build the plan. The FUEL model empowers the sales rep and is ideally suited to high-potential employees ready for increased accountability.

Sales Coaching Best Practices  for Sales Managers

Remember that following a coaching framework alone won’t optimize sales rep performance. Coaches must incorporate the following best practices into the framework to ensure each coach-rep interaction surfaces relevant insights, builds trust, and is personalized to the rep.

Use sales data

Leverage your sales execution platform to inform your coach-rep interactions. For example, does the data show deal velocity increasing or waning? What about close rates? What’s the rep’s email-to-meeting ratio or call-to-meeting ratio? Armed with data, you can assess the situation accurately, challenge sales reps’ perceptions as necessary, and lay out data-backed plans to address challenges. Gartner predicted that 60% of B2B sales organizations will transition from experience- or intuition-based selling to data-driven selling by 2025, so it’s wise to adopt digital practices now.

Embrace variety

Not every coaching session needs to focus on sales skills. While one session can be used to review call recordings, another can discuss professional development opportunities such as leadership training. Still, another can be used to brainstorm sales workflow improvements. By mixing up the coaching experience, you’ll ensure the reps don’t lose interest, and you’ll create more opportunities for personalization. 

Make mistakes

Create a safe space, if you will, and give your sales reps the freedom to share their mistakes. Approach failures as an opportunity for everyone, including you as the sales coach, to learn and grow. Work with the sales rep to surface learnings and opportunities for improvement that benefit the entire team and implement these quickly, giving credit to the sales rep. Also, encourage reps to move on from failures and set the example by focusing on “what’s next.” And, of course, be sure to celebrate the wins with equal attention and effort!

Leverage successful sales reps

Your team can learn as much, if not more, from successful peers. Invite a rep who consistently exceeds quota to a coaching session with a new hire or the larger team and ask them to share their “talk track” or favorite objection-handling techniques, for example. Review the successful rep’s sales calls, email cadences, or frequently used collateral and ask the team to identify opportunities where they can emulate this behavior.  

Incorporate training materials

Stay abreast of internal and external training resources, such as webinars, instructional videos, and books, and look for ways to introduce these materials into your coaching sessions. For example, regardless of the training framework you’re using, most models have an “action” or “planning” step, which might present an opportunity to expose the rep to these resources and hold them accountable for reviewing them.

Practice accountability

As stated, most sales coaching frameworks include an “action” or “planning” step. Remember that good coaching goes beyond laying out the plan. It involves revisiting the plan with the rep to ensure it was executed on time and as agreed. In the words of notable businessman and author of Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Louis Gerstner Jr., “People respect what you inspect,” so close the loop! You’ll earn your reps’ respect and build a better relationship with them. 

Tackle one thing at a time

Most sales frameworks start with an “objective” or “topic” for the coaching session. Limit these to one at a time to enhance focus and make it easy to measure progress. For example, if a sales rep struggles with the initial contact, you can dedicate one coaching session to email outreach and a separate coaching session to cold calls. Tackling both simultaneously can leave reps feeling pulled in too many directions, causing frustration and stalling progress. 

Make the time

Pradeepa Kolli, VP of Sales with LHH (The Adecco Group), notes that in her experience, best-in-class sales leaders spend 70% of their time each week coaching. This roughly translates into an hour per week per rep. While this may initially feel untenable, in most sales coaching frameworks, sales leaders empower sales reps to solve problems and provide guidance. This is very different than requiring sales leaders to put out fires themselves; the sheer act of coaching frees time for the sales leader.

Build a library

You’ll uncover a treasure trove of elevator pitches, cold call scripts, outreach emails, and more during your coaching sessions. Hold a contest that rewards your reps for the “best” of this collateral and use it to build a library for all to access and leverage to their advantage.    

Be excited 

Think about your favorite coach or teacher. Chances are, you felt they cared about your success. Good sales coaches demonstrate the same behaviors. They come to coaching sessions excited and with a positive attitude. They’re committed to coaching and don’t reschedule sessions or arrive late. They have a vision of what their reps can accomplish, and they share this vision and ask for feedback.   

Be flexible

Adopting a sales coaching framework isn’t the equivalent of “set it and forget it.” On the contrary, according to Value Selling Associates, it can take a company two to three years to establish a sales coaching program, so know that it’s a process and will take time to realize whether your coaching practices are working. Check in with your team to assess their feelings about the coaching sessions. Ask for feedback. Monitor sales metrics for improvement and keep a close eye on employee satisfaction and retention rates. Don’t be afraid to adjust if you feel after enough time that a different coaching framework, training materials, or sales technology is necessary.

Coaching Opportunities Take Many Forms

Though it’s easy to think of sales coaching as dedicated, one-to-one meetings between a sales rep and their manager, remember that coaching can take many forms. For example, a sales coach can attend a prospect meeting or shadow a cold call and then debrief with the rep. Alternatively, a sales coach can hold a “lunch and learn” series with a few reps who share a common objective. You can even have a one-to-many session and tackle a common topic across the team, such as technology adoption.   

Top Industry Sales Talent is One Click Away

Remember that sales coaching is about progress over perfection. Regardless of whether you implement the right framework or successfully adopt every best practice, simply by spending regular, meaningful time with reps and taking a genuine interest in their success, performance will improve, and the bottom line will benefit. 

If you’re ready to develop top industry sales talent and improve your team’s close-win ratios, contact the team at Revegy today. Our sales execution platform can support your sales coaching framework and help you and your sales reps visualize sales performance, track milestones, identify opportunities for improvement, and more. 


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