In the age of ubiquitous technology, no other productivity investment improves rep performance better than sales coaching.
That’s according to research by the Sales Executive Council. And it makes sense. Vantage Point Performance Partner Jason Jordan explains that anything learned by salespeople during a day of offsite training sits in their head until needed. Coaching from well-trained sales leaders happens every day in real time.
“No one has greater influence on a salesperson’s skills and behaviors than their direct managers,” Jason writes.
But the 2014 Sales Management Optimization Study by CSO Insights found that 70.8 percent of sales leaders coach each of their reps for 60 minutes or less each week. That’s all. For a productivity investment with better ROI than anything else, dedicating one hour a week per rep is not enough.
There’s more research on the positive effects of coaching reps. Here are four reasons sales coaching needs to be a bigger priority.
4 Reasons to Spend More Time on Sales Coaching
1. Reps don’t know where to spend their time.
According to that sales optimization study, the number one challenge for sales managers is focusing reps in the right direction. It’s not hard to understand why: Sales reps can easily get lost in the day-to-day noise of researching prospects, answering emails, handling customer support issues and much more.
Sales coaching should provide clear instructions for reps on what they need to do for success. Asking someone to increase their number of wins is not coaching, because wins is an outcome (and therefore out of a sales rep’s control). What you can coach them around are the sales activities that lead to that outcome, such as prospecting leads, holding discovery meetings and sending proposals.
Use an activity-based selling strategy to define key activity metrics for all of your reps. If someone falls behind on a certain metric, you know what to coach them around, and the rep knows how they should spend their time.
2. A formal coaching process results in higher quota attainment.
Does the type of coaching actually matter? Yes. Out of 1,200 companies surveyed, the number of reps meeting or exceeding quota was 50.3 percent when the coaching process is left to managers, but that jumps to 62.3 percent for companies with a formal coaching process.
In addition, the percentage of overall quota attainment for a company with an informal coaching process is 84.7 percent. But companies with a formal coaching process saw 91.2 percent of overall quota attainment.
Develop a formal coaching process by equipping reps with personal scorecards. Each scorecard should have 3-4 key sales metrics you want them focused on, as well as progress toward hitting those metric goals. This scorecard acts as a rubric for weekly coaching sessions, because it shows where reps are struggling.
3. There’s a positive correlation between coaching time and win rate.
It seems obvious, but the sales organizations where managers spend more time coaching have higher win rates. According to Revegy, companies with reps who receive less than 30 minutes of coaching a week have a win rate of 43 percent. But companies where reps are coached more than 2 hours a week have a win rate of 56 percent.
In addition to weekly one-on-one sessions, it’s important to establish a consistent coaching session for each of your reps on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This helps them get the regular training that they need and reinforces the concepts they’ve already learned.
4. Wins go up when managers coach reps, rather than sell with them.
Many sales leaders will try to sell alongside their reps. While data shows that does increase performance, sales coaching time has a more significant impact.
The win rate for forecast deals is 8.2 percent higher for companies whose managers spent more time on coaching than selling, and overall revenue attainment is 5.2 percent higher.
If you want sales managers to keep selling, then you shouldn’t need them in leadership. Consider investing in sales management training for new leaders so they can engage in more effective coaching, which we know leads to more wins.
Sales coaching is one of a sales leader’s most important roles. Don’t let it fall to the wayside, especially when the data tells us that coaching leads to more revenue.