Almost three-quarters of leading companies cite sales coaching as the most important role of frontline sales managers. However, less than 20 percent of the average sales leader’s time is spent on proactive coaching.

6 (major) sales coaching red flagsLike selling, proactive coaching requires rigor and discipline to execute the day-to-day activities needed for success. Many don’t execute coaching sessions regularly – or ever – because they see little to no effect on performance. But ignoring a problem won’t solve it.

If you feel like your sales coaching isn’t improving performance, struggle to coach consistently, or simply want to know how to improve your current cadence, we can help.  Here are six common sales coaching red flags we see and how you can address them:

Signs your sales coaching needs updating

1. Sales coaching sessions don’t happen consistently.

No other productivity investment improves rep performance better than sales coaching, but most sales leaders coach their reps for 60 minutes or less each week.

When you don’t reinforce skill development with coaching sessions, sales training doesn’t stick. You might coach reps here and there for a couple minutes on specific deals or after overhearing a rep struggle on the phone. But if you don’t meet with each of your team members regularly, you miss a huge opportunity cultivate sales skills.

Create a consistent schedule to meet one-on-one with each of your reps every week for 30 minutes or every other week for 60 minutes. This regular cadence allows you to frequently teach and guide reps to success in a familiar environment.

2. Sales coaching lacks a standard format across the team.

Your first instinct might be to focus coaching on your top 20 percent of performers, who who are key to achieving team quota. You want to do anything you can to hep those reps win their key deals and keep them happy so they won’t leave. Alternatively, you might spend most of your time on or your bottom 20 percent of performers, because you can see they need the most help, so you want to ensure that they have the right tools and clear goals needed. 

But what sales leaders often forget is that coaching middle performers can have a significant impact on bookings because they make up the majority of your team (the core 60 percent). A 5 percent shift in productivity across that core part of your team would yield greater than 70 percent more revenue than the same shift in top-tier productivity.

Build a coaching cadence that is equal in effort across all parts of your team. All team members deserve your attention, and improving their performance can have a sizeable effect on your bottom line.

3. Sales coaching agendas aren’t consistent.

Just like frequency of coaching sessions, the topics you cover in each meeting can’t be random. A study from CSO Insights found that a company’s approach to coaching correlates with quota attainment: 62 percent of reps either meet or exceed quota at companies with a formal coaching process, but less than 50 percent of reps either meet or exceed quota at companies with an informal coaching process.

Develop a sales coaching agenda with four or five topics that you want to review each session, such as key deals, pipeline velocity and activity data. Here’s a template to get you started.

4. Sales coaching data isn’t logged or saved in a central hub.

Old school sales leaders coached their reps based on emotion and gut instinct. But we know now that data trumps emotion in powerful sales coaching. A report from Aberdeen found that “using more data and less emotion in the coaching process provides more opportunities for sales excellence.”

To use data in your coaching process, define your key selling activities. Calculate the metrics you need for each. Once you’ve assigned metric goals to individual reps, provide them with sales scorecards to track their progress. Use the objective data to determine where reps struggle and coach accordingly.

5. Sales coaching notes aren’t visible to both reps and managers.

According to research, 84% of sales training content is lost after 90 days. You can’t expect reps – let alone yourself – to remember every lesson from coaching sessions unless you document the interactions.

Use your sales coaching template to take notes during each session. Document how the rep is doing, what’s working, what’s not working and how you can help. Keep the notes stored in a hub that’s accessible to both you and that rep, so you both can track progression over time and reference back to specific sessions when needed.

6. Sales coaching action items aren’t clearly defined.

Can your team understand how to improve if you don’t tell them how? Top performers might, but the majority of your team will not. As “Cracking the Sales Management Code” author Jason Jordan explains in his book, leadership must provide the sales team with a clear path throughout the sales process from open to close.

“[The sales management code] cracks when everyone in the field understands what they must do at the sales activity level to achieve specific sales objectives and the consequent business results,” Jason writes.

At the end of each sales coaching session, assign “next step” action items for your rep to complete before your next meeting. Mark them down in your coaching notes, and then review during the following session.

As a sales leader, your job is to create a proactive, consistent and data-driven coaching sessions. Don’t ignore the ROI potential of sales coaching. Embrace it.

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6 (major) sales coaching red flags
Leading companies cite sales coaching as the most important role of frontline sales managers. Here are six common coaching red flags and how to fix them.
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