It’s Time to Rethink Sales Coaching for the Modern Era

October 1, 2018

Sales Coaching

Some argue that it’s a pipe dream to expect sales managers to be effective at coaching. And it’s not hard to understand why coaching is a stretch for most sales leaders, with so many people and priorities are vying for your attention. Data from Objective Management Group’s evaluation of nearly 1.8 million salespeople, sales managers, and sales leaders found that 63% of sales managers spend no more than 11% of their time coaching.

Others argue that it’s merely a matter of recalibrating. Rather than fight against the reality of time constraints and competing priorities, let’s explore tips for better coaching while staying efficient.

Why Traditional Sales Coaching is Outdated

When embracing new principles and techniques, it helps to understand why current ones need to be cast aside. Here are three reasons why yesterday’s sales coaching methods are ineffective.

One-Size-Fits-All Doesn’t Fit Anyone

En masse coaching sessions are an efficient way to cover topics and share knowledge with your team. However, coaching is ultimately about driving the most effective sales behaviors from each of your reps. Because no two reps excel in the same ways, are up against the same challenges, and are facing the same opportunities, one-size-fits-all coaching falls short.

Point-in-Time Coaching Isn’t Timely

Numerous studies show that a majority of training content is forgotten within weeks — a single download of information only gets your team so far. Plus, the increasingly complex B2B buying process means the sales environment is evolving. To keep pace, your reps need to be continually updated about the target audience, the latest sales approach, your products, competitive messaging, and the content you’re marketing team is currently delivering to prospective buyers.

Sales is More Than Calls and Meetings

Going on ride alongs and listening in on phone calls can equip you to help your reps, but those are just pieces of a larger puzzle. Your reps are now interacting with prospects online and not just in the late stages of the buying cycle. Unless you adjust your coaching accordingly, you’ll only be addressing a slice of the activities that make up a successful deal (and not the front-end engagement that most reps struggle with).

Effective Sales Coaching in the Digital Age

Here are new yet proven ways to instill your sales reps with solid practices and habits.

Host Joint Sales and Marketing Training

We’ve heard every cliché under the sun to describe the adversarial relationship between marketing and sales. But Shane Snow offers an interesting perspective: Embrace the opportunity in the different ways marketing and sales think and operate.

Your company’s marketing team develops a unique perspective of prospective customers as they create strategies and tactics to identify, reach, and engage them. Understanding marketing’s insights can better equip your reps to ensure a seamless experience for prospects throughout the buying journey.

By arranging regular training sessions between your marketing and sales teams, you encourage cross-functional sharing and learning. With a detailed agenda and goal for each session, these gatherings can be the catalyst for a shared mindset and culture of collaboration that elevates your team’s performance.

Allot Weekly Time to Social Media

Social media is a key component of selling today and an integral part of revenue-generating activities. While most reps get this, they might need reminders to consistently dedicate time to their social media efforts. By encouraging your reps to build their personal brands and networks, you help them develop a solid foundation that will support all their selling activities. Consider carving out more time (or borrowing from your current coaching allotment) for helping your team members understand the elements of an effective online profile, ways they can establish their credibility, and how to research and engage prospects via social media.

Customize Your Approach With Each Rep

It’s a good idea to hold team-wide meetings to set goals, discuss issues, and celebrate success. However, you’ll want to complement this with one-on-one coaching aimed at developing each rep’s proficiency. Think of it this way: You advise your reps to personalize their interactions with prospects, so why not take the same approach with your own team?

This might seem counterintuitive to efficiency, but what’s the value of one-size-fits-all coaching that fails to address each rep’s unique opportunities and challenges? Fortunately you can use technology to efficiently personalize your coaching, as we cover below. 

Use Videos to Educate

Most of us retain information far better when we see instead of just hear and read about information and ideas. To that end, give your team access to a library of video resources that convey information in visually engaging, memorable ways. When organized by topic and competency, these videos can perfectly complement your one-on-one, in-person coaching sessions. After discussing next steps and goals, you can direct reps to the most fitting videos to address knowledge and proficiency gaps. They can then consume them at their convenience. LinkedIn learning offers several sales courses on demand.

Adopt New Technology

New technologies are continually cropping up in the sales coaching and enablement category. One example is an AI-powered solution that analyzes videos of your reps as they pitch your product, handle objections, work through a discovery call, to name a few. Just record your reps as they walk through their typical sales prospecting steps. The solution generates a score for each video, giving you clear guidance on where your reps need to improve.

Another technology supports micro-learning, which was developed to address the fact that nobody can learn and retain a huge amount of information in a single sitting. This solution supports just-in-time training, equipping sales reps with the information they need when they need it. Many argue that’s a far more effective approach than trying to keep a roomful of antsy reps engaged through a multi-day training.

Like it or not, when you assumed the role of sales leader, you signed up to be a coach. By applying the recommendations outlined here, you can modernize your coaching approach and improve the outcomes of every sales engagement. And of course there’s helping your team members achieve their career goals. That feels pretty good.

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