For many organizations, sales training and coaching are as linked as peanut butter and jelly. Of course, this makes sense. The two follow each other seamlessly: reps attend periodic training, and managers reinforce that training over a longer timeframe. This is great when your organization has a training scheduled. However, with the cost and logistics, most reps are lucky to receive sales training once a year, with many going much longer. This places an additional burden on sales managers to do more with their coaching, which is like being short on peanut butter while having a full jar of jelly. When this happens, you do more with the jelly you got. In that spirit, here are seven high-impact activities for sales managers to prioritize in their coaching:
Provide Documented Feedback
Coaching Specific Skills
By far, the most important aspect of coaching is regular, one-on-one meetings. This gives reps and their managers the opportunity to discuss the rep’s activities, such as prospects they’ve reached and deals in their pipeline. It is also a chance to discuss any concerns or issues before they become problems. Ideally, to get the most from these sessions, they should be both in person and virtual. This may give managers a better idea of how the rep is engaging with clients across both formats. Also, depending on one’s coaching schedule, these meetings should alternate between those that incorporate specific metrics/activities as well as skills and process development opportunities.
In addition to regular meetings, managers want to add review sessions where they can listen in on the rep’s calls. These should include both live and recorded calls. On live calls, managers can coach the rep in real time, with a nod or a smile to let them know they’re doing a good job. They should note body language and indicate if the rep is too stiff and might incorporate more movement, such as talking with their hands, to increase engagement. While this may add pressure to the rep’s call, it is a vital part of the review. On recorded calls, managers should note where engagement was highest or when the prospect seemed most invested. They can also suggest rephrasing and other alternatives as needed.
The best coaching should alternate between these one-on-one meetings and reviews with team activities. Ideally these should be relaxed, informal, and ensure the reps are comfortable with their teammates. Here, managers should stress role-play, with reps taking on different buyer personas, and the teams can work through scenarios that may come up during a sales call or meeting. In addition to effective coaching, this also functions as a team-budling exercise most reps enjoy. Also, be sure to invite free and open discussion for reps to share sales stories. They could discuss their different clients and the challenges they faced as well as new techniques they’ve discovered.
With each coaching engagement, managers should provide a written recap of the meeting. This keeps a record of what was discussed, such as the issues raised and suggestions made, the rep can keep and use as a guide. It also preserves the feedback for your next coaching, so you can gauge the progress made between engagements. This helps both managers and reps recall what was said to prevent misunderstandings, especially if a few weeks elapse between meetings. These don’t have to be long and detailed, just some bullet points to ensure you are on the same page going forward, and it’s a good idea to review these together at the end of each coaching.
Within this feedback, managers should set goals for reps to achieve by specific dates. Of course, these should be discussed during one-on-one meetings, and managers should project these more as stages in the rep’s growth rather than as a series of tests. Ideally, these should be realistic and increase incrementally after each coaching. Remember, the most effective coaching comes from collaboration over confrontation, and managers should stress their role as guide and mentor. Reps should feel their managers have their backs, rather than feel they must look over their shoulders. Confidence is a big part of successful selling, and a manager’s belief goes a long way to instill and maintain a winning mindset.
In addition to goals, managers should list the specific tasks their reps should work on to achieve their goals. These can include a higher number of calls and/or a longer duration for each call to achieve greater engagement. Perhaps it’s regularly refreshing a rep’s scripts or email templates or streamlining their prospecting process. Having these tasks to complete helps your reps stay focused and engaged with your coaching, even after a meeting ends. Also, keeping the focus on activities, rather than just numbers, can reduce stress as it increases productivity, which will often boost the numbers. Managers should always remember the best coaching creates a learning environment that fosters growth.
Though many might think specific sales skills fall under the umbrella of training, it should also play a part in your coaching. While reps may well learn the best practices in their sales training initiatives, managers should always reinforce the basic, bread-and-butter skills sales pros must master, such as prospecting and leading effective presentations. Of course, these eventually become ingrained in experienced sales professionals, but even the longest-tenured reps will benefit from the occasional outside voice that helps them see their behaviors in a new light or even from a client’s perspective, rather than their own.
If coaching is the jelly to the peanut butter of training, it’s still must be good on its own. While sales training can teach the skills and behaviors reps need to succeed, effective coaching provides the reinforcement activities that make those behaviors stick. Within that, it’s essential reps and managers trust the coaching process. Whether it’s praising performance, providing tips and tricks, or engaging in constructive feedback, sales managers should stress how their coaching activities benefit both the rep and the organization. At the same time, they should be transparent, so reps always understand their roles and buy-in to the organization’s larger process.